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University College London

Case Study
Council Effectiveness Review

UCL is one of the UK’s truly global institutions in research, education and enterprise. It has demonstrated in the last 10 years resilience and agility in a fluid and uncertain environment, and it is currently demonstrating that leadership in its research-led contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Halpin was commissioned to undertake an independent review of UCL’s Council Effectiveness. We were encouraged to adopt an open and inclusive approach. Due to a combination of circumstances – the challenge of emerging from the Covid-19 crisis, the likely consequential strategic reassessment, and a change of UCL leadership – this was a critical moment of transition in which to unleash the energy for change.

It is also important to note that the Academic Board had recently established a Commission of Inquiry to review problems reported in UCL’s governance, strategic direction and decision-making. This body had published a Final Report and Draft Recommendations shortly before we were appointed.

Our Review team heard the views of over 60 stakeholders, through one-to-one discussions and focus groups as well as undertaking various meeting observations and an in-depth desk review. We also undertook benchmarking research to compare UCL’s governance structure against global comparators.


  • A series of 19 recommendations and 10 further suggestions were presented in our final report. The report was then published and can be read in full here.
  • We concluded that addressing the culture in key areas and relationships is the absolute priority to create the best chance of implementing the reform.
  • UCL is in the process of establishing a governance working group to oversee the process of implementing recommendations.