Social Sciences Division

These previously conducted observational field studies have not only paved way for prospective future projects between India and Oxford, but also helped the policy makers in India to identify the areas highlighted to create opportunities for people in there. 

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Rees Centre for Research in Education

The Rees centre works under the department of Education which is set up by Dr Lisa Holmes, Assistant Professor of the Department of Education. Rees centre aims at bringing better life chances and outcomes for people who work for social care services. The research initiatives by the centre are targeted for people who work and involved as carers, guardians, schools that benefit children in need, policy makers. 

Rees centre is currently working in setting up a strategic partnership with Udayan care, New Delhi, India. The focus of the partnership is on supporting care leavers and also the cost effectiveness of child welfare services. Udayan Care currently have funding from UNICEF and Tata Trusts, and the Centre’s Director (Prof. Lisa Holmes) also has funding from UNICEF to explore cost effective child welfare systems and the development of an investment case for foster care in Jordan.


Difficult Dialogues 2019

The department's researchers have also attended the Difficult Dialogues conference in Goa, India. Difficult Dialogues conference is an annual event held in Goa University and International centre, Goa focussing on educational policies and practices in India, finding innovative methods which can be imparted to India's educational system. The conference is also partnered with Oxford Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies (OXCHEPS)

Prof David Mills, Associate Professor, Pedagogy and Social Sciences and Dr Paul Flather from Mansfield College attended the conference in Goa which took place from 31 January to 2 February of 2019. 

Prof David was one of the panel member on "Building World class University". The panel discussed on the role of universities in promoting democracy and growth and from India's point of view, what sort of steps can be taken to bring regional development, growth and inclusiveness. 

Dr Paul Flather, Supernumerary fellow, Mansfield College, moderated the panel which discussed on "New threats to Academic Freedom".


Helga Todd Fund

Helga Todd foundation is a charity set up to advance education for aspiring teachers and students by partnering with charities and leading institutions. Since the inception of this foundation, various projects and initiatives are taken up to create better opportunities through innovative teaching methods in India. As a matter of achieving their aim, the foundation has allocated a yearly fund for students or interns to spend summer in India, teaching for schools from rural towns. The department of Education has been sending interns who has completed PGCE to India.


Sutra Project

Sutra is a Knowledge Exchange project between academic and non-academic partners with a focus on early childhood education and primary school programmes. Non-academic partners include teacher trainers who are active practitioners and/or policy workers, teachers, local folklorists, story tellers and folk artists. The knowledge exchange outputs are in film and print formats using local cultural and artistic artefacts, and from this is derived the title of the project:  Supporting Teachers with Resources and Art. Sutra in Sanskrit means a pithy message and is also the string that holds diverse matters together. This project was started in March 2019 with funding support from University of Oxford's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account. 

The project aims to:

  • Develop easy-to-follow resources that demonstrate evidence-backed teaching practices for teachers in resource poor settings.
  • Draw upon the local cultural and artistic idiom to present these teaching practices. 
  • Draw upon contemporary means of communication familiar to teachers.  This includes tapping into the growing use of mobile phones, the free exchange of information through platforms such as WhatsApp and the ease of accessing pamphlets/posters in ongoing inservice teacher training courses.

The first phase of this project has seen involvement from local cultural actors, government and policy makers from the Indian state of Karnataka. As background, I have been supporting the local government and UNICEF with guidelines for a curriculum change for language and emergent literacy instruction for a mid-sized network of preschool centers (approximately 60,000) in Karnataka, a state in South India. This curriculum change is seen as a forerunner to a country-wide programme change which will be led by UNICEF and other state governments.  For this effort, a group of non-academic partners have been meeting regularly in Bangalore with coordination by UNICEF India and the government. These meetings have focused on finalising the curriculum framework and incorporating the guidelines suggested by the PI. Developing teacher resources was a natural next step and my idea was that we learn from local cultural actors ways to interpret key theoretical insights about children's learning for teaching practice in local schools. The team that worked on the outputs were from NGOs, schools and members of the network supporting the curriculum reform.

As a result of the successful first phase, partners from other Indian states gave positive feedback and asked to share the resources more widely. 


Cooling is necessary for the quality of life of billions of people living in developing countries and, increasingly, for those developed countries traditionally unprepared for ever more frequent heatwaves due to climate change. The energy needed for air conditioning is likely to triple by 2050, with ten new air conditioning units projected to be sold every second for the next 30 years.

This huge demand has the potential to drive up greenhouse gas emissions and therefore further exacerbate the very problem it is designed to alleviate.

This study investigates the future of cooling as a dynamic system, and examines its interlinkages across Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the developing and developed world. Our aim is to steer the system towards sustainable cooling for all, and to establish cooling as a global priority for the successful implementation of the SDGs.

The methods used include surveys and trend analysis, modelling, experiments, qualitative fieldwork and case studies in fast-growing developing countries (India and South Africa) and developed countries at risk of increased heatwaves (France and the UK).

For more details check the project website.

Projects from Oxford Department of International Development have had its concentration on India's technology, economic and social aspect and the developments concerned around these areas. 

Rural e-Services in India  

The Rural E-Services in India project is developing new, sustainable ways to deliver e-services and develop innovation capacity in poverty-stricken communities. By developing a system whereby farmers in rural India could resolve problems with crops using mobile camera phones, the project made it possible for them to discuss their challenges and get rapid responses using modern communication technology. This is a multi-disciplinary project collaborating with computer engineers and NGOs in India.


India's emerging 'rurbans' (Lives on the Move) 

Research led by Dr Indrajit Roy has explored the lives of internal migrants in India, shedding light on their motives for migrating as well as examining their social and political rights as they circulate between different locations across the country.

The study offers practical solutions to an important policy dilemma that faces one of the world’s fastest growing economies where urbanisation has, nonetheless, remained stunted.

A team led by Dr Roy carried out ethnographic research with selected families in a single village in the State of Bihar, whose 100 million people contribute a significant part of India’s labour migrants. Two researchers circulated with migrant labourers as they moved between different localities for work, while one focussed on family members who remained in the village.

Partners for this project include Centre for Equity Studies (CES) New Delhi, India; Asian Development and Research Institute Patna, India; Praxis New Delhi, India. 

Read more about the outcome, methodologies and various toolkit developed in this project here.

Continuing urbanisation comes, particularly across the global South, with new and intensified challenges around environmental and social sustainability. Goal 11 of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable – represents the first time that cities have formally been identified as both crucibles of development challenges and the engines of development change. It nonetheless remains unclear how optimal urban outcomes are to be achieved, especially for cities where the pace of urban change is greatest, resources are most limited, the governance arrangements are complex and formal knowledge about how the city works is patchy. Yet, over the next decade or so, finding solutions to urban challenges that are most acute in the cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America will disproportionately determine sustainable development outcomes for the planet as a whole.

The PEAK Urban programme aims to build skilled capacity for decision making on urban futures by: i) generating new research grounded in the logic of urban complexity, and ii) fostering new leaders that draw on different disciplinary perspectives to address the challenges found in the 21st century city.

The more than 40 research projects within the PEAK Urban programme will address four general questions:

  1. What do the traditions of modelling, institutional analysis and ethnography say, individually and collectively, about Prediction and projection in the city?
  2. How, in each city and across all geographical contexts, have socio-material systems generated new forms and structures to create an Emergent urbanism?
  3. How have distinct scientific conventions and the city as a whole Adopted knowledge that combines insights from different knowledge traditions?
  4. How does the PEAK platform maximise Knowledge exchange to build capacity in cities, nations and the multilateral system to deal with prediction and projection, with emergent urbanisms of socio material systems and with the imperative to adopt interdisciplinary knowledge?

Running from 2017- 2021, this project has cross-divisional participation within Oxford implementing various study methods from each division. Centre on Migration, Policy and Diversity (COMPAS); Mathematical Institute; Transport Studies Unit and The George Institute for Global Health. Apart from partnering with international institutions like: Peking University, China; African Centre for Cities (South Africa); Indian Institute for Human Settlement (India); EAFIT University (Colombia). 

Lead by Professor Barbara Harriss-White from Oxford School of Global Area Studies, this project aims to study and research the low-carbon emissions in an informal economy. Having prior experience and knowledge in the study of green revolution and its impact on Indian economy, where it also leads about the change of climate- Professor Barbara lead this pilot project funded by ESRC-DFID. 

This project develops a series of methods for the first-hand study of the materiality of the informal economy. The primary focus was on greenhouse gases (GHGs) (in CO2e), energy and water as indicators of materiality, on labour conditions and on the structure of costs and profits.

The field based case studies are rice production-distribution systems (intensive, SRI, rainfed and organic production; plus the partially regulated, private, post-harvest system; supermarket supply chains; and the state’s public distribution system) in three states of India: Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. 

Partnering with the University of Oxford, Indian centres like Institute of Human Development, New Delhi, National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad, Madras School of Economics, Chennai, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Hyderabad, New Trade Union Initiative, New Delhi, Centre for Workers' Management, Bangalore and Chennai involved with this project.

This project has also paved the way for a follow up collaborations with other countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh by taking other carbon emitting objects.

Project website

The Young Lives project from Oxford Centre for International Development is a long-term international study following and documenting the lives of 12,000 children over 15 years in 4 study countries (the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in India alongside Ethiopia, Peru, and Vietnam). Investigating the drivers and impacts of child poverty, it aims to generate evidence to help policymakers design programmes that can break the poverty cycle. In 2007, Young Lives research helped develop the plan of action for children in Andhra Pradesh, setting out the state government’s vision for children’s well-being and development.

Young Lives

Background Image credits- Young Lives