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Prof Stuart Foster
UCL Institute of Education, University College London
20 Bedford Way
Prof Stuart Foster profile picture
  • Professor of History in Education
  • IOE - Curriculum, Pedagogy & Assessment
  • UCL Institute of Education
I currently serve as Executive Director of the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education. I have led the strategic development of our award-winning Centre since its inception in 2008. I am also a senior member of the programme team currently embarking on a major 3-year study: ‘A portrait of the teaching of Empire, Migration and Belonging in English secondary schools’. I have had extensive experience of leading other complex and large-scale educational programmes. For example, from 2013-2021, I was Executive Director of the British government’s £5.3 million flagship First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme. I authored the original funding proposal, appointed all staff members and strategically led the multi-award winning programme for 8 years. 

I began my career in education as a history teacher, head of department and senior teacher in comprehensive schools in England. I then completed my PhD in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Texas, Austin, USA. From 1996-2001, I was a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Social Science Education at the University of Georgia, USA. 

I joined the Institute of Education in 2000-1 as a Senior Lecturer and taught on the history PGCE and MA programmes. During the following years I was appointed course leader for the MA in Education (Citizenship, History and RE) and also developed two new MA programmes, including a bespoke MA programme for teachers in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I additionally supervised a large number of doctoral candidates from an array of countries including Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, UK, and the USA. 

From 2008 to 2011, I served as Head of the Academic Department of Arts and Humanities. In 2012, I was appointed as Professor of History in Education. 

I have a longstanding interest in history and Holocaust education nationally and internationally and have had the honour of regularly being invited to give keynote lectures to international audiences. In recent years I have addressed history teachers and academics in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Malaysia, Portugal, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, Sweden and the USA. 

Since 2012 I have secured more than £21 million in external funding for history and Holocaust education programmes. This significant funding has served as a catalyst for high quality research and knowledge exchange activity, primarily focused on supporting teachers, schools and their wider communities.

Research Groups
Research Summary
Primarily, my research centres on history teaching and learning and and how history is portrayed in educational settings now and in the past, nationally and internationally. 

I have written more than 60 articles and book chapters focused on teaching and learning in history and authored or co-authored nine books or major research reports. My most recent co-authored book, Holocaust Education: Contemporary Challenges and Controversies, is available from UCL Press (open access). 

As Executive Director and a member of the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education’s research team I have been centrally involved in the development and completion of a number of landmark studies specific to the field of Holocaust teaching and learning. In particular, I was lead author on the Centre’s major national study, What Do Students Know and Understand About the Holocaust? (2016), in which nearly 10,000 young people participated. This comprehensive study - the largest of its kind anywhere in the world - attracted national and international attention. By identifying common limitations in secondary school students’ knowledge and understanding it richly-informed the development of the Centre’s resources and teaching programmes.  For example, I was lead author on a textbook for schools which addressed many of the core issues identified in our student research.  The textbook, Understanding the Holocaust: How and why did it happen?, was published by Hodder Education in 2020. To date 55,000 copies of this textbook have been distributed free of charge to more than 1800 schools across the country.  Evaluation studies suggest that the textbook is having an important impact on teaching and learning in the UK.  This resource and other materials and programmes developed by the Centre have also influenced Holocaust education programmes in leading organisations across the world. 

A core feature of the Centre’s work is that its taught programmes are research-informed. I was co-author of the Centre’s initial, ground-breaking study, Teaching About the Holocaust In England’s Secondary Schools (2009), on the basis of which the Centre’s educational programmes were founded. Drawing on the responses of more than 2,000 teachers, it was the first study which attempted to fully analyse and understand how the Holocaust was taught in English secondary schools. Currently, I am part of the research team focused on re-visiting this study more than a decade later. The key findings of this study, ‘Continuity and Change: 10 years of teaching about the Holocaust in English Secondary Schools’is due for publication in the summer of 2022. It will provide invaluable insights into the landscape of Holocaust teaching in England and identify key issues and challenges that demand attention. 

The Centre’s work was selected as an exemplary Research Impact Case Study for the REF submission in 2014 and it has been chosen again by UCL for submission in 2021. In 2020 the Centre was awarded the prestigious British Educational Research Association’s (BERA) national award for Impact and Engagement. 

As stated above, I am centrally involved in a new 3-year research project which explores how ‘empire, migration and belonging’ is portrayed in English secondary schools. The project has four key strands and I have responsibility for the strand of the project which analyses dominant textbook narratives and assesses how attitudes to minority groups have changed across time. Using the IOE’s extensive special collection of history school textbooks published since 1890, the study will provide rich examples of how empire and migration has been presented through the ages and reveal how socio-political, cultural and educational contexts have impacted (and continue to impact) representations of empire and ethnic minorities.

Teaching Summary
I have worked at the IOE since 2000-1 and I have taught on all its major programmes: PGCE, MA and PhD. Currently, I guest lecture on a number of ITE and MA programmes and supervise doctoral students.I have worked at the IOE since 2000-1 and I have taught on all its major programmes: PGCE, MA and PhD. Currently, I guest lecture on a number of ITE and MA programmes and supervise doctoral students. 

Arguably, my leadership of two major national educational initiatives (i.e., the UCL Centre for Holocaust Education and the First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme) has had significant impact on teaching and learning. For example, the Centre has impacted 1900 Beacon Schools and network schools across the country. To date more than 25,000 teachers have participated in its research-informed programmes and approximately 1.6 million students benefit from the Centre’s programmes annually.    

Similarly, the First World War programme ensured that, from 2013-2019, more than 8,000 teachers and students from 2,800 schools across England participated in a 4 day educational tour of the ‘Western Front’. The 6-year initiative won 5 awards and the programme’s incredibly successful ‘Legacy110’ initiative - in which students developed a diverse range of community-based commemorative projects based on their tour experience – reached an astonishing 15 million people. 84% of teacher participants rated the programme as ‘excellent’ and a further 14% rated the programme as ‘good’. 99.7% of teachers reported that their pupils had developed a deeper and broader understanding of the First World War as a result of participation in the programme, 92.1% stated that the programme would significantly influence future teaching.

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