The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Prof Michael Walls takes over from Prof Julio Davila as DPU Director

1 September 2020

The DPU would like to thank Prof Julio Davila for his hard work and dedication during his time as Director, while we warmly welcome Prof Michael Walls as his successor.

Michael Walls and Julio Davila

Prof Julio Davila was appointed Director of the DPU in 2012, taking over from Prof Caren Levy.

During the eight years since his appointment, the DPU has continued to evolve and grow. While post-graduate teaching is still very important to our endeavours, research has taken a much more central place both in terms of staff dedication and revenue. In the eight years between 2012 and 2020, the number of DPU staff grew by close to 40%, largely on account of expanding research activities. This period also saw significant changes in the profile of DPU's academic staff. While we only had one professor in 2012, in 2020 we are proud to count nine professors among our staff. All of them but one gained their professorship through the UCL promotions system, a reflection of the much increased weight we now give to research and external engagement activities.

During this period the DPU launched the DPU60 three-year scholarship for PhD students, which covers tuition fee and stipend for one or two new students every year. Although temporarily paused, eight PhD students from all over the world have so far benefitted from the scheme. 

Following on a long tradition of engaging with the more significant development issues of the day, the DPU recently incorporated urban health as a topic both in research and teaching, with the launch in 2019 of a new MSc in Health in Urban Development. This is a bold move for a department with no public health credentials, but one that signals that professionals working in the built environment can make an important contribution to the current and future wellbeing of an increasingly urbanised world, as has been dramatically shown in city government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As one chapter comes to an end, a new one begins. We are delighted to welcome Prof Michael Walls as the new Director of the DPU. Michael knows the DPU intimately, currently holding the position of Professor of Development Politics and Economy and having first joined the DPU as a student of MSc DAP in 2002, before completing his PhD at the DPU in 2011. He joined the DAP team in 2003 and was appointed lecturer at the DPU in 2007. Most recently he was the programme leader of MSc Development Administration & Planning. Michael has developed a specialisation in governance, particularly in the Horn of Africa, and has led successive international election observation missions in Somaliland as well as conducting research there and in Uganda and Nigeria as well as sitting on the Board of the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC).

Prof Julio Davila will begin a well-deserved sabbatical, as we all look to a challenging and exciting future under the leadership of Prof Michael Walls.