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

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. 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 (COMPAS) 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 Institute of Education, to help launch a new Sociology undergraduate programme at UCL.

Research Groups
Research Summary

I am a Sociologist with expertise in two related themes: migration and identities across the life course, both important themes for understanding how inequalities are generated. My research explores how migrants' identities and experiences interact with state policies and institutions, and the consequences for social justice. 

I have conducted a range of funded research projects in a range of urban settings. These include in-depth research over 3 years into city-led innovation in asylum seeker reception, where I led a team evaluating the Utrecht Refugee Launchpad in the Netherlands. This innovative project 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. It aimed to engage with local hostility and improve newcomers' wellbeing and labour market prospects. This complex evaluation was featured as a good practice by the European Commission's Urban Innovative Actions programme (see https://www.uia-initiative.eu/en/operational-challenges/monitoring-and-evaluation-practices-uia-lessons-learnt). Publications from the project include an article 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. Others include a chapter in a book on geographies of asylum in European localities, an article in the journal Evaluation and a chapter on co-creation in innovative initiatives with refugees. 

From 2012-2014 I led a four-country international study on rights and entitlements of Family Migrants across Europe. I published an article in the British Journal of Sociology which draws on the UK research to demonstrate how immigration bureaucracy creates 'irrational rationalities' that impede the possibilities and life chances of legal migrants. Other work (2015-2016) considers migrant parents' engagement with their children's schools and experiences of migrant families with disabled children (2012). 

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 am known internationally for my leading work on international retirement migration, including a full length monograph (2008, published by Routledge). I have also researched and published on the bullying of children with SEN/D, older people's experiences of diversity in urban environments, and global youth identities. I am currently working on a 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 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 joined the IoE in 2019 to establish the new undergraduate BSc degree in Sociology, working with colleagues across different departments in the Institute of Education. I work as Deputy Programme Director and convene two second year undergraduate modules on 'Identities: Sociological Perspectives' and 'Urban Sociology in a Global World', enabling me to draw strongly on real world research experiences. I also teach on the Masters Sociology of Education degree and supervise MA students, four PhD students and an EdD student.
I am an enthusiastic teacher and communicator; I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. 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 new pedagogical opportunities for online teaching and learning in the contexts of COVID-19. 

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