BBK Magazine 41

200th Anniversary Edition

Student-Centric Teaching in Our Third Century

Providing access to education has been at the heart of Birkbeck’s mission since it was founded. Throughout our history, the College has innovated and adapted to meet the changing needs of the communities we support. As we enter our third century, we have published an ambitious strategy to boldly move Birkbeck forward, to transform our student offering and build on our world-leading research.

For many years, our students have emphasised that the space they are taught in matters; the learning environment affects their productivity, increases motivation and drives positive outcomes. It became clear during the pandemic what an important role Birkbeck played for our students beyond being a place of learning or just somewhere they could complete a degree. For many, Birkbeck was a place of sanctuary and opportunity, both physically and emotionally.  

Over 40% of Birkbeck’s students are on household incomes of under £25,000 and nearly 80% work while they study. During the pandemic, many faced furlough or redundancy and often lacked the space or facilities to study from home. Our research showed that a staggering 60% were learning on their phones during the first lockdown as they didn’t have access to a computer and had relied heavily on the library and computer facilities on campus. 

Coming to Birkbeck two or three times a week is precious time for students — to focus on their ambitions, away from their daily role as employees, parents or carers. Time on campus does not just aid their learning, it enhances their wellbeing and self-worth. 

An early-stage artistic rendering of what Birkbeck Central could be

As we aspire to achieve more for our students, we remain committed to maintaining our in-person teaching. Bringing together our diverse students creates a rich learning environment where they learn from their peers, as well as their lecturers, in a way that is not replicable in a purely virtual environment. Our new building, Birkbeck Central, drives forward our long-held strategic aim to educate all our students in Birkbeck buildings, creating a stronger Birkbeck experience in the intellectual heart of London.

However, we are acutely aware that many of our students are time-poor and require greater flexibility to participate in-person on campus or in real-time online. How students want to study is shifting and there are new ways for us to ensure they are successful in their studies. We are investing in new technology across our whole site to allow students to attend on-campus events while others simultaneously take part remotely. This will also facilitate state-of-the-art video conferencing and allow students to view teaching materials at their convenience.

We are excited for what the future of student centric teaching at Birkbeck looks like and we are proud to be delivering the high-quality learning experience our students deserve.