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University of London Venues

Senate House hosts the Festival of Higher Education


In November 2023, Senate House played host to the much-anticipated Festival of Higher Education.

UoL WonkHE Festival of Higher Education evening dinner

Produced and developed by the University of London in partnership with Wonkhe, the two-day conference saw thought leaders, educators, and policymakers come together to tackle the pressing issues facing higher education today.

The festival was brought to life with the help of Emma Darwin, founder of Assemble Events. A specialist in the education sector, Emma has worked with the Senate House team for over a decade on a wide range of events.

"The University of London and Wonkhe are both my clients, so it was great to bring them both together on this project,” she shared. “We had great feedback across the board, whether it was to do with the content, how the venue looked, or the food – everyone was very happy with it.”

Here, we reflect on what made Senate House the perfect venue for the Festival of Higher Education – and how these benefits can translate to your next conference. 

An atmospheric setting

Senate House stands as a historical gem, its foundations dating back to the 1930s. Designed by architect Charles Holden as the home of London’s flagship university, with a 210ft tower housing its vast library, the skyscraper has long stood as a symbol of academic excellence – making it a fitting backdrop to an event exploring the future of higher education.

“It did feel different hosting it at a university – it just gave it an edge, if you will, having it in a space that's very well known within the sector,” recalls Emma. “And with it being an education event, it's nice to bring people to different institutions so they can see them.”

Aside from its significance to the education sector, Senate House’s art deco grandeur makes an impressive setting for any event, with a sweeping marble foyer bound to make a lasting first impression.

Emma Darwin

When people arrive at Senate House, Crush Hall is a lovely space to start their experience. There's a really nice atmosphere, a good chatter and a buzz, which is what you want to see at this kind of event, says Emma.

Spaces to suit every purpose

Its range of versatile spaces and excellent audio-visual provision meant Senate House could accommodate a full programme of sessions and activities, which were spread across three stages plus a Collaboration Space for workshops.

“The venue is well suited for a conference-style event because you've got lots of different sizes of rooms which can be adapted for different purposes,” explains Emma. “You can play around with the options to find the right fit for the event and audience.”

The star of the show was Beveridge Hall, which was transformed into the festival’s Main Stage. The stage was arranged ‘in the round’ with raised seating platforms, guaranteeing all attendees a great view, while immersive lighting and AV brought the festival’s branding to life.

Outside of sessions, delegates were able to network, relax and enjoy refreshments in the beautiful surroundings of the Macmillan and Chancellor’s Halls. The first day was topped off with a VIP dinner, catered by our expert in-house hospitality team and held in one of Senate House’s elegant private dining rooms – meaning high-profile guests could enjoy a special culinary experience without venturing offsite.

“It's very uncommon that you would have this number of rooms in one space outside of a hotel or purpose-built conference centre, and Senate House has the added benefit of character,” adds Emma.

Central London location

Like any major conference, the Festival of Higher Education welcomed delegates from all over the UK. Luckily, Senate House was a convenient choice. “It’s very easy to access in terms of its proximity to King’s Cross and Euston, because of course not everyone lives in London,” says Emma.

For those with less far to travel, the venue is just a few minutes’ walk from Russell Square and Tottenham Court Road underground stations, among others.

As well as facilitating easy travel, the Bloomsbury location allowed delegates to immerse themselves in the vibrant cultural and academic atmosphere of the city. Senate House’s proximity to other educational institutions, museums, and research centres added an extra layer of convenience for participants keen to extend their experience outside the conference walls.

Ready to book?

If you’re seeking a conference venue that goes beyond the ordinary, Senate House is an excellent option to consider. With the success of the Festival of Higher Education, it’s proven to be a setting that elevates the experience for all involved.

"It's very flexible, and there are lots of opportunities when you bring all the different spaces together. Coupled with the aesthetics of the building, it's a really characterful place to host an event,” summarised Emma.

“You can dress it up as much you like, but the nice thing about Senate House is that you don't have to dress it up too much, and that can be really budget-friendly.”

We’d love to help you bring your next event to life. Contact the Venues team today to discuss your needs.

UoL WonkHE Festival of Higher Education MacMillan Hall
UoL WonkHE Festival of Higher Education conference room