Passing In: Access and influence in higher education
Performance and study day
21 November 2018

Performance-led inquiry into legacies of gender equality in higher education

This study day explored gender equality at UCL since the 1860s, featuring a re-enactment performance of prospective students’ admissions experience before 1919. Set against the turbulent backdrop of women’s fight for equality in Britain, we invited reflection on the hidden ‘passing-in’ rules still in place for women and minority groups in higher education.

This event was co-conceived and produced by Dr Georgina Brewis, UCL Institute of Education and Dr Nina Pearlman, UCL Culture. It was a collaboration between a number of academic modules and was supported by Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL Culture UCL Press, UCL Institute of Education and UCL Special Collections.

This is part of UCL Art Museum's family of projects Curating Equality and UCL's Grand Challenge Justice and Equality.

Please find the programme here.

Black and white photo of two women

'Passing In' Performance

Dr Kate Vigurs, a professional historical interpreter, took on the role of Miss Rosa Morison, Lady Superintendent of Women students (1883-1912) and, in full costume, led participants on a walking performance of UCL. This re-enactment immersed participants in UCL as it was between 1883 and 1919. All intending female students had to present a reference, in person, acceptable to the Lady Superintendent of Women Students. In 1883, birth control activist Annie Besant famously failed this test and was refused admittance. Intersections of gender with class, race and religion will be explored. During the event, participants had the opportunity to present themselves to Miss Morison, using stories taken from historic student records or by creating their own. 


'Passing In: An audience with the Lady Superintendent for Women Students' was performed again by inviation at UCL Festival of Culture in June 2018

Evening panel

An evening panel followed the afternoon of talks and performances and used the historical notion of ‘passing in’ as a means to discuss what might still be hidden passing-in rules in higher education, in terms of gender but also religion, race, LGBTQ+ identity and other intersections of identity, questioning the role played by networks and other diversity initiatives. Miss Morison (Kate Vigurs) opened the evening . The following speakers took part in the event:

  • Abeni Adeyemi, Women’s Officer, Students’ Union UCL  
  • Manya Eversley, UCL Political Science undergraduate involving in making ‘JewCL’ podcast on Jewish student identity
  • Professor Uta Frith, cognitive neuroscientist; co-founder of UCL Women network; and one of the ‘Female Firsts’ selected to mark #UCLVote100.
  • Anne Moore, Co-Chair of the largest staff network at UCL, LGBTQ+ Equality Advisory Group; Business Development Manager, UCL Centre for Languages & International Education
  • Xueyan (Juno) Sun, UCL History PhD student working on representations of China and Chinese people in Hollywood
  • Professsor Ijeoma Uchegbu, Pro-Vice Provost - Africa and The Middle East; Chair in Pharmaceutical Nanoscience; Provost’s Envoy on Race and Equality.


Detail from UCL College Calendar detailing regulation for admitting female students


This event coincided with the recent publication of the revised edition of The World of UCL and the Disrupters and Innovators exhibition at UCL Octagon Gallery. 


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