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Dr Caroline Oliver
  • Associate Professor of Sociology
  • IOE - Education, Practice & Society
  • UCL Institute of Education
UCL Subsidiary Supervisor

I am an Associate Professor in Sociology and the Deputy Programme Director for UCL's new BSc in Sociology. I gained a First Class BA(hons) degree in Sociology & Social Anthropology with Development Studies and a PhD at the University of Hull. I worked there as a TA and then Lecturer in Social Anthropology, while I explored the (at the time little-researched) theme of International Retirement Migration, setting off my passion for understanding migrant and life course identities. After completing my doctorate in 2003, I worked at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the Sociology division of the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology. 

From 2006, I worked as a researcher at the University of Cambridge's Faculty of Education and then as Senior Researcher at the Centre on Migration, Policy & Society at the University of Oxford from 2012-2016. In 2016, I returned to undergraduate teaching at Roehampton University Department of Sociology. Working first as Senior Lecturer, then Reader in Sociology, I also helped establish a Foundation Year in Sociology for non-traditional students to access higher education. In 2019, I moved to the IoE.

Research Groups
Research Summary

I am a Sociologist with expertise in two related themes: migration and identities across the life course. My research explores migrants' identities, especially through documenting how they interact with state policies and institutions, and the consequences for social justice. I have conducted a range of funded research projects on these themes in a range of urban settings, including on rights and entitlements of Family Migrants across Europe, migrant parents' engagement with their children's schools and migrant families of children with disabilities. Most recently I conducted in-depth research over 3 years into city-led innovation in asylum seeker reception, evaluating the Utrecht Refugee Launchpad in the Netherlands, a project that used principles of co-learning and co-housing to bring asylum seekers together with residents living in the vicinity of the centre where they lived. Some aspects of this are published in a Special Issue of the journal Comparative Migration Studies that I have co-edited recently, which explores innovative strategies for the reception of asylum seekers and refugees in European cities. A recent article published in the British Journal of Sociology also draws on research in the UK to show how immigration bureaucracy creates 'irrational rationalities' that impede the possibilities and life chances of legal migrants. 

This leads to the second theme of my research: understanding the development of social identities over the life course, in intersection with other vectors of difference, including immigration status, race and ethnicity, gender and disability. I have worked on a range of projects, including on international retirement migration, bullying of children with SEN/D, older people's experiences of diversity in urban environments, and youth identities. I am currently beginning a new research project which explores the experiences of autistic children and young people and their families of the COVID-19 lockdown. Funded by the British Educational Research Association, the project will use participatory qualitative work with families to understand how they have experienced lockdown, home-schooling, virtual education, and are experiencing transitions back to school. 

I am a passionate sociologist who believes in using research to inform change. I have extensive experience of working with urban local governments across Europe, NGOs, and social enterprises to inform practice. In 2016, I was part of a team at the University of Oxford which developed a prize-winning online tool that helped simplify the assessment of migrant families’ eligibility for welfare and housing support, that is still used extensively by local authorities and NGOs. 

Teaching Summary

I am an enthusiastic teacher and communicator, who enjoys sharing my knowledge and experience with students across undergraduate and postgraduate levels. I invest in continually improving my practice and am committed to collaborative teaching and learning. In 2005, I achieved a postgraduate certificate in academic practice (PGCertAP) with distinction at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. In 2018, I also achieved the status of Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. My current challenge is embracing the new pedagogical opportunities for online teaching and learning in the contexts of COVID-19. 

I joined the IoE in 2019 to establish the new undergraduate BSc degree in Sociology, working with colleagues across different departments in the IoE. I work as Deputy Programme Director and convene two second year modules on 'Identities' and 'Urban Sociology in a Global World', enabling me to draw strongly on real world research experiences. I also contribute to the Masters Sociology of Education degree, teaching classes and supervising MA students, and supervise three PhD students and an EdD student.  

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