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Public art competition

In 1868, nine women were admitted to the University of London to enrol for a “special examination” course. This was the first time in Britain that women had gained access to university education and, though it was to be over 10 years before they were admitted on equal terms with men to read for the same degree programmes, this modest event was an immensely significant moment for the University, for women and for society as a whole. 

Throughout 2018 the University is celebrating the 150th anniversary of this first “foot in the door” with a series of events and activities.

Senate House from Torrington Square
The work will be permanently sited in Torrington Square, a site owned by the University and in the centre of the Bloomsbury precinct

The Competition

This project is to create a piece of public art as a lasting memorial to the first admission of women to university level education. So some of the themes suggested by this are around women, aspiration and achievement, learning and scholarship, access to education, social good, heritage, progress, leadership. 2018 is also the 100th anniversary of the first partial franchise for women.

The Art Work

The successful design will be flat – perhaps a mosaic, roundels, stepping stones, a pavement. It must be capable of being installed into one or more of the grassed areas of Torrington Square without impeding pedestrian or vehicle access. It must be weather resistant, capable of being walked on safely (this can be discouraged but can’t be prevented), easy to maintain and extremely durable. 

We anticipate that the kinds of materials used might be stone, steel, bronze, possibly glass or ceramic.

The Location

The work will be permanently sited in Torrington Square, a site owned by the University and in the centre of the Bloomsbury precinct.

Torrington Square is within a conservation area and is a public thoroughfare.  

The northern end, behind Student Central, is hard-standing and is currently used for a weekly Farmers’ Market. The southern end is designed as hard pathways around four grassed areas, set within flat borders. It is a flat, pedestrian area with occasional vehicle access needed around the periphery and the footpaths. Marquees are occasionally erected in this area to house graduation ceremonies and other events. All of these uses will all continue.

One or more of these grassed areas will be the site for the finished work.  

Working from the southern end, closest to Senate House and moving north towards Student Central the dimensions of the grassed areas are:

  • 7.95m x 9.02m (Square with the globe statue)
  • 19.38m x 9.60m
  • 9.60m x 9.90m
  • 9.50m x 8.60m

The Square is overlooked by UCL’s Institute of Education, by SOAS, by Birkbeck and Student Central, and by Senate House. It is thus absolutely at the heart of the University’s estate, with a heavy daily footfall.  

All of these factors must be taken into account when designing the final scheme. You are strongly encouraged to view the site – it is fully accessible at all times.

Selection process and timescales

Expressions of interest should be sent to by 31 December 2017.

  • Expression of interest by 31 December 2017
  • Shortlisting by expert Panel 31 January 2018
  • Detailed concept development by 30 May 2018
  • Final selection by Panel
  • Installation by 31 October 2018

Your expression of interest will be a short statement (please, no more than 4 sides of A4) setting out something about yourself (including full contact details) your ideas for the project, a rational for the approach including its relevance to the commemoration, initial assumptions of materials and technical requirements, whether and how the project could validly relate to your current academic work and/or to your future. If mentoring by academic staff seems advisable, please mention it at this point. It won’t affect the selection process but will enable us to plan how best to arrange it.

We welcome proposals from individuals or small groups in collaboration.

Shortlisting (after 31 December 2017)

A small number of proposals will be shortlisted by an expert panel and put forward for development.  An honorarium of £400 will be offered to artists selected at this stage to develop their plans through to final submission. Names of panel members will be confirmed as soon as possible and will include eminent practitioners, academics and members of the University.

Final submission (by 30 May 2018)

Final designs must include fully developed drawings and plans, firm technical specifications, confirmed arrangements for manufacture and installation of the finished work, and be fully costed.

The University will meet manufacturing and installation costs to a limit of £10,000 and will deal with required local authority planning permission, liaison with conservation agencies etc as required.

One design will be selected by the University’s Panel for full realisation and installation. A fee of £5,000 will be offered on completion of the successful project.

Installation (by 1 November 2018)

The work must be completed and ready for installation on site by the start of November 2018. It will be unveiled by a high-profile individual with media interest.


The competition is open only to current students of the federal University of London. Proposals are invited from men and women, from any discipline, working singly or in collaboration within their own field or across disciplines.

“Current students” for the purposes of this competition means students registered with any part of the federal University of London – the central  University or one of the member institutions on 1 October 2017. This includes students who may have graduated or otherwise left the University by the time the project is completed but the successful finalist must be available to complete and install the finished work through summer/autumn 2018.