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Prof Robert Hazell

Robert Hazell

Prof Robert Hazell

  • Position: Professor of Government and the Constitution & Director of the Constitution Unit
  • Room:B13
  • Building: 29-30 Tavistock Square
  • Telephone:0207 679 4971
  • Email:

Robert Hazell was a late comer to academe, coming to UCL in 1995 at the age of 45. After degrees from Oxford in PPE and Law, he started his career as a barrister from 1973-75. He then joined the Home Office, and was a policy making civil servant from 1975 to 1989, working in immigration, police, prisons, broadcasting, race relations, drugs and criminal justice policy. He left Whitehall to become Director of the Nuffield Foundation for six years, and then left the Nuffield to found the Constitution Unit at UCL in 1995. He was given a personal chair as Professor of Government and the Constitution by UCL in 1999. In 2006 he was awarded the CBE for his services to constitutional reform. In 2009 Robert Hazell was awarded the Political Studies Communication Award for his work in developing and communicating the constitutional reform agenda.

Britain's constantly morphing constitutional landscape needs an ace cartographer to make sense of it, and in Robert Hazell it has found one (Lord Hennessy)

The Constitution Unit is an independent think tank specialising in constitutional reform. In its first two years (1995-97) it published detailed reports on how to implement the opposition parties’ proposals for devolution to Scotland and Wales; Lords reform; incorporation of the ECHR; voting reform; freedom of information; and the conduct of referendums. After the Labour government was elected in 1997 the Unit continued to do detailed work on how to plan and implement constitutional reforms, keeping one step ahead of the government’s own constitutional reform programme. The Unit is the single largest centre of expertise on constitutional reform in the UK, and has published over 150 reports and research papers.


Robert’s research interests cover the whole of the constitutional reform agenda. He has written widely on devolution in Scotland, Wales and the English regions; freedom of information; parliamentary reform and Lords reform; a British bill of rights; referendums; electoral reform; the Crown and royal prerogative; constitutional watchdogs; and the process of constitutional reform. He is a great believer in collaborative research and likes to build research teams around projects, and to write edited books rather than monographs.

He was director of the 1999-2005 Leverhulme funded research programme into the Dynamics of Devolution, which had 12 projects and 25 partners. He continued with some of the same partners to direct an ESRC and government funded project monitoring the latest developments in devolution (2006-2008). His last collaborative venture with 20 partners was forecasting the shape of the constitution in 2020. More recent work has studied the impact of Freedom of Information on Whitehall (ESRC 2007-2009), and on local government (ESRC 2009-2011), and on Parliament (Leverhulme 2009-2011).


Robert has been awarded around 50 major research grants. These include six grants from the ESRC, and research funds totalling over £5m from the Ministry of Justice, Cabinet Office, Scotland Office, Wales Office, Scottish government, and House of Commons; and from the Leverhulme Trust, Nuffield Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, Gatsby Charitable Foundation, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Nuffield Trust, Pilgrim Trust.

Current research grants:
Recent research grants:


Robert has been commissioned to lead many research projects as a consultant. These are often collaborative and he has vast experience in all types of work.


The Constitution Unit is at the centre of several national and international networks. Robert’s research projects have included working in partnership with academics from the universities of Aberstwyth, Birmingham, Cardiff, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glamorgan, Glasgow, LSE, Manchester, Napier, Newcastle, Queen’s Belfast, Swansea, Strathclyde, and Ulster. Overseas partners have included experts from the Australian National University, Queen’s University Ontario, Victoria University Wellington. He is a member of the International Association of Constitutional Lawyers, the Political Studies Association, the Society of Legal Scholars and the International Association of Centres for Federal Studies (1999-2009).

Policy impact

Robert has remained close to Whitehall, and continues to advise the civil service and the political parties on constitutional reform matters. He has served on four different government advisory bodies on freedom of information, and three times acted as Special Adviser to parliamentary committees. He has given evidence to numerous official bodies and parliamentary committees, and done consultancy for the House of Commons, House of Lords, Cabinet Office, Ministry of Justice, Information Commissioner, Scottish Parliament and World Bank.

The main policy changes which he has helped to influence include:

  • Holding pre rather than post legislative referendums in 1997 on devolution in Scotland and Wales
  • Defining the powers reserved rather than the powers devolved in the Scotland Act 1998, reversing the architecture of the Scotland Act 1978
  • Reforming the House of Lords in stages, rather than a single big bang
  • Establishing the Electoral Commission to supervise referendums and elections
  • Introducing policy and development grants as part of the funding of political parties
  • Making the case for the new Supreme Court
  • Proposing a two stage referendum process before Scotland might become independent
  • Encouraging the adoption of a proper Cabinet Manual for Whitehall.

Media Impact

Robert has written articles for all the main national newspapers, and is a regular contributor to Prospect. He has given frequent interviews for BBC Radio 4 (Today, World Tonight, World at One, Week at Westminster) and BBC TV (News at Ten, Newsnight) and ITN (C4 News), as well as overseas broadcasters (ABC, CBC, CNN, Sky etc).

In 2009 he was awarded the Political Studies Association’s Communication Award for ‘consistently working to develop the constitutional reform agenda, to communicate these ideas to government and more generally to inject academic rigour and principle into public debate’.

Academic lectures and presentations

Aberystwyth, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Essex, Hull, King’s College London, Leeds, LSE, Manchester, Newcastle, Reading, Oxford, Oxford Brookes, Queen Mary London, Queen’s Belfast, Sheffield, Strathclyde, Swansea, York.

Public Lectures

  • Institute of International and European Affairs, Dublin March 2010
  • Anthony Sampson Memorial Lecture, Queen Mary, London 2009
  • NAO/Public Administration Committee biennial Accountability lecture, 2008
  • ESRC lecture to David Hume Institute at Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2005
  • Annual lecture to Institute of Welsh Politics, Aberystwyth, Nov 2005
  • Lord North lecture, Wroxton College, 2003
  • Constitutional Centenary lecture in Parliament House, Canberra, in 2001
  • Australasian Study of Parliament Group lecture in New Zealand Parliament, 2001
  • Public lecture in Northern Ireland Assembly, May 2001
  • St David’s Day lecture in Cardiff University, March 2001

International involvement

Invited to give presentations in Sydney, Melbourne, Wellington, Ottawa, Toronto, Canada-UK Colloquium, Paris, Brittany, Provence, Berlin, Leipzig, Nuremberg, Barcelona, Bologna, Cork, Dublin.

Robert Hazell was the Programme Director of the Affiliate Programme in Political Studies from 2006 to 2013. Since that time the number of courses taught by the Department on the Affiliate Programme has grown from three to eleven. It has developed a separate strand in International Relations, and links to the Politics Pathway in European Social and Political Studies.

Robert welcomes applications from potential PhD students in any of his areas of interest. He particularly welcomes applications from part time students and those with experience of working in government.

See the department's doctoral programme

Page last modified on 26 aug 15 18:23

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