Dr Alison Wood


College position:

Academic Director Homerton Changemakers

Dr Alison Wood
Dr Alison Wood

Dr Alison Wood is founding Academic Director of Homerton Changemakers, a co-curricular, pioneering programme equipping Cambridge students to be wise change-agents amidst complexity and challenge. The programme focuses on global citizenship; leadership; enterprise; self-hood; narratives of changemaking; adaptive mindsets; & regenerative thinking in the era of climate crisis and geo-political instability.

Alison also teaches and writes on the philosophy of education; the history and future of Universities; the future educated self; and the deep questions of what universities are really for. Her work combines two decades of experience building cross-sector and cross-disciplinary research initiatives (from healthy ageing to nineteenth-century studies and research leadership) with a research career in the history of intellectual institutions and changemaking. She’s also worked in 7 different disciplines, including medicine; spent 10 years working as a musician; and is what might be called a serial intrapreneur.

Before joining Homerton Alison was the Mellon/Newton Interdisciplinary Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at CRASSH (Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities) at Cambridge (2013-2018); and a Research Associate in the Faculties of English and Divinity, also at Cambridge (2011-2013). She read English and History at the University of Adelaide and worked as a musician before undertaking doctoral work in nineteenth-century intellectual culture (King's College London).

At Cambridge she’s served as a member of the University's Researcher Development Committee, the Pro-Vice Chancellor’s Working Group on Postdoctoral Affairs, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) Research Careers and Training Advisory Group; co-convened the CRASSH Postdoctoral Forum (2014-17); established and led the CRASSH ‘Becoming a Research Leader’ Programme (2014-2018); and taught in Divinity and English. She also works regularly with the University's School of Arts and Humanities, the Careers Service,  the Centre for Teaching and Learning, and the Researcher Development Programme. And currently supervises undergraduates for the Faculty of Education. 

Research Interests

Alison’s writing, collaborations and consulting crosses scholarly & popular domains. She has spent twenty years asking how universities, research, enquiry and education could be better; increasingly she is turning that focus towards helping education systems move towards enabling whole-system thriving in the era of climate crisis.

Recent projects include modernity, neo-liberalism & educated selfhood; ecological mindsets & education; emerging educational forms; sustainability & the future of education; University keywords; academic citizenship; the history of English as a discipline; British intellectual and scientific culture in the C19th; the function of doubt; and religion in C19th Cambridge University.

Current collaborations include:

  • ‘The Hawkwood Circle’ on Sustainability & the Future of Education’ with Professor Richard Calland (Cape Town), Andrew Watson (Jerusalem International School) and the Hawkwood Centre for Future Thinking - a 6 part high-level seminar series and 2-day conference (20/21)
  • ‘Scenario Planning for the Future University’ Consortia, supported by the California Humanities Research Institute (2018-)
  • Partnerships with The Tavistock Institute, Form the Future, and Cambridge Zero developing new offerings for Cambridge students

In 2017-18 Alison was a British Academy ‘Rising Star’, leading a research network Critical University Studies http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/programmes/critical-university-studies-an-early-career-researcher-network-2018 She has also co-directed a British Academy funded project ‘Negotiating Religion in the Contemporary University' (Cambridge & UCL, 2012-13); and co/hosted numerous conferences, symposia, forums, seminars and reading groups, always driven by the questions: ‘how can this be more intellectually interesting’? and ‘what difference can this make’?

Her recent invited talks, chairing & consulting have taken her to Santa Barbara, CERN, Cardiff, Exeter, Berlin, London, Manchester, Hawaii, Venice, Prague and New York, along with many gatherings in Cambridge.

Links to online publications, articles or other work


Alison occasionally writes for the Guardian & TLS & is currently working up a book-length exploration of disciplines, university systems, & adaptive, progessive education Essays on Being Educated.


Researchers’ Stories 5 interview-based essays on the mindsets, skills, and career pathways of Cambridge post-doctoral researchers. Careers Service, University of Cambridge. Dec 2022


‘Coping with Covid: Daily Prompts’. with Melanie Keene. A 12-part series for bolstering inner life and fortitude, particularly in covid-related isolation. October 2020 https://www.homerton.cam.ac.uk/copingwithcovid19

'Postgraduate courses must cultivate emotional and organisational traits too’. The Guardian 22 Jan 2019 https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/jan/22/postgrad-courses-must-cultivate-emotional-and-organisational-traits-too

‘The End of Universities?’ ‘Critical University Studies’, CRASSH blog (2018) http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/blog/post/on-critical-university-studies

‘Secularism and the Uses of Literature: English at Cambridge, 1890-1920’. Modern Language Quarterly 75.2 (2014): 259-277.

‘Darwinism, Biology, & Mythology in the ‘Today & Tomorrow’ series, 1923-1929’. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews. 34.1 March (2009): 22-31.

‘Operatic Narratives: Textual Transformations in Gwen Harwood and Larry Sitsky’s Golem and Lenz.’ Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature. 5 (2006): 179-191.

Special issue a/b: Auto/Biography Studies ‘The Work of Life-Writing’ 25.2 (Winter 2010). Introduced and edited with Clare Brant.

Working paper: ‘The Post-Doctoral System: Core Issues and Plausible Ambitions’. A paper for the University of Cambridge, May 2015.

Reviews & shorter pieces published in the Guardian, Times Literary Supplement, Viewpoint (Newsletter of the British Society for the History of Science), Proceedings of the Torquay Natural History Society, & Australian Literary Studies.


Homerton Changemakers