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Dr Maren Elfert worked as a member of the professional staff at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL) in Hamburg for over a decade. In 2011 she moved to Canada to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of British Columbia, which she received in 2016.

From 2017-2018 Dr Elfert spent two years as postdoctoral fellow at the University of Alberta, before joining King’s College London in 2019.


Dr Elfert's research focuses on how international organisations influence educational ideas and policies. She is interested in examining how UNESCO, the OECD and the World Bank have shaped and used educational concepts such as “education as a human right”, “human capital”, and the “economics of education”, and unpacking their ideological underpinnings.

Dr Elfert's book UNESCO’s Utopia of Lifelong Learning: An Intellectual History (Routledge, 2018), based on her PhD study, traces the history of UNESCO’s conceptual work on lifelong learning in the context of the shifting political economy and landscape of global governance of education.

Her current research on the history of educational planning is being funded by a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation postdoctoral fellowship.

In the video below, Dr Elfert introduces her research looking at how history determines our way of thinking about education – as shown by the influence of post-WW2 & Cold War educational planning in developing countries that still persists today.


As a teacher Dr Elfert is inspired by humanistic and hermeneutic traditions and radical and critical educators such as Paulo Freire. She aims to create an inclusive atmosphere in which students feel comfortable to engage in stimulating discussions.

Dr Elfert has taught courses in global governance of education, social justice, sociology of education, adult education, and work and learning.

At King’s she contributes to the Education Management MA, teaching, among other things, modules on the political economy of education and a module on gender and education.

Further information

For further information, visit Dr Elfert's research page on PURE.