UCL Department of Geography


Fifty years on

Return of the Class of ‘65


This month has been an active time for former UCL Geographers’ reunions. On 17 June, Professors Hugh Clout and Jon French welcomed 26 members of the graduating Class of 1965 for a one-day return to College, with people coming from as far afield as Australia and British Columbia.

After drinks and a toast to ‘absent friends’, there was a light lunch during which Hugh traced how the Department had changed over the past half-century. In 1965 UCL had fewer than 5,000 students, with 14 lecturing staff in Geography and only a handful of masters students. There were no laboratories or computers, and photocopying was primitive and expensive. Every undergraduate took a 2-year subsidiary subject, and only the final year exams, covering material taught in all 3 years and common to all the London University colleges, counted toward the class of degree.

Dr Viv Jones then led a brief tour of the modern physical geography labs in the North-West Wing basement, explaining the kind of environmental research now being done in the department.

Photos in the Front Quad were followed by a move to Bedford Way, with group nostalgia peaking outside Foster Court, Geography’s old home in 1965.

A question session in the Map Room highlighted the many changes in university life, and personal exchanges then seemingly picked up where they had stopped fifty years ago. The reunion concluded with tea and homemade cakes followed, as ever, by drinks in nearby pubs.

Unlike today’s Geography graduates, most of the class of ’65 went into academic work, school teaching, planning or social work. Like today, however, most also acquired additional post-graduate qualifications after their first degrees at UCL.