UCL Department of Geography


From Foster Court to the North-West Wing

Return of the UCL Geography Year of 1970

November 12th saw the second reunion this year of the 1970 UCL Geography graduates, with a few from 1971 also joining in.

Some had already met in June, in Swanage, the site of their 1968 first-year field class. The success of that get-together encouraged Mike Rossington and Charlie Grimble to plan another at UCL so that most of the year could join in.

Sixty turned up, including then-young staff from that era, Hugh Clout, Richard Munton, Andrew Warren and Peter Wood. Nostalgia was further served by the departmental collection of old group photographs and some resurrected examination papers recalling the long-forgotten themes once studied together.

Speaking in the modernised North-West Wing, Hugh Clout reflected that in 1970 there were 24 teaching staff, compared with 42  plus over 20 research staff today. Undergraduate numbers had recently expanded to 60 from 40 per year (over 120 now). There were about 20 PhD students (more than 90 today), and a few postgrads were taking the only Master course available, compared with around 120 per year on a variety of programmes today.

All activities, including lectures, were then squeezed into part of the Foster Court Building, a former book warehouse, whose memorable ambience owed something to the presence of the Foster Court Refectory below - or was it the College incinerator opposite?

Further animated exchanges took place during a reception generously sponsored by Claudio Vita Finzi, who had taught the year but was unable to join them. After a buffet lunch in College, some toured the impressive labs in the North-West Wing, so different from the cupboard-like space that had served the same purpose in Foster Court!

The organisers had compiled a collection of biographical notes, with “then and now” photographs, offering a fascinating insight into the achievements of a memorable cohort of UCL Geography students in the 45 years since they had left UCL.