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IOE’s Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU) celebrates its 50th anniversary

TCRU, a leading centre for social research into children, parenting and families since 1973, commemorates its trailblazing history of influencing policy and practice.

Sails by Nora Wuttke. White cloth hangs like ship's sails. They are embroidered with line drawings of people. Image permission: Nora Wuttke.

Sails by Nora Wuttke, TCRU Artist-in-Residence. 

Established in 1973 by psychologist Professor Jack Tizard, the centre emerged from the need to champion the needs of children and families most vulnerable to economic and social adversity, especially in health and educations settings.

Professor Peter Moss delved deeper into TCRU's founding principles and the role social research plays in society today in a recent blog post, 'Looking back to look forward?'

Today, the impact of TCRU’s research projects is wide-ranging, with work clustered around three key areas:

  • Children’s wellbeing, including early childhood education and care and health services for families;
  • Gender, diverse families and work, which includes motherhood and fatherhood, poverty and gender equality;
  • And migration, including urban diversity, migrant experiences and transnational families and practices.

Its research projects involve a variety of innovative social research methods, ranging from ethnographic studies of children’s everyday lives to international comparisons of parental leave policies and family services.

Recently, Dr Jenny Woodman, an Associate Professor at TCRU, was awarded £5.5 million in funding by the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR), to continue her work in child and family health policy research as Co-Director of the NIHR Children and Families Policy Research Unit.

Emphasising TCRU’s commitment to supporting early childhood education and care, Professors Claire Cameron and Eva Lloyd have written a blog post on understanding the care workforce crisis. They examine the ways research and policy can interact to produce positive outcomes for children and young people.

TCRU is also working on a promising and large-scale initiative with public health in East London to improve the income and wellbeing of new mothers, with the pilot work showing substantial improvements in income for some families.

For 20 years, the centre was based at Coram Campus in Brunswick Square, before moving to its current location in Woburn Square, where it has been based for the past 30 years.

TCRU is co-directed by Professor Mette Louise Berg and Professor Alison Koslowski and comprises almost 40 staff and over 50 PhD students, as well as emeritus and honorary fellows.

Professor Alison Koslowski yesterday said:

“As we head into our 51st year, TCRU is going from strength to strength. I’m also enormously proud of our multi-disciplinary research centre’s wealth of expertise in a wide range of research methods.

“We have colleagues working with large-scale administrative data, have a particular tradition of multi-method research designs and have contributed particularly to the development of participatory research methods. We also have a strong record of cross-national collaboration and leading international teams.

“Whilst our core identity is as a research unit, we also deliver teaching to our brilliant students – and they are our future.”

As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, TCRU has appointed an Artist in Residence, Dr Nora Wuttke. The celebrations include a series of events and podcasts, including a new book exploring the centre’s ground-breaking policy-relevant social research: Social Research for our Times: TCRU past, present and future.

The book will be launched at the TCRU 50th anniversary celebrations tomorrow, 7 November 2023.



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