UCL Career Frameworks


Enterprise and External Engagement

Louise Rayner, Director, Archaeology South-East, UCL Institute of Archaeology

Louise Rayner
I am the Director of Archaeology South-East (ASE) which is a contract and research unit for commercial archaeology and heritage services and part of the UCL Institute of Archaeology. 

My role has overall responsibility for all aspects of ASE’s operations, providing strategic and organisational leadership, while also contributing to the delivery of the research and teaching objectives of the Institute. This includes oversight of our 100+ staff who are predominately technical archaeologists and heritage specialists, as well as a small PS team who undertake our administration, HR and finance transactions.

The team are based across three offices located in Sussex, Essex and London, from which we undertake work across the surrounding regions – so my role involves travelling to these offices and sites to visit staff and projects. 

ASE is a Registered Organisation of the Chartered Institute of Archaeologists (CIfA), which is the leading professional body for archaeologists working in the UK. As well as being an accredited member myself (MCIfA), I am also the Responsible Post Holder at ASE, with ultimate responsibility for all of our historic environment work.  Accredited membership of a professional body is important because it evidences my skills, competence, understanding and ethical commitment to carry out archaeological work in the public interest. It’s an important benchmark that external clients and stakeholders can have confidence in. 

The ASE team undertake projects for a wide range of commercial clients, mainly within the construction sector and related to large-scale housing developments and infrastructure. This work is usually required in fulfilment of planning conditions attached to development so we work closely with our clients, consultants, local authority planners and monitors, and other stakeholders to design and deliver projects. Archaeological projects can be very complex and we have to ensure the work meets the required sector standards, are carried out safely and ethically, and in an effective and efficient way. ASE also works on research and engagement projects with partners such as the Council for British Archaeology, the National Trust, South Downs National Park and other local government bodies and heritage organisations. 

Project management, people management and communication are essential parts of my role and I have spent much of my career learning and developing these skills and knowledge. I also spend a lot of time working on financial aspects such as annual budgets, cost analyses, and quotes as our commercial contracts are open to competitive tender. Working with external clients and third parties can be challenging, especially when these sectors operate very differently from a HEI like UCL, but it is also very rewarding when we make really significant discoveries and the importance of what we do becomes clear to all parties. Archaeology is very much a team-centred discipline and I love working in a collaborative setting where everyone’s individual skills and knowledge come together to tell the stories of how people lived in the past.  

I have a BA Archaeology degree from York and a MSc in Archaeological Material from UCL. My specialist research area is Roman pottery and I’ve had the opportunity to work on some amazing material from London and across the south-east. I’ve been involved in development-led archaeology since 1994, working for other commercial archaeology organisations before having a change and joining Birkbeck, University of London in 2003, where I was the Archaeology Programme Manager in the Faculty of Continuing Education. Here I had responsibility for a large programme of courses and sessional lecturers, as well as doing quite a bit of teaching myself. This gave me good experience of the Higher Education environment which really helped when I joined UCL. The mix of commercial and education experience was key to securing my first role at UCL and I’ve always seen having a diverse range of skills and experience as key to my career progression. 

I’ve been at UCL since 2005 and my first post at ASE was part of the senior management team as Head of Post-Excavation and Specialist Services. During these years, I learnt a huge amount about building and developing a team, growing a client base and supporting staff with CPD and training. I’ve always tried to be the best advocate for my team and ensure they have the resources, support and facilities needed to do their work. 

As a developing leader, I took part in the UCL Senior Women in Leadership programme which was important for building my network across UCL and also encouraging me to really focus on the type of leader I wanted to be. It also introduced me to coaching and I subsequently completed the Coach@UCL training course and continue to work with coachees to build up my experience and gain hours towards accreditation.  I have always enjoyed finding new ways to learn and develop and aspire to embed that within our culture at ASE. My work with the Technical Managers Group has continued building engagement and contacts across UCL – working collaboratively again – it’s really what gives me the most satisfaction!