The Cheese Grater

This article is about a magazine. For the kitchen utensil, see Grater. For the skyscraper in London, see 122 Leadenhall Street.
The cover of March 2006's issue

The Cheese Grater is an award-winning[1] magazine produced at the University College London by a society of UCL Union, a students' union. It was first published in March 2004.

The contents are a mix of (student) political news stories, exclusive investigations and humorous items, particularly cartoons. It most often concerns itself with activities of UCL Union, of which its writers are generally strongly critical.


The Cheese Grater was formed when René Lavanchy, then a first-year student at UCL, decided to found a new magazine to plug what he saw as a gap in the provision of student media at the college, specifically as UCL Union regulations prevented the publication of most serious criticism of the Union at that time. Dissatisfied with the tone, content and production values of Pi Magazine, the only significant student publication at the time, he resolved to edit a new magazine himself and publish it on the cheap. Having approached a fellow halls resident, he secured him as treasurer and applied for the magazine to be affiliated as a society of UCL Union, so that it could publicise through the Union and use a UCL e-mail address. The society was affiliated on 12 February 2004.

The first issue came out on 25 March 2004. It was photocopied - badly - onto 7 out of 8 A4 pages, the last being blank, and the page numbers were handwritten on the original.[2] Publication continues to be done by hand on public photocopying machines without any binding. The first issue struck the keynote of The Cheese Grater 's tone with a spoof article purporting to be the script of The Passion of Rick Jones, a film based on The Passion of The Christ but transferring the scene to UCL Union's annual general meeting.

Notable articles

Professor Malcolm Grant, Provost and president of UCL, minus his moustache after shaving it off on 11 March 2005

The Cheese Grater 's second issue came out in October 2004 and included a long article on the controversy between Ted Honderich and the newspaper London Student.

After London Student ran an issue (20 September 2004) with the front-page headline 'Racial Harm-ony' and the headline 'Honder-Sick' on page 2, in which it accused the UCL emeritus professor of philosophy of damaging race relations at the University of London, Honderich's lawyers wrote to the paper and demanded a right of reply, citing inaccuracies. The reply was duly published. Shortly afterwards came The Cheese Grater's account of the events, including a reproduction of part of the lawyers' letter. The article accused the London Student journalists of bad journalism and Honderich of overreacting. Although the then London Student editor took exception to the article, neither he nor anyone else has shown there was anything inaccurate in it. This was the first article to carry The Cheese Grater 's 'special report' banner.

The lashing out against UCL Union institutions which characterises The Cheese Grater only really got going in February 2005, with another special report accusing then UCL Union sabbatical officer David Renton of laziness, incompetence and general neglect of his duties. Although the article was qualified in its condemnation (the editor regrets that it was not more assertive) the level and detail of criticism was unprecedented in recent student discourse, and the subject was reportedly shocked.

Since then, The Cheese Grater has continued to espouse particular causes and criticise what it sees as failing institutions and people. It condemned UCL Union's executive in February 2005 for failing to stand up to the National Union of Students; it has criticised the union's awards process (Social Colours) and elections procedures; and it has attacked other media, including 'UCL News' (a UCL newsletter, no longer printed) but mainly Pi Magazine, on the grounds that it is bland, unoriginal, has no strong editorial controls, is badly written, full of spelling mistakes, frequently inaccurate, appallingly badly designed and a hub for reactionary forces in student politics. In March 2006 the magazine revealed - using the evidence of a leaked e-mail - that then student editor of Pi Magazine Simon Dedman had cheated in recent UCL Union elections, securing the election of Nick Barnard as Media and Communications Officer, and that neither person had been significantly disciplined for it.

However, the magazine has also covered issues of student welfare. In December 2005 it published a story detailing failings around the construction of UCL's new Anthropology building, which caused noise and dust pollution as well as severely disrupting the studies of students in neighbouring departments. In October 2008, another investigation revealed that UCL had failed to remove large quantities of asbestos from its premises, some of which were exposed and left in areas used by students and staff.[3]

Since Autumn 2005, a series of articles have appeared under the heading 'UCL plc', written under the pseudonym 'Mr Chatterbox' (a reference to Evelyn Waugh's novel Vile Bodies). The articles were a series of attacks on UCL administration's plans for UCL and what the volunteers of the Cheese Grater perceived to be a corporate-style policies, including a new identity for the college, which Mr Chatterbox alleged to have cost around £600,000.

In 2008, UCL Union passed a motion at the Annual General Meeting to ban the military from UCL. In response, The Cheese Grater published a Special Report which looked at the supposed democratic failings of the AGM.[4] The magazine alleged that the motion to ban the military was null and void, making reference to a breach of the 1994 Education Act and to repeated procedural irregularities during the meeting. Once the issue was put online, The Cheese Grater website received over 900 hits in three days.

In February 2011, The Cheese Grater published documents from UCL Academic Board meetings which revealed the potential impact of government higher education cuts at UCL. The findings suggested a £35 million budget shortfall for UCL even if it were to charge the full £9,000 undergraduate tuition fee. Following the publication of this article, the documents revealing this were removed from the UCL website. The article was later picked up by Times Higher Education, who published a piece using the magazine's findings on 24 February 2011.[5]

In March 2012, The Cheese Grater investigated UCL's bid to build a second London campus in Stratford, uncovering local residents' objections to the potential demolition of their homes and inadequacies in Newham Council's consultation process. The story was later picked up by The Guardian and other national news sources.[6]

Independence and Censorship

Although UCL Union's Democracy and Communications sabbatical officer is The Cheese Grater 's so-called "legal publisher" (British libel law does not recognise such a title),[7] the sabbatical officers traditionally pass issues of the magazine with few quibbles, thus allowing the magazine to remain as independent as possible.

This state of affairs was disrupted in October 2008 when an article in issue 18 was censored by Communications and Services Officer Charlie Clinton, leading the magazine to instead publish a story condemning his interference. The incident earned Clinton the nickname 'Hot Potato', due to a phrase he used when censoring the article.


The magazine won Best Student Publication at the UCL Union arts awards in May 2006, May 2007, May 2008, May 2009, June 2011 and June 2014. It was short listed for the award in 2010 and 2012 but lost out in the final stages. In November 2006, The Cheese Grater won Best Small Budget Publication at The Guardian Student Media Awards,[8] and in November 2007 was nominated in the Best Magazine category. In June 2012, the society also won the UCL Union award for Best Garage Theatre Show for its inaugural comedy show, and in June 2014 was awarded the Diversity & Inclusion Award.

- The Cheese Grater Magazine website contains all the issues in PDF format.


  1. "Guardian Student Media Award for The Cheese Grater". UCL. Retrieved 2008-08-14.
  2. "The Cheese Grater Issue 1" (PDF). UCLU Cheese Grater Magazine Society. Retrieved 2007-09-13.
  3. "The Cheese Grater, issue 16" (PDF). UCLU Cheese Grater Magazine Society. Retrieved 2008-08-16.
  4. "The Cheese Grater AGM Issue" (PDF). UCLU Cheese Grater Magazine Society. Retrieved 2007-09-13.
  5. "No limits: time to ignore Hefce?". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 2011-02-27.
  6. Hill, Dave (2012-06-13). "London 2012 legacy: the battle begins on a Newham estate". The Guardian. London.
  7. "Defamation Act 1996, Section 1". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 2008-11-20.
  8. Keating, Matt (2006-11-13). "Education Guardian, Monday 13 November 2006". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-09-13.
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