Thomas Coram Research Unit
Specialists in researching children, young people and families, particularly those in adversity
Unit Director: Professor Margaret O'Brien
Co-director: Professor Claire Cameron
The Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU) is a multi-disciplinary research and teaching unit located in the Department of Social Science, UCL Institute of Education, in the heart of Bloomsbury.
We undertake high quality policy-relevant research about children, young people and family life. Our members are leading psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists and social policy researchers with expertise in a wide range of child and family areas and innovative social research methods.
Our unit is at the forefront of policy and service development for children and families. Our research impact was recognised in the most recent national Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, and in the IOE Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2015.
TCRU was established in 1973 by the psychologist Professor Jack Tizard and grew out of a critique of the institutionalization of the care of young children in health and education settings.
We have a long history and expertise in researching those children and families that are most vulnerable to economic and social adversity. Today we have expertise in a wide range of research methods and a particular tradition in cross-national and multi-method research designs.
- Our staff
Margaret O'Brien, Professor of Child and Family Policy
Mette Louise Berg, Senior Lecturer
Julia Brannen, Professor in the Sociology of the Family
Claire Cameron, Professor of Social Pedagogy and Deputy Director
Emily Emmott, Research Officer
Charlotte Faircloth, Lecturer in Sociology of Gender
Michela Franceschelli, Lecturer in Sociology
David Frost, Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology
Hanan Hauari, Research Officer
Katie Hollingworth, Research Officer
Humera Iqbal, Lecturer in Psychology
Abigail Knight, Lecturer in Sociology
Agnieszka Kubal, Lecturer in Sociology
Veena Meetoo, Research Officer
Katherine Twamley, Senior Lecturer in Sociology
Margaret O’Brien, Professor and Director of TCRU
Rebecca O'Connell, Reader in the Anthropology and Sociology of the Family
Christine Oliver, Research Officer
Charlie Owen, Senior Research Officer
Ann Phoenix, Professor in Psychosocial Studies
Katie Quy, Lecturer in Psychology
Jenny Woodman, Lecturer in Child and Family Policy
Sonia Jackson, Professor of Social Studies and Education
Peter Moss, Professor in Early Childhood Provision
Pat Petrie, Professor in Education
Marjorie Smith, Professor of the Psychology of the Family
June Statham, Professor of Education and Family Support
Ian St James Roberts, Professor in Development Psychology
Professional Support Staff
Cécile Brémont, Research Project Administrator, FFHT project
Rosi Hirst, Academic Administrator and PA to Professor David Voas
Lewis Smith, Project Manager, Social Pedagogy Professional Association (SPPA)
Affiliate Academics accepted by TCRU are persons normally holding established academic posts overseas in institutions of higher education. Their admission to UCL is based upon an application to pursue their work in a particular field of research in one of UCL's Departments, with collaboration and consultation with members of TCRU and the department as appropriate.
In the first instance applicants should contact the person in TCRU they wish to collaborate with. Note that UCL operates a “bench fee” financial arrangement for visitors.
For other general enquiries email: email@example.com
Visiting Professors and Researchers
Alison Clark, Professor in Early Childhood
Heather Elliot, Research Officer
Petteri Eerola, Senior Researcher
Ann Nilsen, Professor in Sociology of the Family
Helen Penn, Professor of Early Childhood
Jane Ribbens, Professor in Sociology of the Family
Find more about our researchers, publications, activities, groups and themes: UCL Research Portal, IRIS
- Study with us
We teach and supervise undergraduate, masters, PhD and post-doctoral students across the social sciences.
Students on this course learn to understand and analyse complex global and social issues, gain multi-disciplinary training in research skills, and learn how different research methods contribute to understanding real world phenomena. Students conduct an independent research project for their dissertation in the third year.
TCRU offers and rich and supportive research culture for doctoral students.
Applications to undertake PhD training and research in any of our areas of interest are welcome. Our work falls under six broad thematic areas and supervisors welcome enquiries that fall within these theoretical and methodological areas.
Students also benefit from the range of training in established and innovative methods that is built upon our ESRC funded NOVELLA programme. This includes new methods of re-analysis of qualitative data including narrative, oral history, paradata and archival data. As well as secondary analysis of large scale data sets, biographical-narrative methods, ethnography, policy analysis techniques.
Our research unit attracts students from all over the world and from diverse backgrounds. They study either part-time or full-time. Students may take a number of different doctoral pathways, for example, choosing either the face-to-face MPhil/PhD in Social Science or the online Education MPhil/PhD.
Our students are strongly encouraged to embed themselves into the department research culture by attending our regular seminars where they can find out more about the work of world renowned experts in the fields. They can also join the department reading group and students are encouraged to created their own study groups.
- Contact the Departmental Graduate Tutor if you have any further questions
- See a list of our supervisors with their broad supervision interests: Doctoral Supervisors
- Find out about all our current postgraduate research projects: TCRU Annual Review 2015 -16 (PDF, 16.9MB)
- Read more about doctoral studies, policies and procedures: UCL Doctoral School
Highly innovative and known for highly regarded policy impact, our projects are multi-level from ethnographic studies of children's everyday lives to international comparisons of parental leave policies and impact studies of services for children and families. We are strongly international in our collaborations and networks.
Areas of Expertise
- Early childhood education and care
- Family Life: food, parenting and poverty
- Migration and Diversity: Families, communities, and services
- Gender, Families and Work
- Child and Youth Care
- Social Pedagogy
Impact case studies
Our research has high impact and international reach through policy and practice advice and influence. We had two outstanding impact case studies in the most recent REF:
- Infant crying and sleep research: soothing babies and helping parents
- Rapid response reports: a quick but rigorous service for policy-makers
Consultancy activities conducted over the past year are varied and range from the provision of advice and expertise to evaluations or complete mini-research projects, usually conducted over a relatively short time scale. It also includes knowledge transfer activities such as external teaching and training on social pedagogy.
- Care leavers and employment in six countries
- Prevention and Early Intervention programme in Ireland
- Design of a process evaluation for West London Zone
- Linked evaluations of Home-Start UK: Programmes 1 and 5 of work supporting families
- The contribution of experts in care proceedings: an evaluation of the work of independent social work assessments.
See more consultancy case studies.
TCRU Annual Review 2015-16
Find out about all our latest research, consultancy, public engagement and teaching in our annual review.
Published: Nov 20, 2017 11:45:19 AM
Published: May 23, 2017 11:06:45 AM
Starts: Feb 20, 2018 5:45:00 PM