Professor Louise Archer
Professor of Sociology of Education
School of Education,
Communication & Society
Date started at King’s
2005 – 2017
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
I’ve always been very interested in and committed to work around equality. I really enjoyed sociology at school (A level) but then studied social psychology for my first degree. Gradually I came ‘back’ to sociology over the years, mainly because I have become increasingly convinced that it is the interaction of social structures (inequalities) and identities which is key to understanding social life. I focus on education because it seems to be so pivotal to people’s life chances.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
Most of my work focuses on educational identities and inequalities, particularly in relation to gender, ethnicity and social class. I guess this reflects my political and personal ideals and commitments, eg. to feminism. I want to work that can contribute to social justice and help make people’s lives better and more equitable!
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
Being an academic can be hard but it can also be a really rewarding career because you are always learning and you get to focus on things that really interest you. There are also opportunities for travel and for meeting fascinating people! Perhaps the aspects of my work that I find most rewarding are those where is seems my research and my ideas are actually making a difference in the ‘real’ world. At the moment it is very rewarding to see that policy makers, schools and educational providers are using our concept of ‘science capital’ and are changing the way they do things in light of insights from our research. I was also a co-founder of the Athena SWAN Charter for Women in STEM, so it is amazing to see how its now a nationwide scheme that lots of Universities (including King’s!) are signed up to.
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
One of my professional role models is actually a close colleague at King’s – Professor Becky Francis. We’ve worked a lot together over the years and I’ve always admired her very fair, professional, warm and supportive approach. She’s a great example of feminism in practice!
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
Working with great colleagues on our various projects, supervising and teaching students who are interesting, engaged, enthusiastic and who also open my eyes to new ideas. But I also love writing – so in that sense, academia is the perfect fit for me.
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
I don’t really know – I’m still working it out....
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
It's always a challenge. I try to maintain boundaries and switch off the phone/ email etc. I also try to advocate for working flexibly.
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
It's a marathon, not a sprint! J