Department of Political Science


Professor Adam Swift

Adam Swift
Professor of Political Theory/Political Philosophy
Room: 4.01, 29/30 Tavistock Square
Tel: 020 7679 4945 (ext. 24945)
Email: adam.swift@ucl.ac.uk


I grew up in North London (Highbury, then Hampstead) and went to William Ellis School, which was a grammar school when I joined and became a comprehensive while I was there. In 1980, I went to Balliol College, University of Oxford, to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics. I spent 1983-84 at Harvard as a Kennedy Scholar, and then came back to Oxford, this time Nuffield College, for my MPhil in Sociology and my DPhil: For a Sociologically Informed Political Theory.

In 1988, I returned to Balliol as Tutorial Fellow in Politics and Sociology and stayed there for 25 years, during which I founded and directed the Centre for the Study of Social Justice in Oxford’s Department of Politics and International Relations.

In 2013, I moved to the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick as Professor of Political Theory, and in 2018 I moved to the same role at UCL.

I am an Associate Editor of Philosophy and Public Affairs and on the Editorial Boards of Theory and Research in Education, Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy and Moral Philosophy and Politics.


After early work on the communitarian critique of liberalism, my interest in combining political theory with empirical social science led to a project interrogating social mobility data, and people’s beliefs about social justice, from a normative perspective. This got me thinking about the mechanisms that generate the intergenerational transmission of advantage (and disadvantage) within families and to their children, ranging from sending them to elite private schools to reading them bedtime stories.

My wider interest in educational justice has developed in various directions. I was part of an interdisciplinary team that aimed to help educational policymakers make better decisions, while another collaborative project has combined philosophical and empirical considerations in proposing a framework for the regulation of religious schools in England.

Alongside these substantive topics, I have worked on methodological issues in political theory, including debates around ideal and non-ideal theory and the relation between philosophy, politics and empirical social science.

Uncovering Politics logo showing people with raised banners and hands in silhouette
Podcast: UCL Uncovering Politics

Hear Professor Swift speak about his research on the following podcast episode:
S3 Ep6 | The Principles of Education Policy

Selected publications

Journal articles
Book chapters

View a full list of publications on Google Scholar


I am Director of UCL’s MA in Legal and Political Theory, for which I teach both the core module ‘Peer Assisted Learning’ and the optional ‘Social Justice, Social Mobility, Education and the Family’.

I supervise PhD students across a wide range of topics in political theory, with a preference for those that come closest to my own research interests. I also contribute some lectures to our Introduction to Politics for PPE students.