This year we invited the 2018 graduating class to visit the University of London’s headquarters at Senate House. This was a special opportunity for distance learning students - who had travelled from Australia, China, Japan, Kenya, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, St Lucia, the USA, Vietnam and many other countries - to meet our staff and learn more about the University’s history.
Senate House has a particularly interesting history. Designed by Charles Holden and built in an art deco style in the 1930s as a base for the University, shortly after its completion the Second World War broke out and the building became the home for the Ministry of Information, the government department responsible for publicity and propaganda.
If that sounds rather Orwellian, it’s because George Orwell’s first wife, Eileen Blair, worked in the Censorship Department based in Senate House during the war and this inspired his writing. Rumours have circulated for years that Senate House Room 101 was the inspiration for the nightmarish room in 1984. The real Room 101 is a conference room in the BBC, where reportedly Orwell sat through endless boring meetings.
Students had the opportunity to see portraits of the University of London’s former leaders, to see architectural models of the building plans, and to spend time with staff to learn more about the University’s history.
For some, this was a chance to meet their peers for the first time. One student was excited to spend the afternoon in the neighbouring British Museum with her LLM tutor group. The group had been working together online for over two years but had never met in person.
Many were visiting London for the first time and it was an exciting chance for staff and students to come together to celebrate the history and the future of the University.