UCL News


UCL starts process of renaming buildings named after prominent eugenicists

11 June 2020

UCL has today initiated the process of reviewing the current naming of spaces and buildings after two prominent eugenicists Francis Galton and Karl Pearson.

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UCL’s President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur has today formally asked the university’s ‘Buildings Naming and Renaming Committee’ to immediately start the process of reviewing the current naming of spaces and buildings after two prominent eugenicists Francis Galton and Karl Pearson.

The action follows the publication earlier this year of a series of recommendations by the ‘Inquiry into the History of Eugenics at UCL’, which was led by independent chair Professor Iyiola Solanke, of the University of Leeds.

The Inquiry was initiated by the President & Provost in 2018 as the first step in UCL acknowledging and address the university’s historical links with the eugenics movement. Victorian scientist Francis Galton coined the term eugenics and endowed UCL with his personal collection and archive along with a bequest for the country’s first professorial Chair of Eugenics.

A response group of senior UCL representatives – including senior academic staff, equality experts and the Students’ Union – is also being formed to consider the recommendations from the Inquiry.

Under UCL’s process for naming spaces and buildings at UCL, the ‘Buildings Naming and Renaming Committee’ receives and reviews a formal case and then makes its recommendation to the Provost and to Council for a decision. Changes to naming then takes effect once that process is complete. The Provost has asked that a recommendation is ready for discussion with Council on 18 June.

The Response Group will be chaired by Professor Dame Hazel Genn and will look at action such as funding new scholarships to study race and racism, a commitment to ensure UCL staff and students learn about the history and legacy of eugenics and the creation of a two-year research post to further examine the university’s history of eugenics. It will report with an implementation plan for consideration by Academic Board and approval by UCL’s Council.

Professor Arthur said: “UCL has a problematic history with eugenics which has, and continues, to cause significant concern for many in our community and has a profound impact on the sense of belonging that we want all of our staff and students to have.

“This is evident from the fact that some of the university’s most prominent buildings are still named after eugenicists such as Galton and Pearson. Although UCL is a very different place than it was in the 19th century, any suggestion that we celebrate these ideas or the figures behind them creates an unwelcoming environment for many in our community. That is why I have today asked our Buildings Naming and Renaming Committee to review the current naming of spaces and buildings as a priority.

“While this is an important first step towards address our past, we clearly need to go much further and look at what further practical and targeted steps we can take to address racism and inequality. I have asked a response group, led by Professor Dame Hazel Genn, to consider both sets of recommendations made by members of the Inquiry into the History of Eugenics and report back to me with a clear plan of action by the start of the next academic year.”

UCL is already taking the following action around access and widening participation, and equality, diversity and inclusion issues raised in the ‘Inquiry into the History of Eugenics at UCL’ report.

  • An additional £250,000 to support a three-year BME Awarding Gap Project to address the disparities in outcomes and experience of our BME students.
  • The creation of the Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the study of Racism and Racialisation. The Centre – originally founded in 2019 as the Centre for the Study of Race and Racism – was the first body at UCL to be renamed in 2020 as recommended by UCL’s Buildings Naming and Renaming committee.
  • Pioneering new scholarships have been established for BME PhD students. UCL is also in the process of raising funds for a new scholarship programme for students based in the Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the study of Racism and Racialisation.
  • Applications from undergraduate black students have almost doubled since 2015 from 720 in 2015 to 1420 in 2019.
  • Funding a new two-year research fellow to continue research into UCL’s historical associations with eugenics history as well as further tracing financial instruments linked to eugenics.
  • A group, led by Pro-Vice-Provost for Student Experience Professor Deborah Gill, is developing an action plan to improve the experience and facilities for disabled students at UCL.
  • In consultation with UCL’s community, adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism and adopt a Statement on Race developed by UCL’s Race Equality Steering Group.
  • The creation of a new staff-student interfaith group
  • A three-day residential summer school for deaf and hard of hearing students in Years 11 and 12.
  • Disabled students, young carers, forced migrants, care experienced, or mature students can spend a day shadowing one of our students, going to lectures and finding out what life is like at UCL.