The first I heard about the Barts and The London (BL) rebrand was when it was brought up in The Print’s interview with BLSA President Tom Longbottom a few weeks ago. My initial thoughts were similar to those of most BL students who are up in arms about this. The rebrand is pointless and petty, but it goes further by robbing BL of their identity (something that they’re immensely proud of, if you didn’t know).
I joked a few days later to the founder of The Dental Mirror that there was a solution that could hit two birds with one stone, a solution that would give Queen Mary more brand identity and allow the most iconic medical school in Britain retain their rich identity: rebrand the whole of Queen Mary as Barts and The London – or Barts University at least.
The more I consider this, the more it makes sense. Hear me out.
Barts is the oldest standing hospital in England and The London was the first to be granted an official charter for medical teaching in 1785. The fascinating history of Barts was recently put on display in the BLSA building. Their alumni include Lord Robert Winston, Python Graham Chapman, and William Harvey – the man who in the 16th century discovered that human veins have one-way valves. Barts even has a prominent place in pop culture. Doctor John Watson worked there in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes – and it is St Bartholomew’s hospital that Sherlock jumped off at the end of series two of the BBC’s reincarnation of the show.
Meanwhile, Queen Mary adopted that name formally in 2000 following a merger of Queen Mary College and Westfield College 11 years prior. Despite being a part of the Russell Group and having over 25,000 students, we don’t even have our own page on The Tab. As for notable alumni, Queen Mary has Jeremy Corbyn’s brother, ex-Fox News presenter (and notorious sexual harasser) Bill O’Reilly, and comedian Bill Bailey – although he dropped out after one year to join Cambridge, claiming he found Queen Mary too easy.
To add insult to injury, every student at Queen Mary will at one time or another need to awkwardly explain that they do not go to university in Belfast, nor do they attend St Mary’s University in Twickenham. Even when people do recognise the name, it will often be mistaken for Queen Mary’s.
I completely sympathise with university management and agree that Queen Mary has a branding problem. But it is wrong to think that absorbing Barts and The London into Queen Mary is a way to solve this. If anything, it should be the other way around.
Picture this: ‘Barts and The London School of Science and Engineering’. Too much of a mouthful? Shorten it to Barts University. ‘Barts School of Humanities and Social Sciences’ has quite a nice ring to it.
So draw up the posters, brainstorm the billboard slogans and launch the online petitions. Bollocks to QMUL and bring on BUL… BTLUL… simply BL? Let’s have an instantly recognisable name that pays tribute to Barts and The London’s prestigious past. Barts University could please the branding gurus, give the whole university a sense of joint valiant history, and provide a name that everyone can find pride in.
Otherwise, unlike Sherlock Holmes’ encounter with Barts Hospital, Barts and The London might not survive if Queen Mary management keeps bulldozing through callus rebranding.
This could be a solution that makes everyone happy. That is, as long as BL put aside any animosity and allow us knuckle-dragging, square-headed, unlettered dum-dums based at Mile End to adopt their precious name…