Institute of Education


Thomas Coram Research Unit

Leaders of research into children, parenting and families since 1973.

Unit Director: Professor Margaret O'Brien
Co-director: Professor Claire Cameron

The Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU) is highly regarded for its policy impact. Our research projects utilise a variety of innovative social research methods, ranging 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.

About us


TCRU was established in 1973 by the psychologist Professor Jack Tizard and grew out of a critique of the institutionalisation of the care of young children in health and education settings.

We have a long history of researching those children and families that are most vulnerable to economic and social adversity. Our centre has a wealth of expertise in a wide range of research methods and a particular tradition in cross-national and multi-method research designs.

Our team


Academic staff

Teaching Fellows

Emeritus Professors

Professional Support Staff

  • Cécile Brémont, Research Project Administrator, FFHT project
  • Rosi Hirst, Academic Administrator and PA to Professor David Voas
  • Mohan Muthoo, Academic Administrator

Academic visitors

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: tcru@ucl.ac.uk

Visiting Professors and Researchers

  • Alison Clark, Professor in Early Childhood
  • Helen Penn, Professor of Early Childhood
  • Jane Ribbens, Professor in Sociology of the Family

Study with us


We teach and supervise undergraduate, Master's, PhD and post-doctoral students across the social sciences.

Undergraduate study

Students on this course learn to understand and analyse complex global and social issues, gain multidisciplinary 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.  

Doctoral study

TCRU offers a 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 eight 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 Social Science MPhil/PhD 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. 

Further information

Our activities


    We are experts in cross-national research and we have a strong policy influence not only within the UK but also across nations.

    We use a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods to ensure that our research is rigorous and impactful. Our methodological expertise include narrative analysis, ethnographies, visual and participatory methods, historical and archival analysis, systematic reviews, secondary analysis of complex datasets, survey design and analysis.

    Research themes

    View all themes

    See also: 

    Research features

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    Seminar series

    TCRU hosts a weekly seminar series, where invited speakers present work of relevance to the research interests of the unit. Seminars take place in the TCRU library on Tuesdays during term-time, 1 - 2pm. Anyone is welcome to attend.

    Latest news

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    Forthcoming events

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