UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Half a Century of Wisdom: PALS Legend Prof. McClelland Retires after 50 Years

4 November 2023

Alastair McClelland

In a tribute to one of UCL's most cherished educators, the PALS community came together to celebrate the retirement of Professor Alastair McClelland to mark half a century of dedicated service.

Professor McClelland
Professor McClelland, or "Alastair" as he is affectionately known, began his remarkable journey at UCL as an undergraduate on the BSc Psychology programme. Little did he know that the very programme he entered in 1973 would become his life's work for the next five decades.


During his time at UCL, Alastair directed one of PALS' most successful academic programmes, the UCL undergraduate psychology programme, for nearly two decades. However, his connection to the university goes back even further. As a young undergraduate, he demonstrated his academic prowess by earning a First in 1976 and claiming the Sessional Best Student of the Year Prize in 1974.

From 1976 to 1979, he dedicated himself to a PhD, and from 1979 to 1981, Alastair served as a 'Teaching Assistant' within the department. His stint at the National Hospitals College of Speech Sciences from 1981 to 1990 meant he was based at Chandler House.

The year 1990 marked a significant turning point in his career when Alastair joined the Department of Psychology. His journey of excellence continued, culminating in his promotion to Senior Lecturer in 1998. Over time, he became the embodiment of psychology at UCL, known for his unwavering professionalism, dedication, and, perhaps most notably, his kindness and care for students. Even in the daunting realm of statistics, Alastair managed to be one of the most beloved teachers among undergraduates for generations.

Throughout his career, Professor McClelland received numerous accolades, including the Faculty Teaching Award in 2001-2 and the Provost's Teaching Award in 2011. He also earned several teaching awards, including the 2013 Student Choice Teaching Award for Outstanding Support, the 2014 Provost's Teaching Award for Experienced Staff, and the 2015 School of Life and Medical Sciences Teaching Award for Experienced Individual Staff.

In 2014, Alastair took on a part-time secondment to UCL's Centre for Advancing Learning and Teaching (CALT), where he became a trusted advisor to teaching programs across the university.

Beyond the confines of UCL, Alastair's influence extended to institutions like the British Museum and the BBC. He is also a respected Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and the Royal Statistical Society.

No UCL PALS Christmas gathering will ever be the same without Alastair's witty statistical quips. Who can forget his memorable appearances as a woodland creature, a munchkin, and, well, himself? The last one remains a mystery to many.

Professor McClelland

As Professor McClelland bids adieu to his UCL career, we can only express our deepest gratitude for the kindness, unwavering support, countless hours devoted to students, programme guidance, and the invaluable impact he's had on countless lives. He was a tutor to tutors, a master of statistics, and a mentor who taught us how to enhance our pedagogic performance.

Professor McClelland
In recognition of Alastair's outstanding contributions to the Division, PALS is pleased to announce the establishment of "The Alastair McClelland Summer Scholarship." This scholarship aims to promote research that advances our understanding of the demands of psychology projects.

Thank you for your wisdom, your humor, and the unforgettable memories you've created here at UCL, Alastair. We bid you farewell with gratitude on behalf of the entire PALS community.