11 Jul 2012

Open University Professor joins the Board of Trustees of UNICEF UK

Open University Professor of Childhood Studies, Martin Woodhead, has been elected to the Board of Trustees of UNICEF UK. UNICEF UK is one of 36 national committees that work to raise money for UNICEF’s global work for children, as well as delivering programmes for children in the UK and advocating for the rights of the world’s children.

Professor Woodhead joins 13 other distinguished Board members and 2 youth advisors who meet regularly to discuss governance matters, including the charity’s vision, mission and strategic direction. He said: “It is an honour to be asked to become a trustee. Besides sharing in the formal governance responsibilities of the Board, I hope to be able to provide research insights and evidence on the areas that UNICEF works on, namely realising rights of all children, especially in the key areas of early development, child protection and education.”

David Bull, Executive Director UNICEF UK said: “We are very pleased to welcome Professor Woodhead to the board of UNICEF UK. His experience and leadership in the promotion of children’s rights in the UK is of huge value to us and I look forward to working with him to deliver for children in the UK and around the world.”

Election to the Board of UNICEF UK is the latest example of Professor Woodhead’s commitment to building bridges between research, teaching and and international action to improve children’s lives, globally. Career highlights include being consultant to a
Council Europe project on early childhood during the 1970s, Programme Adviser to the BBC1 ‘All Our Children’ series during the 1980s, working with Save the Children (Sweden) on child labour during the 1990s, and more recently preparing key UN documents on implementation of child rights in early childhood. At The Open University, Professor Woodhead pioneered interdisciplinary teaching in child research through establishing Childhood and Youth Studies as an undergraduate degree.

Since 2005, The Open University’s Professor Woodhead has been collaborating with the University of Oxford where he is Associate Research Director of ‘Young Lives’, a major international study of childhood poverty during the early decades of the 21st century, core funded by UK Department for International Development (DFID). ‘Young Lives’ is tracking the changing lives of 12,000 children in Ethiopia, India (in the state of Andhra Pradesh), Peru and Vietnam over 15 years.

Professor Woodhead also co-directs the Open University’s ‘Early Childhood in Focus’ project funded by Bernard van Leer Foundation, to produce accessible reviews on key topics relevant to policy and practice, with 7 issues now published and freely available online and in print.

Professor Woodhead added “Two major priorities guide all my work: to carry out high quality research that can give strong insights into children’s rights, development and wellbeing in diverse and changing circumstances throughout the world; and to communicate strong research messages to all who have the power to shape children’s lives, including governments and parents, as well as children themselves”.

Notes to editors

The Open University
The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.7 million students and has more than 264,000 current students, including 18,000 overseas.
The OU has been one of the top three UK universities for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey every year since the survey began in 2005. Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.
In the UK’s latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) the Open University was ranked in the top third of UK higher education institutions. More than 50% of OU research was assessed in the RAE as internationally excellent, with 14% as world leading.
Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which has had more than 21 million visits, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded over 50 million downloads. The OU has a 41 year partnership with the BBC which has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to prime-time programmes such as Life, Coast, and The Money Programme.

UNICEF is the world’s leading organisation working for children and their rights in more than 190 countries. As champion of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF works to help every child realise their full potential. Together with our partners, UNICEF delivers health care, nutrition, education and protection to children in urgent need, while working with governments to ensure they deliver on their promise to protect and promote the rights of every child. UNICEF relies entirely on voluntary donations from individuals, governments, institutions and corporations, and is not funded by the UN budget. For more information, please visit

Young Lives Project
Young Lives is an international study of childhood poverty, involving 12,000 children in 4 countries over 15 years. It is led by a team in the Department of International Development at the University of Oxford in association with research and policy partners in the 4 study countries: Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam.

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