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.


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.

Who we are

Unit Director

Margaret O'Brien, Professor of Child and Family Policy

Academic staff

Mette Louise Berg, Senior Lecturer
Julia Brannen, Professor in the Sociology of the Family
Ana Bravo -  Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow 
Claire Cameron, Professor of Social Pedagogy and Deputy Director
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
Margaret O'Brien, Professor and Director of TCRU
Rebecca O'Connell, Reader in the Sociology of Food and Families
Charlie Owen, Honorary Senior Research Fellow
Ann Phoenix, Professor in Psychosocial Studies
Katie Quy, Lecturer in Psychology
Victoria Redclift, Lecturer 
Katherine Twamley, Senior Lecturer in Sociology
Jenny Woodman, Lecturer in Child and Family Policy

Teaching Fellows

Lisa Fridkin, Teaching Fellow
Natasha Marhia, Teaching Fellow
Sophie Zadeh, Senior Teaching Fellow

Emeritus Professors

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
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

Find more about our researchers, publications, activities, groups and themes: UCL Research Portal, IRIS

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

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.

See all TCRU events

About our research

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

Research features

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See also:

Latest news

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Forthcoming events

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