Q&A with Dr Claire Maxwell
1 What is your role and what does it involve?
Like most other academics I teach, support the development of teaching and learning, supervise postgraduate research students, and engage in my own research and writing. Currently I teach on the largest Institute of Education (IOE) undergraduate programme, BA Education Studies, and run a module around my area of expertise: Elites, Education & Inequalities.
As Director for Undergraduate Provision I am fortunate to work closely with colleagues across the faculty who are developing innovative degree programmes and finding exciting ways to engage students through UCL’s Connected Curriculum – an approach to research-based education.
Within the wider Academy I am Deputy Chair of the Sociology editorial board – a journal which actively involves its editorial board members in its promotion and development, something I appreciate and enjoy very much, and facilitates networking with colleagues working across the discipline of sociology. I am also Co-Chair of the international Gender and Education Association, which promotes and supports research and activism on issues around gender and education.
2 How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I have been at the IOE since 2005, and have been part of two different departments, as well as having held a range of roles. Developments within the faculty and broader university mean it continues to be an exciting space to work in, despite the challenges being experienced by the higher education sector. My experience of the IOE is that it operates a fairly ‘flat structure’ and encourages colleagues with ideas and enthusiasm to contribute in a range of ways – quite different to some of my previous experiences working in local government.
3 What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your students about the subject you teach?
The openness with which most students approach studying (new) topics means you have the privilege of introducing them to the way you have come to understand the world and particular practices, and get to be challenged about these through constructive dialogue. The buzz you get from facilitating learning is second to none, and reminds me why I am extremely privileged to do what I do.
4 What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
I have been part of a group of colleagues working internationally who have promoted the re-emergence of the field of elite education, and have had the opportunity to contribute to and lead a range of new publications on this topic that have emerged over the last 2-3 years. Linking with colleagues in North America, Australia, Singapore, France, Germany, Argentina and Brazil has offered me the opportunity to learn so much more about education systems and structures of inequality around the world, as well as some great travelling possibilities!
5 Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list.
I am just finishing off a book on how processes of internationalisation within education are re-shaping articulations of elite education around the world. After that – I get to ‘clear the decks’ literally and metaphorically – to put together my next research proposal – which will have something to do with elites!
6 What would it surprise people to know about you?
I compete in Crossfit – which means I train a lot but love having something that is so physical to off-set the more cerebral activity (and stress!) involved in being an academic.
7 What other piece of research outside of your own subject area interests you?
While my most recent work has mainly focused on private and elite education, much of my work has been on young women and agency. Being a committed feminist, with a young(ish) daughter and son – thinking about how parental practices and priorities, family dynamics and the division of labour within these, but also the communities we live in and the broader societal influences shape children and young people’s experiences of growing up – both opening up and closing down possibilities for them.