Practising your faith at UCL

12 October 2022

Find out all about practising your faith at UCL and in London in this article written by UCL's Interfaith Adviser.


You may have heard the famous quotation from the historian Thomas Arnold, who once described UCL as “that Godless institution in Gower Street”. Prior to UCL’s inception in 1826, a university education was restricted to male members of the Church of England. UCL led the way to making education available to all, regardless of race, class, or religion.

It’s true that UCL is a secular institution which has no religious affiliation and doesn’t endorse any particular denomination or faith. However, religious identity is at the heart of life for many of our staff and students and UCL is committed to providing an inclusive learning and working environment where students and staff of all religions, and none, can thrive.

While you are at UCL, you may have some concerns or questions about how you can practise your faith at UCL or in London more generally. This article aims to answer some of those, but if you have any further questions, or you want to be in touch about anything to do with your faith or belief and how it will fit in with your life and work at UCL, then don't hesitate to get in contact with me, your Chaplain and Interfaith Adviser, via email.

Religious dress

In the UK and especially in London, it’s very common to see people wearing articles of clothing such as the hijab, kippah, or an item of jewellery with a religious symbol. UCL welcomes diversity of dress amongst its staff and students, although in some situations (for example in medical and laboratory-based disciplines), there might be some items of clothing or jewellery which aren’t allowed due to health and safety regulations or the need for clear communication between individuals.

Prayer rooms at UCL and places of worship in London

At UCL, there are quiet contemplation rooms set aside for prayer or meditation. These are located in the Student Centre, set in the heart of the UCL campus, which also have ablution facilities and showers. They are open for you to use. Some departmental buildings have rooms for quiet contemplation, prayer and meditation. Please ask your department if this is available. 

There are also many beautiful outside spaces, places of worship and buildings of religious interest in London, some very close to UCL. With over 8 million people living in London from all over the world, it's almost certain that there will be a place or worship or meeting place for your particular faith or belief group. If you need help or advice finding the best place for you, I'd be happy to help.

Timetabling and exams

The UCL teaching day runs from Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm UK time. If you have a regular lecture or class that clashes with religious observance (for example, if you need to be home by sunset on Friday to observe the Jewish Sabbath), you should speak to your programme tutor as soon as possible to see whether alternative arrangements can be made; the same goes for exams that clash with religious festivals. UCL doesn’t normally accept fasting as a valid extenuating circumstance for exams.

Faith societies at UCL

There are a broad range of faith and belief societies registered with Students' Union UCL. As well as organising festivals and events pertaining to their particular faith or belief group, when they are able to, they generate a great deal of community and charitable activity on campus and in the wider population. They also organise events together, most especially Interfaith Week (this year during the week of 13th - 20th November). The faith and belief societies registered with the Union are:

  • Ahlul-Bayt Society
  • Buddhist Society
  • Catholic Society
  • Chinese Christian Anchor Fellowship Society
  • Christian Union
  • Gospel Society
  • Hindu Society
  • Islamic Society
  • Jain Society
  • Jewish Society
  • Krishna Consciousness Society
  • Sikh Society 

Interfaith forum

At UCL there is a proactive interfaith forum which is open to both students and staff of any or no faith. Through this forum, we can raise awareness of issues affecting faith and learn from one another’s perspectives. Working with other groups such as the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) team and with me, the UCL Chaplain and Interfaith Adviser, the forum will host events that celebrate the diversity of faith and belief practised within the UCL community.

Our next planned event is on Wednesday 16th November at 16:00 until 18:00, in W3.01, Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way.

If you’ve got any other questions or concerns about faith and belief at UCL, please feel free to get in touch with me via email.

Reid Humble, Chaplain and Interfaith Adviser, UCL Student Support and Wellbeing