UCL apologises and takes action following investigation into the Bartlett School of Architecture

Independent investigation carried out by Howlett Brown

Independent investigation carried out by Howlett Brown

UCL has today apologised to both current and former students and staff who have been subjected to a culture of unacceptable behaviour at the Bartlett School of Architecture and is taking immediate action following the outcome of an independent investigation.

In October 2021, UCL commissioned Howlett Brown to carry out an independent investigation following reports and concerns raised by current and former students and staff relating to the culture, educational practices and environment at the Bartlett School of Architecture (the BSA) over decades. 

Many former and current students and staff anonymously shared their experiences of studying and working at the BSA with Howlett Brown, a people intelligence company which specialises in independent investigations that concern workplace culture, diversity, and inclusion. During the investigation, Howlett Brown conducted interviews, focus group discussions and surveyed more than 300 respondents on their experiences. 

The final report, published in full today , cites numerous reports of unacceptable behaviour at the BSA - including allegations of bullying, harassment, racism and sexual misconduct - and highlights a ’toxic’ culture spanning decades. 

It details a number of recommendations to create a safer, supportive and more positive culture for students and staff, including further investigations into certain serious allegations made by some participants, and reviewing and formalising the unit selection and crit process.  

The report highlights the importance of reviewing the tutor hiring structure to mitigate bias and promote greater equality and diversity, and recommends designing a new EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) strategy with a full understanding of where the BSA is now and where it wants to be in the future.  

In response to the report, UCL has today announced that it has removed a number of staff of the BSA from student-facing and administrative duties with immediate effect, while it carries out further investigations. It will be setting up a working group to take forward all recommendations in the report. 

Dr Michael Spence, President & Provost of UCL, said: "I am deeply shocked by the experiences of some of our students and staff during their time at the Bartlett School of Architecture. Coming forward to disclose what they have been through has taken enormous courage, and I really admire and thank them for doing so. 

"Their testimonies expose an inexcusable and pernicious underbelly of bullying and other unacceptable behaviour that is completely at odds with the values on which UCL was founded. While the report acknowledges that not everyone at the BSA has been a part of this culture, that these behaviours have been able to persist over a timespan of years means that something has gone terribly wrong. We must and absolutely will address that swiftly and robustly. 

"Most importantly, I want to apologise to everyone who has suffered because of the culture of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct within the BSA. What you have been through is wrong and should not have been allowed to happen. I recognise your pain and distress and the myriad long-term consequences of what you have experienced. 

"We know we have a long way to go to rebuild trust, but we are committed to taking action." 

Professor Anthony Smith, UCL Vice-Provost (Faculties), who will be overseeing UCL’s action plan and response to the report, said: "We are grateful to Howlett Brown for the diligence and sensitivity with which they have conducted this complex investigation, and for their recommendations which we accept in full and will start implementing immediately. 

"Following receipt of the report, we have removed a number of staff of the Bartlett School of Architecture from student-facing and administrative duties with immediate effect, while we carry out further investigations. We are unable to share the names of these individuals as this could prejudice these investigations.  

"We have launched an immediate review of the unit selection procedure and crit process, ahead of the next academic year. These have been identified as significant sources of upset and fear for students and we want to ensure that they are made fully equitable and inclusive.  

"We are establishing a working group with staff and student representation to take forward all of the report’s recommendations, which will report back at regular intervals to UCL’s senior management on progress in making these changes." 

Donna Dalrymple, UCL’s Chief People Officer, said: "We encourage others to come forward to share their experiences, and you can do this by using our Report + Support online tool , which is open to students, staff and alumni who wish to raise concerns, or through our helplines. While the testimonies in the report are extremely valuable, they are anonymous, and it would be incredibly helpful for staff and students to go on the record to assist us taking appropriate action, with the aim of making the BSA a safer and more inclusive place to work and study."  

Current and former Bartlett School of Architecture students and staff who have been impacted by the findings of the report can access confidential, emotional support, free counselling, advice, and information through a dedicated BSA Care First helpline on +44 (0) 333 212 3183.  

The report highlights that the culture of bad behaviour at the BSA comes against the context of longstanding problems with the culture of the architecture sector more widely. To that end, UCL is also today announcing that invitations have been issued to others, from practising architects to other educational institutions, to tackle the issues highlighted in the report head-on. UCL is fiercely committed to lasting, root-and-branch change, and will work with stakeholders across the sector to ensure that is the case.   

Professor Christoph Lindner, Dean of the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, which is home to the Bartlett School of Architecture, said: "This report contains shocking testimonies and highlights a number of unforgivable incidents. I am truly sorry that some of our students and staff have been subjected to such behaviour during their time at the Bartlett School of Architecture. 

"We know this is a moment of change for the BSA, as well as for the architecture sector as a whole, which has also been struggling to address workplace cultures and behaviour. It’s time for us to have some difficult conversations about how we disrupt existing structures of privilege and power, making space and opportunities for those who have previously been marginalised. This is why we are inviting practising architects, sector bodies, other education institutions and advocacy groups to join us at a series of roundtable events where we will lay out the issues and tackle them collectively. We will be transparent about this process and will share our progress.  

"While the report and recommendations largely focus on abuses that have occurred within the BSA, the wider investigation also highlighted that the vast majority of staff at the BSA are well-liked, respected and valued by their students and their peers. My thoughts are also with these colleagues as they digest the report. I know they will be passionate in supporting our students through this and will be crucial in driving forward positive cultural change at the BSA." 

To speak with a counsellor immediately please call the dedicated BSA Care First  helpline on +44 (0) 333 212 3183.  

Current students can also make a same day appointment to speak to UCL’s  Support and Wellbeing Team. If you are no longer a current student and have been affected by this report and would like support, please contact Student Support and Wellbeing by email to  student.wellbeing@ucl.ac.uk  

To make a report about your experience at the BSA or elsewhere at UCL please go to: 

Report + Support  is UCL’s online tool for current and former students and staff to report bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct, and it includes the option to report anonymously or on the record.  

If you are a parent or are concerned about a student, please contact Student Support and Wellbeing via the  Student of Concern form. 

 

 

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