Professor Karen West

PhD, MA, BA (Hons)

  • BS8 1TZ

Personal profile

Research interests

Karen West is a Professor of Social Policy and Ageing. 


She joined the University of Bristol in 2018 from Aston University, where she was head of the Sociology and Policy department. 


Karen’s academic career spans over 20 years, starting with a fully funded PhD at South Bank University and moving to post-doctoral research and teaching positions at the London School of Economics.  There she worked on a project examining the work of the newly formed Greater London Authority in developing policies for sustainability and urban planning and, with the support of an ESRC postdoctoral fellowship at LSE, developed her own research on local government contracting. 


Karen then took up a full-time post in the public policy and public management department at Aston University, before moving to the newly formed Sociology and Policy department.  Although not a social gerontologist by training, Karen developed a strong interest in policies and services aimed at addressing the challenges of an ageing population, with a particular interest in the intersection of social care and housing.  She has worked with key partners in this field including the ExtraCare Charitable Trust, Housing 21, Birmingham City Council and Warwickshire County Council.  She has recently completed a project with the ExtraCare Charitable Trust and Cruse Bereavement Care on a pioneering programme of peer bereavement support for older residents. She is currently leading a project, funded by NIHR-SSCR, which is exploring the potential of collaborative forms of later life housing (such as cohousing, small housing cooperatives and self-managed retirement communities) to support the social care and housing needs of an ageing population.  This work is being carried out in partnerships with colleagues at the London School of Economics and the Housing Learning and Improvement Network. 


Alongside these policy- and practice-focused projects, Karen has an ongoing interest in theoretical developments in policy analysis, critical gerontology and death studies.  For example, her most recent work argues for a return to political economy in critical gerontology via the emerging field of, what some have termed, ‘critical fantasy studies’. 


Moving to the highly successful and multi-disciplinary School for Policy Studies is clearly an ideal environment in which to pursue these projects and ideas and as newly appointed Head of School, Karen is relishing the challenge of taking the School to ever higher achievements. 


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