Dr Liam Foster
BA, MA, PhD
Department of Sociological Studies
Senior Lecturer in Social Policy
+44 114 222 6434
Full contact details
Department of Sociological Studies
Liam joined the staff team in the department in January 2007 as a University Teacher in Social Policy and Research Methods having completed his PhD within the department in 2006 under the supervision of Professor Alan Walker.
In 2008, Liam was appointed as a Lecturer in Social Work within the Department and in 2015 he was appointed Senior Lecturer in Social Policy and Social Work. He had previously conducted his undergraduate and postgraduate MA degrees at the University of Leeds.
In 2006 Liam spent time teaching at Leeds Metropolitan University in the Health Sciences Department and was employed as a postgraduate teaching assistant within the Department of Sociological Studies at the University of Sheffield throughout his PhD (2002-06).
Liam's research interests are as follows: gender and pension provision, gender inequality in the workplace, funeral provision and poverty, extending working lives, ageing research, theories of ageing, and the sociology of sport.
- Research interests
Liam's research largely focuses on inequalities in later life and policy implications, particularly in relation to funerals, pensions and pension planning. This has often included a gendered focus. He also has an interest in theories of ageing, including the application of active ageing and the political economy of ageing.
This has led to work on the comparative policy approaches to the implementation of active ageing measures. Liam's latest work is part of a large-scale project four country study funded by the Swedish Research Council for Health and Working Life (2019-22), focused on exclusion and inequality in late working life.
Liam has commented on retirement planning in the media, advised unions (TUC), been involved in projects with pension providers (AXA and Prudential), charities (The Fawcett Society) and been referenced by political parties (Labour’s Older Women’s Commission) in relation to pensions.
He has presented his research at a variety of national and international conferences and has been an invited speaker at the Department for Work and Pensions (x2), Department for Education, the European Parliament in Brussels, the House of Lords and the UN in New York as a world leading expert on ageing.
Liam is a member of the UK Social Policy Association Executive Committee. He is also the Managing Editor of Social Policy and Society. He has authored over 50 publications in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters, and authored or edited five books.
Funded research projects:
Date Sponsor Details July 2019 - December 2022 Swedish Research Council for Health and Working Life 'Exclusion and Inequality in Late Working Life (EIWO)', (CI) 2016 The Fawcett Society Women’s pensions decision making (PI) 2015-16 The British Academy Staying part of the family: transnational defamilisation/familisation measures of Chinese older people in Britain (with Dr Ruby Chau) 2013-14 Higher Education Academy Using secondary data in teaching. £9,280 (PI) 2013-14 The University of Sheffield Transforming social Work research: contexts, environments and structures. £14,000 (CI) 2012-14 AHRC Home improvements: improving quality and value in the provision of volume house building through architectural knowledge exchange (CI) 2012 The University of Sheffield, Research Stimulation Fund ‘I might not live that long!’ A study of young people’s pension planning in the UK 2009-10 University Devolved Fund Young women's pension planning (PI)
- How to Do Your Social Research Project Or Dissertation. Oxford University Press, USA.
- Beginning Statistics: An Introduction for Social Scientists. London: SAGE Publications.
- Death and Social Policy in Challenging Times. Palgrave Macmillan.
- In Defence of Welfare 2. Bristol: Policy Press.
- The Political Economy of Ageing and Later Life: Critical Perspectives. Edward Elgar Publishing.
- Active Ageing across the Life Course: Towards a Comprehensive Approach to Prevention. BioMed Research International, 2021, 1-11.
- The missing group? Situating transnational contacts in defamilisation research. International Social Work, 002087282094002. View this article in WRRO
- Gender and proposed auto-enrolment in the Republic of Ireland: Lessons from the UK. Social Policy and Administration. View this article in WRRO
- Inequalities of aging: Paradoxes of independence in American home care Elana D. Buch, New York University Press, New York, 2018, 288 pp., pbk £22.99, ISBN 13: 9781479807178. Ageing and Society, 39(12), 2778-2780. View this article in WRRO
- Women millennials’ perceptions of pension savings through the use of Automatic Enrolment in the UK pension system. Journal of Women & Aging. View this article in WRRO
- Inequalities in women's awareness of changes to the State Pension Age in England and the role of cognitive ability. Ageing & Society. View this article in WRRO
- Older people and Social Quality – what difference does income make?. Ageing & Society. View this article in WRRO
- Active ageing, pensions and retirement in the UK. Journal of Population Ageing, 11(2), 117-132. View this article in WRRO
- Pensions planning in the UK: A gendered challenge. Critical Social Policy, 38(2), 345-366. View this article in WRRO
- From cradle to grave?: policy responses to death in the UK. Mortality. View this article in WRRO
- The impact of defamilisation measures on gender and pensions: a comparison between the UK and seven other European countries. Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 25(3), 199-217. View this article in WRRO
- Special issue on social science research methods education. Teaching Public Administration, 35(3), 237-240. View this article in WRRO
- An investigation of defamilization/familization measures to assist women to save pension income and strengthen the adult worker model — The case of Hong Kong. Asian Social Work and Policy Review. View this article in WRRO
- ‘I’m not a natural mathematician’: Inquiry-based learning, constructive alignment and introductory quantitative social science. Teaching Public Administration. View this article in WRRO
- Defamilisation and leave policies – a comparative study of 14 East Asian and non-East Asian countries. Journal of Asian Public Policy. View this article in WRRO
- Defamilization/familization measures and women's pension income - The case of Taiwan. Asian Social Work and Policy Review. View this article in WRRO
- Defamilisation measures and women's labour force participation – a comparative study of twelve countries. Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy, 33(1), 73-86. View this article in WRRO
- The effects of defamilization and familization measures on the accumulation of retirement income for women in the UK. Journal of Women and Aging, 29(6), 551-561. View this article in WRRO
- Young people and attitudes towards pension planning. Social Policy and Society, 16(1), 65-80. View this article in WRRO
- Defamilisation and familisation measures – can they reduce the adverse effects of pro-market pension reforms on women in Hong Kong and the UK?. Critical Social Policy, 36(2), 205-224. View this article in WRRO
- Social Quality and Work: What Impact Does Low Pay Have on Social Quality?. Journal of Social Policy, 45(2), 345-371. View this article in WRRO
- People with learning disabilities and ‘active ageing’. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 43(4), 270-276. View this article in WRRO
- Financial Planning and the Reality and Requirements of Retirees with Private Pensions. The Journal of Retirement, 3(1), 115-127. View this article in WRRO
- Active and Successful Aging: A European Policy Perspective.. Gerontologist, 55(1), 83-90. View this article in WRRO
- Ageing. Practice, 26(1), 73-75.
- Women's pensions in the European Union and the current economic crisis. Policy and politics, 42(4), 565-580. View this article in WRRO
- What cost the price of a good send off? The challenges for British state funeral policy. Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 21(1), 77-89.
- Gender and pensions: an analysis of factors affecting women's private pension scheme membership in the United Kingdom.. J Aging Soc Policy, 25(3), 197-217.
- Gender and active ageing in Europe. European Journal of Ageing, 10(1), 3-10.
- 'I might not live that long!' a study of young women's pension planning in the UK. Social Policy and Administration, 46(7), 769-787.
- Using a Political Economy and Life Course Approach to Understand Gendered Pension Provision in the UK. Sociology Compass, 6(11), 883-896.
- Active ageing and pensions in the European Union. Journal of Comparative Social Welfare, 28(3), 223-234.
- A golden silence? acts of remembrance and commemoration at U.K. football games. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 36(1), 50-67.
- Privatisation and pensions: What does this mean for women?. Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 19(2), 103-115.
- Older people, pensions and poverty: An issue for social workers?. INT SOC WORK, 54(3), 344-360.
- Towards a new political economy of pensions? The implications for women. Critical Social Policy, 30(1), 27-47.
- Do women teachers get a fairer deal? An assessment of the gendered nature of the teachers' pension. Social Policy and Society, 7(1), 41-52.
- Caught between virtue and ideological necessity. A century of pension policies in the UK. Review of Political Economy, 18(3), 427-448.
- Defamilisation/familisation measures and pensions in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Journal of Aging & Social Policy, 1-16.
- Transmitting inequality: Pensions policy and the gendered life course, Handbook on Gender and Social Policy (pp. 179-196).
- Conclusion - Where do we go from here?, Death and Social Policy in Challenging Times (pp. 184-189).
- Funeral welfare to the grave, Death and Social Policy in Challenging Times (pp. 73-90).
- Introduction — Why Death Matters to Policy In Foster L & Woodthorpe K (Ed.), Death and Social Policy in Challenging Times (pp. 1-14). Springer
- Forward: A Good Death for All? In Foster L & Woodthorpe K (Ed.), Death and Social Policy in Challenging Times Springer
- Social policy and care of older people at the end of life, Death and Social Policy in Challenging Times (pp. 17-34).
- Getting tough on the family-migration route: a blurring of the 'them' and 'us' in anti-immigration rhetoric In Foster L (Ed.), In Defence of Welfare 2 Policy Press
- Towards a fairer pension system for women? assessing the impact of recent pension changes on women, Social Policy Review 26: Analysis and Debate in Social Policy, 2014 (pp. 29-46).
- Chapter 2: Active ageing: rhetoric, theory and practice, The Making of Ageing Policy (pp. 27-52).
- Ageing and Social Class: An Enduring Relationship, The Futures of Old Age (pp. 44-53).
- Martin Formosa and Paul Higgs (eds.) Social Class in Later Life: Power, Identity and Lifestyle. Bristol: Policy Press, £70.00, 208 pp., hdk.. Journal of Social Policy, 45(1), 167-168.
- Active Ageing: Voluntary Work by Older People in Europe, Andrea Principi, Per H. Jensen, and Giovanni Lamura, eds.. J Aging Soc Policy, 27(2), 192-194.
- Qualitative Methods for Practice Research, Pocket Guides to Research. BRITISH JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK, 43(2), 417-418.
- Qualitative Research Skills for Social Work. BRITISH JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK, 43(1), 191-192.
- Working with Disabled People in Policy and Practice. BRITISH JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK, 42(2), 388-389.
- Miriam Bernard and Thomas Scharf (eds.) (2007). Critical Perspectives on Ageing Societies. Bristol: The Policy Press, Ageing and the Lifecourse Series, 200 pp. ISBN 978-1-86134-890-6 (paperback). International Journal of Ageing and Later Life, 4(2), i-iv.
Conference proceedings papers
- Women’s attitudes and expectations towards pension saving for retirement in the UK. Innovation in Aging, Vol. 1(suppl_1) (pp 185-185). San Francisco, CA, USA, 23 July 2017 - 27 July 2017. View this article in WRRO
- Teaching interests
Liam teaches and supervises students at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Much of his teaching is driven by his research interests, skills and experience which incorporate quantitative and qualitative approaches.
At all levels Liam encourages learning through inquiry and seek to expose students to the most up-to-date research and techniques. In Liam's methods teaching students are encouraged, both in lectures and seminars, to conduct and analyse research, learning first-hand the vital contribution of empirical and grounded knowledge.
For instance, in order to enhance student’s quantitative skills workbooks including student activities are employed. These were developed jointly with Dr Tom Clark initially with the assistance of a CILASS grant award and then with a HEA Grant Award. These are used as a teaching resource by the HEA.
Liam was awarded the first University of Sheffield Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences Award in 2013/14.
Liam has written popular methods books which are used in teaching. These include: 'Beginning statistics for social scientists' (with Sir Ian Diamond and Dr Julie Jefferies), 'How to do your social research project or dissertation' (with Dr Tom Clark and Prof Alan Bryman) and is currently updating the 6th edition of the best-selling methods book 'Social research methods' (with Prof Alan Bryman, Dr Tom Clark and Dr Luke Sloan).
- Teaching activities
Liam currently convenes the following undergraduate modules:
- SCS2003 Doing Quantitative Social Research
- SCS2023 Social Problems, Policy and Practice
See our Undergraduate Degree pages.
He is also involved in the supervision of students taking extended essays and dissertations at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and undertakes teaching on other postgraduate modules in social work and sociology.
See our Taught Masters Degrees pages.
Liam is currently involved in supervising (first, second or joint) supervising four students working on topics which include: research on family care for older people in Trinidad and Tobago, perceptions of disability, workfare policy in Hong Kong and global pensions.
Liam welcomes applications to study full-time or part-time with him for MPhil or PhD research degrees that are related to his activities and experience.
To find out more about our PhD programmes, go to: