UCL President & Provost

Former Provosts

Select the individual's name below to find out more about each President & Provost.

For more information about UCL's history, visit the interactive timeline on the About UCL website.

Sir Gregory Foster (1906-1929)

Sir Gregory Foster (1906-29)

It was decided in 1900 that there should once again be a salaried head of the university, with the title of Principal. In order to avoid confusion with the newly formed Principal of the University of London, Foster’s title was renamed Provost. Formerly a student and teacher at the university in the late 19th Century, Foster was also President of the Union before taking up his post as UCL’s first Provost.

Sir Allen Mawer, FBA (1930-1942)

Sir Allen Mawer, FBA (1930-1942)

Foster retired from his post as Provost in 1929 to focus on becoming Vice-Chancellor under the university’s new Statutes. He was replaced by Sir Allen Mawer, a former graduate student of UCL who had also become a Professor of English at Newcastle and Liverpool.

Sir David Pye, FRS (1943-1951)

Sir David Pye, FRS (1943-1951)

Pye oversaw a tumultuous time for the university after substantial damage was endured during the Second World War. In 1943, he remarked: “There was hardly a square foot of glass.” Previously an engineer, Pye worked on the development of jet propulsion whilst Director of Scientific Research for the Air Ministry.

Sir Ifor Evans (1951-1966)

Sir Ifor Evans (1951-1966)

A former English student at the University, Evans later went on to become Education Director of the British Council during the war. He also retained a strong public presence as a well-known literary critic, writer and broadcaster. He oversaw a period of great expansion at UCL.

Lord Annan (1966-1978)

Lord Annan (1966-78)

With the backdrop of diminishing funds and student unrest, Lord Annan exerted strong diplomacy during his time as Provost. There were still a number of building projects that took place during this time however. The last major building to be opened was the Wates House, new home of the Bartlett School of Architecture and Planning, in 1975, thanks in large part to a substantial donation from the Wates Foundation.

Sir James Lighthill, FRS (1979-1989)

Sir James Lighthill, FRS (1979-1989)

Lighthill came to UCL with a much-admired academic reputation having been a Lucasian Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cambridge University at the time of his appointment. Faced with substantial government cuts to higher education during the 1980s, UCL dramatically increased its funding from non-governmental organisations, thus maintaining its growth during this difficult time.

Sir Derek Roberts (1989-1999)

Sir Derek Roberts (1989-1999)

Roberts professional life had mostly been spent in industrial scientific research, marking something of a shift with previous provosts. There were several successful projects and expansion during this time including the merger of UCL and the Institute of Child Health in 1996.

Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith, FRS (1999-2002)

Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith (1999-2002)

Smith oversaw successful research bids in the Joint Infrastructure Fund and through the Science Research Investment Fund, totalling £100m. However, a worsening deficit and Smith’s academic re-structuring attracted criticism from some leading to his resignation in 2002 to resume research work. Sir Derek Roberts returned to his previous post on an interim basis until a successor was found.

Professor Sir Malcolm Grant, CBE (2003-2013)

Professor Malcolm Grant

Barrister, environmental lawyer, academic and public servant, Professor Grant became UCL’s ninth Provost in 2003. He has written extensively on many subjects including planning and environmental law, biotechnology regulation, finance and political management, central–local government relations and human rights. Professor Grant was awarded a CBE in 2003 for service to planning law and local government, and was knighted for services to higher education in 2013. 

Information sourced from Negley Harte and John North's The World of UCL: 1828-2004 (UCL Press 2004).