UCL Strategic Plan 2022-27


Foreword by Dr Michael Spence, President and Provost

UCL is an extraordinary place, filled with people with a hunger for excellence and strong creative drive.

Over the last decade, these qualities have accelerated our rise into the ranks of the very best universities in the world. We consistently demonstrate research power and impact at the highest level and are fortunate to educate students of impressive talent and ambition from around the world. The university’s long-term strategy, UCL 2034, has given us a framework for these achievements, and its objectives still resonate for our work. We are enjoying the rewards of our creativity and commitment, and we have the capability to push still further. 

While this is therefore not the time for a significant change in direction, after a ten-year period of growth we need to evolve how we work so that we can meet immediate financial and other challenges and sustain success for the long-term. UCL has been propelled forward by individual and small-group endeavour.  Where this has been directed at new academic activity, it has mostly been very fruitful, but it has also resulted in new administrative services, systems and processes, and our university has become a maze of complex, fragmented, and often overlapping administration. The consultation has demonstrated how much potential and enthusiasm there is for new academic initiatives at the local level – witness the many projects put forward for consideration for investment – but it has also shown how frustrating and time-consuming many find it to navigate the complexity of UCL, as well as dissatisfaction with the quality of the physical working environment in some parts of the university. 

In this strategic plan, we set out a programme of consolidation. Rather than attempting to define or direct the academic life of the university, this plan for institutional-level activity focuses on reworking the structures on which our academic success depends, and which will help staff and students to thrive at UCL. The Strategic Plan sets out plans for investment in our programme of Grand Challenges to enhance our institutional impact, both externally and internally; to ensure transparency in our decision-making, including investment for the future; to drive change in education, simplifying where possible in the interests of staff and students; and to prioritise a comprehensive programme of service improvements to create a high-quality environment for our world-class research and education. 

Rethinking our ways of working seemed necessary when we began the consultation process at the start of the 2021-22 academic year. Against a backdrop of rising inflation, financial uncertainty and geopolitical instability, it is now urgent. Like other organisations facing a period of deep, externally driven change, we must use our considerable resources wisely to put us in the best possible position for the long-term. By focusing on a smaller number of priorities and being as efficient as possible, we can free up resource for what matters most: supporting staff and students so they can do their best work. This will require a new mindset and a shared approach to change, with deep cooperation between local academic units and university-wide services, close attention to local needs (especially those of academic staff and students), and a whole-institution approach to efficiencies of scale. It will also require a robust financial strategy and an estates strategy that is agreed and understood widely across our community. 

Our institutional values must underpin the delivery of this strategic plan. By changing how we are organised and how we work together, we aim to create an environment that enables academic rigour and intellectual innovation to thrive and where our staff and students feel supported to learn and work as part of a dynamic and mutually respectful community. We will take forward our reforms in a transparent and consultative manner and establish clear lines of accountability across the university.  In all that we do, we will be seeking to build connection, bringing people together in shared endeavour, mutual regard and trust. The outcome of this strategic plan must be a better working and learning environment for all.   

The discussion, debate and feedback through this consultation process has been inspiring and reflects the views of internal and external members of the UCL community. The profusion of ideas coming forward – not only in terms of academic priorities, but also in what we can and should be in the future as a globally-leading university rooted in London, one of the world’s great cities – speak not just to the next five years but long into the future. I look forward to continuing the conversation that we have begun through this consultation process and drawing on our university’s collective creativity and capability for problem-solving to deliver on the commitments set out in this plan.  

Dr Michael Spence 
President & Provost