Spotlight on... Daniel Farrell

Daniel Farrell
Daniel Farrell
This week we meet Daniel Farrell, Director of Student Operations in Student and Registry Services, who chats to us about his role overseeing UCL’s central student administration, an upcoming project to improve the curriculum, and his favourite form of escapism - stamp-collecting!

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am the Director of Student Operations in Student and Registry Services (SRS) reporting to the Executive Director and Registrar, Sarah Cowls. I oversee UCL’s service provision across central student administration from enrolment to graduation, including timetabling, examinations and statutory reporting. In addition, I am the business owner of the Student Lifecycle portfolio which provides the means to introduce transformation across student admin-related services. There is no set routine to my day although there is something of a rhythm to most weeks because of my engagement with regularly scheduled UCL committees, working groups and the ceremonies of UCL’s version of the Scaled Agile Framework which is how we deliver business transformation through our various change portfolios. I spend as much time as I can meeting Faculty and departmental colleagues at all levels to hear about user experiences and to gather feedback on what is working well and what we need to change to deliver optimal services.

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

I joined UCL at the start of June 2023, so just over a year ago, having worked at the University of St Andrews in Fife, Scotland for nearly 17 years. I started at St Andrews in Admissions but later worked in Academic Registry and ITS, leading a range of operations and data-related changes in multiple areas and finishing as Head of Data Transformation.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I had a fantastic opportunity to lead the vision and delivery of a wide-ranging institutional transformation programme across multiple business and technical facets of student and curriculum administration at St Andrews. Most of the outputs of that three-year programme are still in use by staff and students today. The programme itself was game-changing, not just for the institution but for the staff seconded into that large initiative and I am proud to have been a key part of envisioning and leading such a high-profile cultural and strategic programme.

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

There are so many exciting ways to add value at UCL in my role - it’s been an inspiring year and I know there’s more to come! One project I would spotlight is the introduction of a new Curriculum Information Management (CIM) capability that will be based in Student Operations (SRS). Sponsored out of the Education change portfolio, this project complements other strategic initiatives such as the Programme Excellence Project (PEP) in the Office of the Vice-Provost Education & Student Experience (OVPESE). Over the next 18 months, we will be changing the way we handle and manage our curriculum data (e.g., the Module Catalogue, Prospectus, and workflows for PMAP).  In parallel, we will be changing our central support model for Faculties, Planning and SRS Education Services as we streamline communications and strengthen collegial networks with a real focus on quality, standards and assurance that will improve the experience of students and staff who rely on accurate, up-to-date, and easily understood curriculum information.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

My favourite films (yes, plural, sorry...) are All about Eve with the great Bette Davis, The Usual Suspects (1995), and a cult classic, Harold and Maude (1971) with its splendid Cat Stevens soundtrack.  "My favourite album" is a question too difficult to answer as I have quite an eclectic taste in music but a solitary poignant voice like Cesária Évora or a polyphonic Palestrina is a good place to start.  My favourite novel can be found on the shelf with Henry James and Edith Wharton.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

Why did the monkey fall out of the tree? Because he was dead...  Why did the second monkey fall out of the tree? Because he was hitched to the first monkey...  Why did the third monkey fall out of the tree? Because he thought it was a game... Why did the donkey die? Because he was hit by falling monkeys... And so on...

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Leaving death and language aside (!) my dream dinner would be an al fresco dinner around a fish, fruit, cheese, pudding and wine-laden table with the film producer Jean Renoir, the cookery writer Elizabeth David, the painter Hieronymus Bosch, the classicist Mary Beard and Yves Saint Laurent.  What larks, Pip!

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t take yourself so seriously - get down and dance.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I am a philatelist - not so common these days! Having inherited a stamp collection from my grandfather many years ago, I never neglected it but as I’ve grown older it has become a true go-to escape for me. Each year I invest more time and money into building up my area of special interest, which is the early postal history of the Indian Native States. This is such an interesting field of collecting because it includes much more than just stamps per se - many of these stamps were printed on poor quality paper, were issued for short periods, and had limited circulation so there’s a lot of history here. One day I would like to write about the pleasure of this somewhat old-fashioned hobby and the pleasure it has brought me on many a rainy afternoon.

What is your favourite place?

My favourite place is somewhere with good light between the mountains and the sea, preferably on the Adriatic, but not too far from an orchard, a vineyard, a greenhouse, a wine cellar, a big table, a book-lined room, and plenty of bedrooms for friends to stay over and celebrate the joy of being away from it all.
  • University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT (0) 20 7679 2000