Early Childhood Research Centre

Early childhood is a critical period in human life and in human society. Promoting each child's well-being, and ensuring the unfolding of her or his full potential – no matter where and into which circumstances they are born – goes hand in hand with society's fundamental need to reassure and reconcile images of its past, present and future. Striving to better understand young children and their potential in all aspects of their lives, and investigating the increasingly neo-liberal imaginary of childhood in society are the two interconnected foci of the research conducted at the Early Childhood Research Centre (ECRC). Both aspects have received unprecedented attention in recent years, locally and globally, and their relationship has become problematic.

The Early Childhood Research Centre builds on a long tradition of critical inquiry in the field. We investigate histories, policies and politics, pedagogies and practices in early childhood locally and internationally from a critical perspective that is informed by a shared interest in the transformative potential of collaborative research.

As a research centre we have initiated and are involved in numerous collaborative activities with local, national and international partners. These include international symposia, writing collaborations, and research collaborations with international and UK partners in a global network of collaborative sites. Partnerships include universities and research centres, local authorities and schools, professional associations, advocacy networks, government agencies and departments and international bodies.

With the research conducted at the ECRC we position ourselves and the study of early childhood in a context of critical theory and practice, diversity and social justice. With our work we hope to contribute to building what Paulo Freire calls critical consciousness (conscientização) in the field.

We have a particular interest in the professional practices of working with young children (pre-natal to the age of ca. 8), families and communities. Professional practice in early childhood, we believe, is always relational, profoundly uncertain, and inevitably political.

We situate our work in the tradition of Friedrich Froebel, the 19th century Kindergarten pioneer, whose ideas we see as highly relevant for contemporary early childhood contexts. Froebel emphasised the unique potential of every child and the importance of play as the key to children making sense of the world. He conceptualised the education of young children as a public good and responsibility – something that could be thought and done independent of church and state. His ideas and practices depended on highly qualified practitioners and the Froebel Kindergarten movement has made a major contribution to the professionalization of women in the 19th and early 20th century. All of these ideas are, we believe, as relevant and radical now as they were then.

A prominent feature of the ECRC is the Froebel Archive for Childhood Studies; a unique collection of materials for the study of Friedrich Froebel and the Froebel movement that draws researchers from all over the world.

ECRC hosts an international and interdisciplinary group of researchers consisting of members of staff, international research fellows and visiting professors, and international research students. Our scholarly community also includes undergraduate and Masters' level students of early childhood The centre is directed by Professor Mathias Urban, a leading international scholar in the field.

Applicants for PhD may be eligible for Commonwealth shared scholarships. For further information please see Commonwealth Shared Scholarships.

TECHNE This research Centre is part of the TECHNE AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership consortium. For further information on the TECHNE AHRC funded PhD Studentships please see here. The closing date for 2015/2016 has now passed. The next round of scholarship competition will open in late autumn 2015.


We welcome applications from prospective PhD students and enquiries from potential visiting scholars. For more information please contact us:

Mathias Urban

Early Childhood Research Centre
Department of Education
Roehampton University
Froebel College
London SW15 5PJ
Tel: +44 (0)20 8392 3276
Email: mathias.urban@roehampton.ac.uk

Seminars and Events

4th of June 2016- one day conference supported by the Early Childhood Research Centre and the Froebel Trust         

Children's well-being as a central concern: Implications for practice and policy in the early years.


Places are limited please click here to book online. Prices £29.95 for delegates and £19.95 for students.

9th of March 2016 'Resistance, resilience and reworking of Palestinian children: a daily event' Room GH.002 1-2pm
24th February 2016 'Culturally defined ethics in research with young children' Room LU.052 1-2pm

27th January 2016 'The Educational meaning in the Mother Songs- the deepened process of the feeling unity' Room GH.021 1-2pm

21st, 26th October and 4th November 'International Advisory Board' seminars. Rooms: LU.101-ED.111-GH.002





Conference Presentations 2016

23-25 June 2016 International Froebel Society Conference, Kassel, Germany 

10-12 June 2016 International Conference on Work Discussion, Vienna

4 June 2016 Children's well-being as a central concern: Implications for practice and policy in the early years, Roehampton University, London, England

18-21 May 2016 12th International Congress for Qualitative Inquiry, University of Illinois, USA

5-7 May 2016 European OMEP, 2016 Conference- The place of the Child in 21st Century Society, Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, England