Atif Ansar

Atif Ansar

Programme Director


Saïd Business School
University of Oxford
Park End Street


A Fellow of Keble College, Atif is Programme Director of the MSc in Major Programme Management (MMPM).

The MMPM is a two-year, part-time programme that attracts senior executives, from around the world, who lead major programmes across various arenas. These include large-scale infrastructure, major ICT, business change, urban development, defence equipment, big science and major events.

Atif has been a fixture at the University of Oxford since 2006. From 2006 to 2010, he undertook his DPhil (PhD), at Brasenose College, with the prestigious Clarendon Scholarship from Oxford University Press. Atif was a post-doctoral Research Fellow at the BT Centre for Major Programme Management at Saïd Business School from 2010-2013, then from 2013-2015 he served as a Lecturer at the Blavatnik School of Government and Cohort Manager of the Major Projects Leadership Academy. In 2018, Atif began an appointment as a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University’s Global Projects Center.

Atif previously undertook his Bachelor’s degree at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where he majored in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.


Atif’s research focuses on delivering major infrastructure and integrated real estate programmes cheaper, faster, and with greater sensitivity to end users.

His recent research with colleagues, which has looked particularly at megaprojects in China and large dams and their outcomes (financial, environmental, and social), has been widely profiled in the media.

Atif's scholarly contributions are in the areas of:

  • Decision-making under uncertainty in strategic initiatives  
  • Reference class forecasting
  • Modular design of infrastructure systems
  • Real options, temporal uncertainty, and major programmes
  • Correcting optimism bias, misaligned incentives and poor governance
  • End-user led co-development of infrastructure and public services
  • Major programme-led global strategy 
  • Macroeconomic impacts of major programmes

Atif’s work demonstrates the large-scale impacts of major programmes across the world and the change in focus that is needed: strategic developments that take into account not only financial implications of major programmes, but also acknowledge that project organisations are potent devices to give life to meaningful social ideals.

View Atif's research.


In terms of wider research and impact, Atif engages widely with public and private sector stakeholders and the media.

He has consulted for the World Bank, UK Government, governments in Asia and Africa, and private sector clients. Atif’s public sector work has focused on infrastructure, public investment management, and public sector transformation programmes. His work for the private sector has been in the areas of project finance and on improving decision practice and outcomes of capital investment projects.

Media coverage:

The Trouble with Megaprojects
Research shows that big isn't necessarily best (Atif Ansar is quoted)
The New Yorker – Saturday, 11 April, 2015

Large dams just aren’t worth the cost
Expert speaks up following a study by BSG's Atif Ansar.
New York Times – Friday, 22 August, 2014

Ending the flood of megadams
Atif Ansar argues for agile alternatives to costly megadam projects
Wall Street Journal – Wednesday, 19 March, 2014

Large Dams Cost Double Original Budget, Oxford Researchers Say
A study by Atif Ansar brings warnings over costs and viability of mega-dam projects
Bloomberg Businessweek – Monday, 10 March, 2014

Beware large dams and their handlers - study
Atif Ansar talks about the findings from his research into mega-dam projects
Business Day (South Africa) – Tuesday, 25 February, 2014

World Business Report on public policy procurement
Atif Ansar discusses government decision-making for infrastructure projects
BBC World Service – Thursday, 6 February, 2014

Press article: Campaign against fossil fuel growing, says study
Guardian piece on the report co-authored by Atif Ansar
The Guardian –Tuesday, 8 October, 2013



Atif teaches on the MSc in Major Programme Management (MMPM), the Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and the Master in Public Policy (MPP).

He helps deliver executive education programmes, including the UK Government’s Major Projects Leadership Academy (MPLA) for top UK civil servants. Atif is also a visiting scholar at the Global Projects Centre (GPC) of Stanford University. 

Social media

Find out more about Atif's career and professional expertise.