IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Thomas Coram Research Unit

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

Montage of 4 images of a garden party celebrating TCRU's 50th anniversary. Credit: Mary Hinkley/UCL.

Unit Co-Directors: Professor Mette Louise Berg and Professor Alison Koslowski

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. 2023 marks the 50th anniversary year for TCRU.

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. Today. TCRU’s research areas also include migration, gender, work and diverse families. 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.


We are a thriving community of over 40 staff and 54 PhD students as well as our honorary fellows and professors, research visitors and our advisory group. 
The unit co-directors are Professor Mette Louise Berg and Professor Alison Koslowski and they are supported by the other unit leadership team members Professor Katherine Twamley and Dr Jenny Woodman.
We work with a wide range of community partners at local, national and international levels and are supported in this by our Advisory Group, chaired by Mavis McLean, CBE. 


Academic staff

Emeriti, Honorary Researchers and Professors

Professional Support Staff

  • Anjum Chowdhury, Academic Administrator
  • Joanne English, Departmental Administrator and PA to Professor Toby Seddon

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.  

The BSc Sociology blends local and global sociological perspectives to examine contemporary social issues and transformations, ranging from environmental risks and climate change, to the intensification of inequalities, and imaginings of the future. Students will graduate with the skills and mindset appropriate to tackling the challenges of 21st century society. You will also have the opportunity to study abroad for one academic 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. 

Further information

Our activities


    Our work influences theoretical debates and public policies on: 

    • early childhood
    • children’s health
    • care and education services
    • children’s agency
    • young people’s identities
    • intersectionality, reproduction
    • motherhood and fatherhood
    • gender equality and fluidity
    • family diversity
    • poverty including food poverty
    • parental leave
    • place-based inequalities
    • children’s language brokering
    • transnational families and practices
    • social pedagogy
    • work-family reconciliation
    • migration experiences.

    Research methods

    Our research adopts quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods designs including, secondary analysis of large-scale data sets and comparative cross-country policy analysis. 

    Particular methods cover: 

    • child and youth centered interviewing
    • citizen science
    • narrative approaches
    • arts-based social research
    • visual methods
    • ethnography
    • co-construction of research with marginalised communities. 

    Research themes

    Our research spans three fields:

    Children’s wellbeing: services and practices

    Gender, families and work

    Migration, mobility and diversity.

    View all themes

    COVID-19 research

    TCRU staff are providing an evidence base on COVID experience, impact and recovery for families and the services that support them particularly in disadvantaged communities.

    Families in Tower Hamlets: impacts of COVID-19

    This research aims to explore the impacts of COVID-19 on families in Tower Hamlets. It will explore the social, economic and health impacts on family life with young children. For more information: Families in Tower Hamlets

    Families and Community Transitions under Covid

    Funded by the British Academy, this research project aims to gain a better understanding of the complexity of daily life for families with children during the COVID-19 pandemic. More information: FACT Covid

    COVID-19 impact on children's well-being

    This research uses a community sample of children aged 7-11 years, and their families, to explore children’s wellbeing during the COVID-19 crisis. For more information: Coping and wellbeing in families during the COVID-19 crisis.

    The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on services from pregnancy through age five years for families who are high risk or have complex social needs 

    Funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Policy Research Programme, this project explores the COVID-19 impact on services from pregnancy through age five years for families who are high risk or have complex social needs.

    Dr Jenny Woodman from TCRU is a Co-Investigator at the NIHR Children and Families Policy Research Unit and Co-Investigator on this project. 

    Research features

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    Our staff have partnerships, knowledge exchange networks and close working relationship with a range of local, national and international partners including: 

    • Foundling Museum
    • Child Poverty Action Group
    • Donor Conception Network
    • London Migration Research Group
    • Fostering Network
    • International Labour Organization (ILO)
    • Equality and Human Rights Commission
    • Gender Equalities Office
    • Stonewall
    • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
    • UNICEF.
    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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