As UCL starts the countdown to its bicentenary in 2026, a research and engagement project puts students and alumni at the heart of the history of UCL.

‘Generation UCL’ explores 200 years of student life in London, turning institutional history upside down to suggest that the first students of 1828 should be seen as the real ‘founders’ of UCL. Generation UCL is establishing the first major collection of oral history interviews with UCL alumni and has supported the deposit of students’ union archive material with UCL Special Collections.

The project is a partnership between Education, Practice and Society at IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society, Students’ Union UCL, and the Office of the Vice-President (Advancement). The project works closely with the UCL200 Bicentennial team and UCL Special Collections.

Generation UCL is led by Professor Georgina Brewis (IOE) and John Dubber (Students’ Union UCL). Dr Sam Blaxland, Lecturer in Education (IOE), leads on the oral history element of the project. We also work with a number of student researchers and interns.

Planned project outputs include an open access book with UCL Press, an Octagon exhibition and a programme of impact and engagement activities to involve the whole UCL community. In 2023, we were awarded a Student Success grant to revise and update UCL’s walking tour, working with Race Equality Steering Group Co-Chair Mike Sulu, external consultant Subhadra Das and project coordinator Julia Chaffers.

Further reading
Negley Harte, John North and Georgina Brewis, The World of UCL (UCL Press, 2018).

Sam Blaxland, Students' Union UCL: A Short History (UCL, 2023).

Project exhibition:

Generation UCL: 200 Years of Student Life in London | UCL CULTURE - UCL – University College London

News and events

Student residences over time: Generation UCL exhibition profiled in Portico magazine
The exhibition Generation UCL: Two Hundred Years of Student Life in London has now been open in UCL’s Octagon gallery since September 2023 and runs until December 2024.
UCL’s Student Ephemera collection
The Student Ephemera collection is a curated collection of manuscripts, publications, artwork, photographs, and objects, relating to the lives of UCL students, the Student Union, and members of UCL staff. The material dates from 1828 to 2002.
Christmas in the Cloisters: Students and the invention of tradition at UCL before 1914
Recent years have seen new festive traditions taking shape at UCL.
Students' Union UCL's 130th birthday party, a book launch, and the opening of the Generation UCL exhibition
Wednesday 18th October was a big day. Students’ Union UCL hosted a reception in the Wilkins Building to mark its 130th birthday.

UCL has shaped the lives of generations of students, and in turn those generations of students have shaped UCL, London and the wider world. Students have played an important role throughout UCL's history and the ‘Generation UCL’ project will help uncover the enormous impact of student culture at UCL through the stories that connect us all.

Osman Teklies, Students’ Union UCL Union Affairs Officer, 2020–2021