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. Changemakers focuses on the relationship between Self, Society, and World, teaching students to ask better questions and build powerful cross-disciplinary understanding of themselves, of being effective with others, and of how systems can be transformed.

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). Australian born and bred, 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). She’s worked in 7 different disciplines, including medicine and the history of science, and is what might be called a serial intrapreneur who builds interesting intellectual and institutional structures. 

At Cambridge she currently serves as a member of the University's Board of Professional and Executive Education and regularly contributes to programmes in the Careers Service, the Centre for Teaching and Learning, and the Researcher Development Programme. She is also a supervisor in the Faculty of Education for undergraduate papers and dissertations.

Research Interests

Changemakers is the applied element of Alison’s work in the philosophy of education; the history and future of Universities; the future educated self and whole-person education; and the deep questions of what universities are really for. Her career combines two decades of experience building cross-sector, international, cross-disciplinary research initiatives (from healthy ageing to nineteenth-century studies and research leadership) with interdisciplinary research in the history of intellectual institutions and ‘how ideas become normal’.

Right now, she is turning that experience to the ways Universities can and must step into the new responsibilities that climate crisis and geo-political instability demand – nurturing whole-person formation; weaving ancient wisdoms with contemporary technologies to craft ‘multi-worldview’ approaches; pioneering regenerative forms of thinking and organising; and helping usher in whole-system thriving at every level.

Alison’s writing, collaborations and consulting crosses scholarly & popular domains. Recent projects include regenerative leadership and being; 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.

Collaborations include:

  • The Hawkwood Conversations’ on Sustainability & the Future of Education’ co-convened 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 f2f conference (2020-21)
  • Developing innovative student programmes with the AI-led learning platform OBRIZUM and The Hawkwood Centre for Future Thinking 

In 2017-18 Alison was a British Academy ‘Rising Star’, leading a research network Critical University Studies. 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 Doha, 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


Fellow in Focus, The Homertonian 2022


Alison occasionally writes for the Guardian & TLS & is currently working up a book-length exploration of disciplines, university systems, & adaptive, progesive 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. 2022


Disruptive Education and its Non-Linear Forms. With Chibeza Agley. Wise Words, WISE Foundation. Jan 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

Postgraduate courses must cultivate emotional and organisational traits tooThe Guardian 22 Jan 2019 

‘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