Chair on Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Engineering

University College London – Professor Dina D’Ayala

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Education is a fundamental right, yet school buildings in areas affected by natural hazards pose a threat to the life of school pupils worldwide.

To make existing school buildings resilient to earthquakes, floods and hurricanes, is possible, but needs political will, financial resources and knowledge transfer. The work of the Chair is to co-create a common culture of resilience and sustainability, based on engineering principles, to deliver safer schools and critical infrastructure in vulnerable communities.

Chair Themes

Sustainable Development

Related Chair

UNESCO Chair for Gender and Vulnerability in Disaster Risk Reduction

Kobe University (Japan)


“I have been working on ways to improve the safety and resilience of schools for a few years now, so that children worldwide can make the most of their education. The award of the Chair gives myself and the team an opportunity to really scale up our impact, by sharing our knowledge with engineers and educators worldwide and find together sustainable solutions.”

Professor Dina D’Ayala

UNESCO Chairs are based within Institutes for Higher Education and specialise in specific research fields. They provide policy advice to the UK National Commission for UNESCO and HM government, as well as reviewing UNESCO applications.


When an earthquake strike might last no more than a minute, an hurricane will last maybe a day, a flood maybe a week. But the damage to vulnerable schools and the disruption to children’s education, can last months and even years, with repercussion on their life.

The UNESCO Chair at University College London on Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Engineering, led by Prof Dina D’Ayala, develops effective methods to assess and mitigate the risk of damage by natural hazards to existing and new school buildings. In this way the Chair contributes to improve the equity of access to safe learning environment for children in vulnerable communities, by ensuring continuity of the education services to reduce lost school days and lost lives at school.

Disaster risk reduction is a prerequisite for sustainable development. Creating in-country expertise to deliver resilient schools and infrastructure systems is therefore key to the delivery of community sustainability in the medium term.


The Chair collaborates with colleagues in many countries worldwide, including the Philippines, Nepal, Colombia and Indonesia, to create a research network and a shared knowledge, which promotes a shift in approach to school safety from individual building to local and regional school infrastructure, including the critical lifelines that make schools functional. The objective is to consider the whole process of resilience from assessment and upgrading, before damaging natural events, to rapid response and recovery following their occurrence. The fundamental values of education for all, gender balance and safe and resilient communities underlay our activities.

Professor Dina D’Ayala

Dina D’Ayala is the Professor of Structural Engineering at University College London, within the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering. She is head of Civil Engineering and Co-Director of the Earthquake and People Interaction Centre, EPICentre. She is a director of the International Association of Earthquake Engineers and Fellow of the ICE. Her specialism is Structural Resilience Engineering with particular emphasis on the assessment, strengthening, preservation and resilience of existing buildings, structures, transport infrastructure and cultural heritage.

Research milestones include the development of a numerical procedure to determine the seismic vulnerability of masonry dwelling (FaMIVE) with application from Turkey to Nepal, to Iran and Italy, the design and development of two patented strengthening dissipative devices, to retrofit architectural heritage and limit damage from seismic shocks. She is the chief scientist for the World Bank on the Global Programme for Safe Schools (GPSS) and leads the development of the World Bank GLoSI project.


University College London
Professor of Structural Engineering


Universita degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza

Role at UNESCO

Chair in Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Engineering

Since 2021



Read about the work of Dina and her team, within the disaster risk reduction and education sectors, below.