Dr Patrick Alexander

Reader in Education & Director, Centre for Educational Consultancy and Development (CECD); Research Lead

School of Education

Patrick Alexander


Patrick is Reader in Education and Research Lead for the School of Education, with oversight for research and knowledge exhange activity. Patrick is also Director of the Centre for Educational Consultancy and Development (CECD), where he leads professional learning activity. 

Teaching and supervision

  • Patrick teaches across a range of postgraduate undergraduate modules focusing on the sociology of childhood and youth. 
  • Patrick teaches across research methodology, academic writing, and social theory on the EdD programme.
  • Patrick supervises a number of doctoral students focusing on anthropology of education and related disciplines. Please email palexander@brookes.ac.uk if you are interested in doctoral study. 

Research Students

Name Thesis title Completed
John Loewenthal What do people want to do with their lives and why? An ethnography of graduate aspirations in New York and Los Angeles Active
Robert Curry Exploring service development to scaffold cross-disciplinary critical maker-learning in a Higher Education Academic Library Makerspace: a case study through the lens of cultural-historical activity 2021


Patrick Alexander is a social anthropologist specialising in education, childhood and youth. Patrick's research and teaching interests include the sociology of schooling, youth transitions and youth subcultures, gender, ethnography, and social theory. Patrick also researches knowledge production and professional learning in schools.

Patrick's most recent research explores schooling in the UK and United States, with a focus on how young people imagine the future and how they are socialised to anticipate particular future outcomes through the process of schooling. 

Research group membership

Patrick is a board member of the Oxford Brookes Children and Young People Research Network

Patrick is also a member of the Space and Temporalities (S&T) Research Cluster within the School of Social Sciences' new Centre for Environment and Society (CES).

Patrick is an active member of the Humanistic Perspectives Research Group in the School of Education.

Research grants and awards

  • ESRC Impact Accelerator Award (with Oxford University) (2017)
  • Daiwa Foundation Award (2015)
  • Fulbright-Peabody Scholarship (2014)

Research projects

  • A-Levels and IdentityPatrick is currently working with Dr. Carol Brown and Simon Bradley (SIRC) on a project exploring student perceptions of A-Levels during the pandemic, and how the changing experience of A-Levels shapes how young people are imagining the post-pandemic future. View the project page
  • FutureYou2020: from 2017-2020 Patrick developed the art-research installation FutureYou2020, which was showcased at the Bodleian Library, Ashmolean Museum, Pegasus Theatre, and other spaces. The intention of the installation was to engage diverse publics, but especially young people, in a dialogue about how they envisage the future in a world of increasing uncertainty. One of the outcomes of this public engagement activity was the short ethnographic film.
  • Youth Transitions: In 2016-2017 Patrick carried out a Brookes-funded research project with Professor Graham Butt and Dr. John Loewenthal exploring aspiration and imagined futures in rural and urban contexts in the UK . Please see below for publications emerging from this research. 
  • Imagining the Future: In 2014 Patrick was awarded a Fulbright Peabody Scholarship to conduct research as a Visiting Scholar at New York University. This project comprised a two year comparative ethnographic study exploring aspiration and imagined futures in urban public/state schools in NYC and London. Find out more at the project blog
  • Remembrance in Schools: Patrick is a member of the Remembrance in Schools project, which since 2013 has explored how schools mark Armistace Day and frame the practice of remembrance.

Research impact

  • Youth Transitions: Please see above or click here for more information about the FutureYou2020 Project.
  • Teaching about Culture and Difference in Schools: Patrick lead this ESRC Impact Accelleration Award-funded project (2016-2018) exploring how teachers can engage with anthropological questions about culture and difference in schools. The teaching toolkit developed from the project led to further close working with the Interational Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) and colleagues teaching in IB Schools to develop this impact activity further, in collaboration with the Royal Anthropological Institute.  
  • School Engagement: Patrick delivers regular talks and workshops to schools both in the UK and internationally, with a focus on aspiration, imagined futures, and transitions to life after school.  If you would like Patrick to speak at your school or organisation, please email palexander@brookes.ac.uk


Projects as Principal Investigator, or Lead Academic if project is led by another Institution

  • Playing teacher: Designing a mentoring intervention to support Early Career Teachers (Kathryn Spicksley) (01/01/2023 - 31/12/2025), funded by: British Academy, funding amount received by Brookes: £319,991
  • Virtual Ecologies of Learning: Young People Re-dreaming Education in the Metaverse (01/01/2023 - 31/12/2023), funded by: British Educational Research Association (BERA), funding amount received by Brookes: £5,000


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Professional information

Memberships of professional bodies

A Fulbright Scholar, Patrick is a Fellow of the RSA, HEA, Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI), and a Fellow of International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES). Patrick was previously Research Fellow at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford and a visiting Scholar at New York University and the Autonamous University of Barcelona.

Patrick is on the Editorial Board of the Oxford Review of Education and was Editor of the journal Teaching Anthropology (2016-2020). 

Areas of expertise

  • Schooling
  • Social identity
  • Age
  • Youth transitions
  • Aspirations
  • Time and the future
  • Gender
  • Social theory
  • Ethnography


Recent conference papers:

  • ‘FutureYou2020: (Ethnographic Film)’, International Society for Ethnology and Folklore Annual Conference, online June 2021
  • 'Teaching about Culture and Difference and Schools’, Royal Anthropological Institute Annual Conference, online 9/2020
  • 'Working and Reworking the Future: Narratives of Work at the End of Schooling in London and New York City', talk by invitation at Brunel University, 11/2018
  • Panel co-organiser, ‘Temporalities of work, money, and fantasy’, Association of Social Anthropologists Annual Conference, Oxford 9/2018
  • 'Rituals of Remembrance', BERA Annual Conference, 09/2018
  • Organiser, Teaching Through Ethnography: Process, Product, Practice. Royal Anthropological Institute/Oxford Brookes University, 12/2017
  • ‘Imagining a Future After High School: Young People Navigating Uncertain Citizenship in Contemporary Britain’, American Anthropological Association Annual Conference, Washington DC, 11/2017
  • ‘Imagining the Future: An Art-Research Installation’, Oxford University Carnival of Curiosities (Ashmolean Museum), 09/2017
  • ‘Narratives of Partial Resistance to the Neoliberal Colonisation of the Future’, Keynote at Educated People and Disciplined Bodies: Self-Governance(s) and Local Re-appropriations of Schooling. University of St. Andrews, 9/2017
  • ‘Anthropology in Schools: Teaching About Culture and Difference in Uncertain Times’, World Humanities Conference (UNESCO), Liege, Belgium, 08/2017
  • Co-organiser, Care, Commitment and the Life Course, AAGE Biennial Conference (American Anthropological Association), Oxford Brookes University, 06/2017
  • ‘Imagining a Future After Schooling: Young People Navigating Uncertainty in Contemporary Britain’, by invitation at Oxford University Department of Education Public Seminar Series, 01/2017 (with Prof. Graham Butt)
  • ‘Imagining a Future After Schooling: Anthropology and Public Engagement’, by invitation at University of East London, 01/2017
  • Knowledge, Learning, and Schooling in Amazonia’, invited keynote to inaugurate EdD programme, Oxford Brookes University, 9/2016
  • Imagining A Future After Schooling: Quantum Personhood in the Lives of Young People in London and New York City’: ASA Annual Conference, Durham University, 07/2016
  • ‘Figuring Quantum Personhood: Imagined Futures in London and New York City’, CAE New Scholar Panel, Familiar Strange: AAA 116th annual conference, Denver, CO, 11/2015
  • ‘Imagining a Future After High School: An Ethnographic Account of Schooling in London and New York City’, presented by invitation at John Jay College, City University of New York, 4/2015
  • ‘Coming of Age in High School: Imagined Futures, Quantum Personhood and Age Imaginaries’, presented by Invitation at New York University, 3/2015
  • ‘Imagining the Future in London and New York City: preliminary findings’, presented by invitation at Teachers College, Columbia University, 2/2015
  • ‘Imagining the Future: Aspiration, Inequality and Age Imaginaries in a Comparative Ethnography of Schooling in the US & UK’, Producing Anthropology: AAA 115th annual conference, Washington DC, 12/2014
  • ‘Everyday Age Imaginaries’, Researching Children’s Everyday Lives: socio-cultural contexts, University of Sheffield, 06/2014


In addition to academic research, Patrick has more than a decade of experience as a social research consultant. Patrick has worked with a range of stakeholders including the DfE, The British Council, The Higher Education Academy, the BBC Trust, the Co-Op, and many more. 

Selected commissioned research:

  • Social Issues Research Centre (academic advisor): 'A Word in Your Beer: Men, Masculinity, Mental Health, and Contemporary Beer Drinking Habits in the United Kingdom'. British Beer and Pub Association.
  • Kantar Public (special academic advisor) (2018) Learners and Apprentice Survey. Department for Education. 
  • Alexander, P, Aldridge, D, Deane, M. (2017) Skills for Researcher Development. Mexico DF: British Council Mexico.
  • Alexander, P., Edwards, A., Menter, I., Fancourt, N. (2014)  Raising Aspiration in Oxford City Schools. Oxford: Citi Foundation.
  • Alexander, P. (2013) International Further Education Markets: An Analysis. Hong Kong: British Council.
  • Mills, D. & Alexander, P. (2012) Small Group Teaching: A Toolkit for Learning. York: Higher Education 
  • Academy.
  • Alexander, P., Marsh, P., Bradley, S. (2008) ‘Annex G: Children and Family Life: Socio-Demographic Changes’, in  The Impact of the Commercial World on Children’s Wellbeing: Report of an Independent Assessment. London: Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF).
  • Marsh, P., Alexander, P., Bradley, S (2008) Life in the UK Today: The role and citizen impact of Public Service Broadcasting. BBC Trust/SIRC. 
  • Marsh, P., Alexander, P. Bradley, S. (2008) Football Passions. Cannon/SIRC

Further details

Other experience

Patrick joined Oxford Brookes as an Early Career Research Fellow in 2013. Prior to joining Oxford Brookes Patrick was College Lecturer in Social Anthropology at St. Hugh's College, Oxford, and a researcher in the Oxford University Department of Education working on a range of projects related to aspiration and social identity. He was also coordinator for qualitative research methods training for the Social Sciences Division at Oxford University. Patrick studied United States and Latin American Studies at King's College, London as an undergraduate before migrating to Oxford for postgraduate study (MSc Social Anthropology, 2005; PGCE English, 2006; DPhil Education, 2011; PCTHE 2017). 

Press, publicity and reviews

Recent Media and Podcasts

Further information