Provost’s update: Thanks and best wishes to you all ahead of the winter break

headshot of Michael Spence
headshot of Michael Spence
A message from the Provost to staff ahead of the winter break 2023/24.

Dear colleagues

There was really encouraging engagement with my last message about the culture of a university , a conversation I hope we can keep going. Something on my mind recently, which several people also noted, is the challenge of effecting disruption for positive change when the wider world is beset by such a degree of unhelpful and difficult disruption. In relation to this, I was heartened by the appetite for UCL to play a leadership role in tackling the big problems, and the confidence that we are strongly positioned to do so. Thank you to everyone who responded.

This has been quite a term, with some very high highs and some very low lows. Uppermost for many of us has been the violence and suffering in Israel and Palestine, and the myriad ways in which it is causing pain, grief and fear for a great many in our community. Some students and staff have also been affected by the terrible destruction caused by the earthquakes in Morocco and Libya, as well as many other conflicts and disasters around the world. Unfortunately, UCL has become very well-practised in supporting students and staff caught up in conflict and natural disasters, and we now have very good processes in place to offer both practical and emotional support. That is due to the dedication of people across the university, but particular thanks must go to the Student Support and Wellbeing team, who have been incredibly proactive. For those who need it, or who are helping people who do, an overview of all the support available (including over the winter break) is here.

Given that it is better to light one candle, and so on, I would like to end the year with a reminder that so many at UCL do so much to make the world a better place. The huge variety of ways in which we are helping to transform lives globally was prominent amongst the reasons given for UCL being named Sunday Times University of the Year this term. Our and results reinforced the terrific quality and impact of our research, teaching and student experience and, when the Chancellor wanted a partner to spotlight the value of university spinouts, UCL was the obvious choice. This term we also launched both our new LGBTQ+ action plan and our Inclusive Environments policy. I want to talk about both of those in more detail early next year, but for now I will simply say that they are the result of a great deal of considered thought, research, and consultation, and provide a practical route to making real, incremental change.

Although the challenges with which the world presents us can sometimes feel overwhelming, the progress we are making against them is real and substantial: in human health and wellbeing, in climate and sustainability, in understanding what it means to be a diverse community that embraces diversity in all its forms, in developing and harnessing disruptive new technologies for the good, in the evolving opportunities we give students to become well-rounded global citizens, in improving how we work internally so we can spend more time focusing on the impact we can make externally, and in many more areas. We strive for more and we want to do better, which is a great strength, but let’s not lose sight of how very much we are already achieving and how that is benefitting communities both local and global.

On that hopeful note, I would like to thank you all so much for everything you do and the can-do, constructive spirit in which you do it, and wish you all a happy and reinvigorating break.

Best wishes,


Dr Michael Spence
UCL President & Provost
  • University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT (0) 20 7679 2000