Spotlight on... Adam Cresswell

This week we chat to Adam Cresswell, Head of Reporting and Evaluation, at UCL Research, Innovation & Global Engagement (RIGE). Read about tangible impacts he’s made at work, at UCL and early on in his career, and why his dinner guests will ensure one day he will be famous.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I work in Planning, Reporting and Evaluation within UCL RIGE (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement) which gives me oversight of internal evaluation activities and ResearchFish which collects details of research outcomes for funders. But what everyone knows me for (and is the activity that fills 99% of my professional time) is managing the staff, outputs and environment components of UCL’s REF (Research Excellence Framework) submission.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

11 years which have gone very quickly. I started at UCL on a one-year fixed term role in The Bartlett as Enterprise Coordinator, I gave up a full-time role at my previous institution because the idea of working at The Bartlett and at UCL was just too exciting. And here I am, 11 years later with the results of my second REF, still feeling like a newbie.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I’m pretty proud of the results of the two REF exercises that I worked on. The moment that still sticks in my mind was from REF2014, sitting next to Provost when he announced that it was the first time either Oxford or Cambridge had been surpassed on the research strength metric. That still feels pretty surreal. But REF of course is a massive team effort, and I’m not exactly writing the research, so I can’t take too much credit.

I’m still very proud of my first job in an educational capacity which was working in Southwark College in Community Development, helping asylum seekers, victims of torture, kids from deprived backgrounds and other incredibly vulnerable people in accessing basic skills and ESOL provision. I worked on what was called ’franchising’ which was high-income and high-risk provision. It’s not too unreasonable to say I single-handedly turned-around the way the service was provided, through site visits, audits, meetings with students, developing tools to track the funding and having a few difficult conversations with our providers. I like to think that what I did helped make a difference to a lot of people that desperately needed a helping hand, and I’m still very proud of that.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

Reviews of our REF results and producing reports that will be useful as we look towards the next exercise. It’s the least glamorous and exciting part of the part of the exercise, like cleaning-up the morning after a brilliant party. It’s really about trying to identify the few areas where we didn’t do as well as we had hoped, working out how we can better support them and do things differently next time. All of our submissions had areas of excellence, so it’s not easy. At an institution like UCL it’s really all about making marginal gains. When it comes to the REF, we’re not known an institution that gameplays; that makes dubious strategic decisions to manipulate our result. For us, it’s all about the long game - playing it fairly, playing it well.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Album: New Order, Power, Corruption and Lies

Film: Battle Royale

Novel: Franz Kafka, The Trial

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

"Where does a Pirate do their shopping?"


(It works best when told by a 7 year old)

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Matt Goss, Luke Goss, Craig Logan

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t skimp on a good hairdresser.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I played on three BBC John Peel Sessions but my formal musical training amounts to one recorder lesson.

What is your favourite place?

Resident Records on the North Laines in Brighton

  • University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT (0) 20 7679 2000