UCL News


Spotlight on... Ian Dancy

15 December 2022

This week we meet Ian Dancy, UCL’s Executive Director of Operations. With the recording of the Estates Strategy Town Hall now published, here, Ian provides some background about leading the development of the new Estates Strategy and next steps.

Ian Dancy

What is your role and what does it involve?

I’m UCL’s Executive Director of Operations, which means I have oversight for the physical UCL, including the Estate (both Operations and Development of), Campus Services, Sustainability and Health and Safety. My role focuses on, and allows me to be passionate about, the overall Campus Experience, the quality and resilience of our infrastructure and collective approach to Health and Safety.

I’m currently leading the development of our new Estates Strategy which, aligned to the overall UCL Strategy 2022–27, will allow us to get ‘our house in order’ by investing in the quality of our infrastructure and maintenance, and considering the way we use space across UCL.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I joined Students’ Union UCL in 2015 as Chief Executive, and then moved to UCL in 2018. My first role for UCL was on the Transforming Our Professional Services leadership team, before a short stint as the VP Operations Chief of Staff. The pandemic provided me with opportunities to work with the Estates teams as we all navigated day-to-day life, which eventually allowed me to work with the Estates teams more closely.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I’m proud of two things during my time at UCL…

  1. The turnaround of Students’ Union UCL. From 2015 to 2018 it was great to work with the team to reset and consider a number of challenges at the time. It is fascinating to watch the SU go from strength to strength today, with the new (and very impressive looking) Convenience Store opening in January 2023 and Project Active (an amazing sport for all programmes, which we kicked off in 2017) increasing users each year.
  2. Although it has been uncomfortable at times, I’m very proud of the work in Estates to identify and understand the scale of our physical challenge, with over £600 million of backlog maintenance and a need to think more strategically about how we tackle the challenges and create a more resilient infrastructure to support our world-leading efforts.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

At the top of my to-do list is the Estates Strategy, a key piece of work which will underpin our work and investment over the short to long term as we look to densify and improve space. It is based on nine principles, which focus on the importance of embodying sustainability and accessibility in everything we do, spending within our means by reducing our reliance on non-strategic leases and putting students at the heart of campus (and staff!). The principles are key as we start to think about the short (2022–27, in line with the UCL Strategy) and longer term, where we will need to think now about how we support UCL’s future ambitions.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

I’m surrounded at home by children (Angus, 11; Ella, nine and Henry, seven), and my ability to watch and read has decreased as they have grown. I do enjoy a game of Fortnite when I can wrestle the controller out of my kids’ hands.

My favourite film is probably something by Will Ferrell, like Step Brothers, but I should probably give a slightly less immature answer, so, I will go with Forrest Gump or Saving Private Ryan.

I’m not much a reader – the last book I managed was a sporting biography (Sir Steve Redgrave, I think!) because I was on holiday, pre-children and bored, with my wife busy enjoying the sun.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

A man walked into the doctor's, he said 'I've hurt my arm in several places'. The doctor said, 'well don't go there anymore'.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

My family, probably for a Sunday Roast.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t overreact as much, don’t sweat the little things, and you don’t always have to win.

I would also say well done for treading the difficult line between being a good dad and a good employee. I have never wanted to look back on my life and think that I got either wrong, but most importantly the dad gig.

A group of people standing beside a waterfall
What would it surprise people to know about you?

I ran the 2016 London Marathon because someone once said I couldn’t – yes, I’m that stubborn. The surprising factor is that I’m not exactly built like a marathon runner and had never completed a 5k before.

What is your favourite place?

I don’t have a favourite place – there are so many to choose from! I enjoy taking my kids on adventures, and we recently got back from trips to Iceland and Morocco (picture of my family in Iceland 2022, underneath Seljalandsfoss (a huge waterfall).