Spotlight on... Zak Liddell

Zak Liddell smiling at camera
Zak Liddell smiling at camera
This week we meet Zak Liddell, Director of Education Services within Student and Registry Services. Zak chats to us about the launch of the Education Services team, his work on UCL’s Student Support Framework and his favourite P!nk album.

What is your role and what does it involve?  

I am Director of Education Services , within Student and Registry Services. Education Services is currently made up of three core teams: Academic Policy, Quality & Standards, Student Casework , and Student Success. My role provides leadership for these teams to make sure we are providing an expert service that develops education and student experience at UCL. I have overall responsibility for the development and management of UCL’s academic regulation and policy framework, ensuring excellence in education standards, student experience, and compliance with the Office for Students ’B-Conditions’. I am also a member of the Senior Education Team , working alongside other members to embed and operationalise the educational priorities and strategies of the University. 

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

I’ve been in my current post since May 2023, but joined in 2019 as Director of Education and Student Experience for the MAPS Faculty. 

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?  

That’s tricky... I am incredibly proud of the work I led to develop UCL’s Student Support Framework which was launched in September 2022. I think it achieved a lot of great outcomes to enhance our support and mitigations for students facing difficulties, but there is still room for improvement, and I’m excited by some of the follow-up work we’re now doing to develop it even further to improve the support and experience for both students and staff. 

Having said that, I think it’s important to recognise some of the less quantifiable successes, and I will always be incredibly proud of the work I did alongside colleagues in MAPS throughout Covid. I’m sure many of us remember how difficult that time was, but it was also a time of innovation and collaboration that resulted in some definite improvements to our education that I am proud to have been a part of. 

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

Where to start’! There are a lot of changes and various initiatives going on now, but I am most excited about the work happening in the Education Services team. I am incredibly lucky to lead a service full of talented PS staff wanting the best for our students and education provision. Education Services has only existed as a team for a few months, bringing together teams previously sitting in different areas of Registry and VPESE. We have spent some time looking internally at some of our policies, processes, staffing, and most importantly thinking about how we can improve our work with Faculties and Departments. 

Whilst we have already started implementing some of these changes, we are formally (re)launching the service and its teams this week. I’m really excited about the enhancements the team are going to make to education, student, and staff experience at UCL. Of course, it won’t happen overnight, and the next few months will be an important transition period for the teams to build stronger relationships with other areas of the University. 

What is your favourite album, film and novel?  

Favourite album is easy(ish): I’m Not Dead by P!nk. Whilst she has many other amazing albums, this was a turning point for her music and made me a lifelong fan. 

Favourite book is really tough, and I don’t think I could pick. Although I’ve been keeping up with the ’Rivers of London’ series by Ben Aaronovitch for years now and I’m looking forward to the next one. 

Favourite film is impossible. I watch a lot of films. Familiar faves I’ll always go back to though: Kill Bill (Action), Miss Congeniality (Comedy), The Conjuring (Horror), or Beaches if I just need a good cry. 

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?  

Two muffins in an oven, one turns to the other and says "urgh it’s hot in here", the other ones says "AHHH! It’s a talking muffin!" ... a terrible joke.  

Who would be your dream dinner guests?  

 P!nk, Graham Norton, Ian Mckellan and William and Jordan from the Help I S*xted my Boss podcast. Oh, and I suppose my husband*. I just think it would be a fun night. 

What advice would you give your younger self?  

It’s ok to ask for help. Also, that streak of blue in your hair is not as cool as you think it is.  

What would it surprise people to know about you?  

I was stuck on this so asked my husband. His response was "that despite the grey hair, you’re not in your 40s?"  a friend then chipped in with "but then people will just think you look good for 50" ... so you might be surprised to know I’m a terrible judge of people.  

(*now you know why he’s only begrudgingly invited to dinner) 

What is your favourite place?  

A nice country pub after a long walk with my dog Badger, husband and friends. 
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