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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 global governance of education and the influence of international organisations on educational ideas and policies. Drawing on archival research and interviews, she often takes a historical approach to tracing the influence of international organisations on the evolution of educational concepts, as illustrated by her 2018 book, UNESCO’s utopia of lifelong learning: An intellectual history, which examines how the concept of lifelong learning has evolved in UNESCO from 1945 to the present time. She has also published on the history of the educational work of the OECD and the World Bank. Her research on the history of educational planning in developing countries was 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.

PhD supervision

Dr. Elfert is interested in supervising students who work on topics related to international and comparative education and global governance, in particular the educational work of international organisations and the ideological underpinnings of education from a historical perspective (such as humanistic approaches, economics of education, lifelong learning). She is also interested in policy studies, in particular relating to adult education and lifelong learning.


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, sociology of education, and adult education and work.

At King’s she co-teaches the modules "The Political Economy of Education in a Globalised World", "International and Comparative Education", "Education and International Development", and "Gender, Power and Inequality in Educational Leadership" and contributes to the teaching in a range of modules across MA education programmes in the School of Education, Communication & Society.

Further information

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