Transforming Our Professional Services


Technical Staff at UCL – an update

29 July 2020

We’re making progress against our plan to support better our technical staff and improve career development opportunities.


Technical staff at UCL

UCL employs over 1,000 highly skilled technical staff whose diverse range of expertise is essential to delivering our mission. Our technical staff work in all areas of the university, from research and teaching with technicians based in the Faculties, Research IT in Information Services Division and technical teams in UCL Estates.

Over the last few months our technical staff have played a significant role in our response to the Covid-19 pandemic. They have supported UCL researchers in their efforts to help find a cure, and improve diagnosis, for Covid-19. 

The UCL Ventura device is now in global use. This success story owes a huge amount to the skills and insights of our technical experts who were able to bring to bear the design and fabrication of the device as it moved from prototype, through a series of versions and out in to manufacture.

Our technical expertise is also absolutely core to the success of some work we are leading on, on behalf of the Jenner Institute at Oxford. We are working to scale up the manufacture of one of the two UK vaccine candidates. Here we need to be able to set up accurate mimics of the large-scale processes that will be required if meaningful programmes of vaccination are to be realised over time. Technical expertise is in the very vanguard of that effort. These two examples demonstrate not just the centrality of the technical experts to much of what we achieve at UCL, but are also testament to the breadth and strength of that community.

 Technical staff have also enabled the university to continue working by ensuring that the extremely complex process of closing, and then reopening, our labs and work areas has been carried out safely in preparation for the next academic year.

“Our technical communities are the conduit of teaching and research. The utility of technologies, materials and processes in the heads and hands of our technical staff extend our reach into the world. At UCL we are incredibly fortunate in that the communities who are closest to this are the vibrant, agile experts that there are. Recently, demonstrated by the efforts around Covid mitigation technical interventions, we have seen numerous examples of technical ingenuity and thinking with the affordance of tacit expertise, resulting in deliverable solutions to frontline health workers. Since the cessation of face to face at UCL certain day to day boundaries have dissolved, enabling a broader sight of the technical resource that we are and it is world class. All the work with and for the NHS is possible because our technical staff “make ideas real”. It is this exchange between ideas and realisation and the people involved that we owe a great deal of our success to”
Peter Scully, Professorial Research Fellow, Bartlett School of Architecture & Chair of the Technical Managers Group

Our commitment to technical staff

In October 2018, UCL signed the Technician Commitment, a national initiative aimed towards increasing the visibility and recognition of the profession and improving opportunities for career development for technical staff working in higher education and research across the UK. As part of signing the commitment we also agreed on a two-year action plan.

What we’ve achieved so far

Since signing the Technician Commitment UCL has:

  • Created the Technical Managers Group (TMG): The group meets quarterly to oversee and drive forward the implementation of UCL’s Technician Commitment Action Plan. Our aim is for the group’s membership to represent all technical teams across UCL.  Please check the current membership list on our new Technical Staff Sharepoint site to establish if your team is already represented on the TMG, but if not, please contact the Chair, Peter Scully directly
  • Established two Communities of Practice for technical staff: Communities of Practice at UCL have been established to help strengthen professional identity and to help staff to share best practice and to collaborate and improve their practice areas
  • Renewed our subscription to Higher Education and Technician’s Educational Development (HEaTED): All technical staff can make use of our HEatED membership to access best practice resources, find networking opportunities and keep up-to-date with the latest developments in the sector.

Next steps

In November 2019 we were allocated funding from the School of Life & Medical Sciences (SLMS) and the Transforming Our Professional Services (TOPS) Programme to continue work on delivering our action plan. From September 2020 we will have a fully resourced team to progress the action plan and will be working closely with the UCL community to do so.  This will include:

  • Launching a bespoke skills and capabilities survey (planned for 2020/21): In partnership with the National Technicians Development Centre, we will conduct a survey to capture the full breadth and diversity of technical expertise at UCL. This understanding will help us to develop improved career pathways and a clearer offering for how technical staff can develop their careers and will be supported at UCL. 
  • Launching a new SharePoint site for technical staff: we will use this SharePoint site to share our progress against the action plan and to signpost available resources. Please do add the page as a bookmark in your browser.

We will continue to provide updates on our progress and will use the Technical Managers Group (TMG) and local communication routes.  Please look out for further updates.

On behalf of UCL I am most grateful for your efforts, especially during these extraordinary times.

Best wishes,

Nigel Titchener -Hooker
Dean of Engineering Sciences

Sponsor of the TMG