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Dr Urban, Mathias

Contact details

Position: Reader

Location: ED5.03 Stratford Campus

Telephone: +44 (0)20 8223 6294


Contact address:

Cass School of Education and Communities
Stratford Campus
Water Lane
E15 4LZ

Brief biography

The revelatory, gnosiological practice of education does not itself effect the transformation of the world: but it implies it.
Paulo Freire

Ever since my first professional encounter with young children – as a practitioner, working with Sinti and Roma children in a community development project – I have been interested in the emancipatory promise of education; its potential to contribute to a more equitable and just life for all.

I have been working in the field of early childhood for some 25 years now, as practitioner, trainer, lecturer and researcher. Initially qualified as a primary and secondary school teacher, I began my career in an early childhood programme at a community development centre that was committed to the pedagogical ideas of Paulo Freire and Célestin Freinet. My strong belief that pedagogical and educational practice needs to address children as members of a community stems from these first experiences. Educational practice, as I first encountered it, was deeply embedded in the social, cultural, economic and political context of a society that structurally disadvantages children and families from minority backgrounds. The experiences I made there informed the thesis I wrote for a Masters degree in Pedagogy (Diplompaedagoge); they also laid the foundations for my PhD in 1995 at the University of Frankfurt, which examined and reconceptualised participatory planning with children, practitioners, parents and architects.

I have taught at several German universities (Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, Trier), worked as freelance researcher for the German Youth Institute (Munich) and, with the Free University of Berlin, for the ‘National Quality Initiative’ before taking a position at the Martin-Luther-University of Halle-Wittenberg. At Halle university, I taught Sociology of Education and established ‘Early Childhood and Profession – International Centre for Research, Studies and Development’ (EC+P). From this centre, together with a consortium of six European universities, we developed and piloted the first ever ‘Joint European Masters in Early Childhood Education and Care’ (EMEC), funded by the European Commission.

In 2008 I was awarded the status of Visiting Fellow at the Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU), Institute of Education, University of London. I have joined UEL in March 2009, here I lead the Doctor of Education (EdD) programme and continue to develop international collaborative research on professionalism in early childhood.

I am particularly interested in exploring understandings of early childhood professionalism, professional practices and professional knowledge in diverse socio-cultural contexts.

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Activities and responsibilities

Research and doctoral supervision (PhD and EdD)

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Areas of Interest/Summary of Expertise

Early childhood education and care professionalism
Critical perspectives on early childhood
International, cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary perspectives
Collaborative and participatory research
Diversity, equality and social justice
Dialogic evaluation

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Teaching: Programmes

I supervise doctoral students and teach on both the PhD and Doctor of Education (EdD) programmes.
I am interested in supervising doctoral theses in the areas of early childhood (international policy and practice), critical pedagogy, diversity, equality and social inclusion.

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Teaching: Modules

  • ETM600 - Key Approaches to Educational Research
  • ETM601 - Methods and Analysis in Educational Research
  • ETM602 - Research Planning and Design
  • EDM501 - Issues and Controversies in Early Childhood and Child Development

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Current research and publications

Research Publications

Urban, M. (2012, guest editor) Editorial. European Journal of Education. Special Edition on Early Childhood Education and Care (47)2012
Urban, M. (2012) Researching early childhood policy and practice: a critical ecology. European Journal of Education (47)2012) 494-507
Urban, M., Vandenbroeck, M., Van Laere, K., Lazzari, A. & Peeters, J. (2012) Towards competent systems in early childhood education and care. Implications for policy and practice. European Journal of Education (47)2012 508-526
Murrray, C. & Urban, M. (2012) Diversity and Equality in Early Childhood. An Irish perspective. Dublin: Gill& Macmillan
Miller, L., Dalli, C. & Urban, M. (2011) Early Childhood grows up. Towards a critical ecology of the profession. Dordrecht and London: Springer
Urban, M., Vandenbroeck, M., Van Laere, K., Lazzari, A. & Peeters, J. (2011) Competence requirements in early childhood education and care. Final report. Brussels: European Commission
Moss, P. & Urban, M. (2010) Democracy and Experimentation: two fundamental values for education. Guetersloh: Bertelsmann Stiftung
Urban, M. (2010) Zones of Professional Development: arguments for reclaiming practice-based evidence in early childhood practice and research. In J. Hayden & A. Tuna (2010) Early Childhood Programs as the Doorway to Social Cohesion: Application of Vygotsky's Ideas from an East-West Perspective. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars
Urban, M. & Dalli, C. (2010) Professionalism in Early Childhood Education and Care: international perspectives. London: Routledge 2010
Urban, M. (2010, guest editor) Rethinking Professionalism in Early Childhood: untested feasibilities and critical ecologies. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, Special edition Vol. 11(1) 2010
Urban, M. (2009) Early Childhood Education in Europe: Achievements, Challenges and Possibilities. Brussels: Education International ヨ LメInternationale de Lメ￉ducation
Urban, M. (2010) Duurzame verandering: professioneel leren in een kritische leergemeenschap. In: van Keulen, A. & del Barrio Saiz, A. (2010 ed) Permanent leren. Van zelfreflectie naar teamreflectie. Amsterdam: SWP
Urban, M. & Dalli, C. (2008, guest editors) Professionalism in Early Childhood Education and Care. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, special edition Vol. 16(2)
Urban, M. (2008) Dealing with uncertainty: challenges and possibilities for the early childhood profession. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, special edition Vol. 16(2)
Urban, M. (2008) Critical Thinking in Forschung, Praxis und Politik: Der Joint European Master in Early Childhood Education and Care. In: von Balluseck (2008 ed.) Professionalisierung der Fruehpaedagogik. Opladen: Budrich
Urban, M. (2008) Wissenschaftliche Begleitung in kommunalen Netzwerken. In: Bertelsmann Stiftung (2008) Kommunale Netzwerke fuer Kinder. Ein Handbuch zur Governance fruehkindlicher Bildung. Guetersloh: Bertelsmann Stiftung
Rabe-Kleberg, U. & Urban, M. (2008) Initiative Werkstatt Weiterbildung: Die Fort- und Weiterbildung im Elementarbereich muss reformiert werden. Blaetter der Wohlfahrtspflege 1 2008
Urban, M. (2007) Strategies for Change: reflections from a systemic, comparative research project. In: Hayes, N. & Bradley, S. (2007 eds.) A Decade of Reflection. Early Childhood Education and Care in Ireland 1996 - 2006. Dublin: Centre for Social and Educational Research
Urban, M. (2005) Quality, Autonomy and the Profession. In: Schonfeld, H., O'Brien, S., Walsh, T. (2005 Eds.) Questions of Quality - Proceedings of a Conference on Defining, Assessing and Supporting Quality in Early Childhood Care and Education. Dublin: Centre for Early Childhood Development & Education

Current research

Roma Early Childhood Inclusion (RECI)
Study on early childhood policy and provision in Central and Eastern European countries, funded by Open Society Foundation (OSF), UNICEF and Roma Education Fund (REF) (Lead Researcher)
Competence Requirements in Early Childhood Education and Care (CORE)
Pan-European research project funded by the European Commission, Directorate General for Education and Culture (Principal Investigator, Programme Coordinator)

Requisitos de Competencia en Educacion y Cuidado de la primera Infancia en Colombia / Competence Requirements in Early Childhood Education and Care in Colombia (CORE-C)
Collaborative research project with interdisciplinary research group PILIS (Primera Infacia, Lenguaje e Inclusion Social) at Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogota (
Impacts of Privatisation of Early Childhood Education (PECE)
Study on impacts of privatisation of ECE and ECD programmes funded by Education International (Principal Investigator)
Framework Service Contract to provide expertise and support for European cooperation in Education and Training
Expert network funded by European Commission, Directorate General for Education and Care
(Cluster Leader 'Early Childhood Education and Care')

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Other scholarly activities


European Early Childhood Education Research Journal (EECERJ)
(Member of the Editorial Board)
UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
(Member of the Peer Review College)
European Education Research Quality Indicators (EERQI)
(Member of the Review Panel 2009-2011)
European Early Childhood Research Association (EECERA)
(Member of the Board of Trustees 2004-2010)
Special Interest Group (SIG) 'Professionalism in Early Childhood'
(SIG Convenor)
Eurochild ( )
(Co-chair of Thematic Working Group 'Early Years Education and Care')
Equality and Diversity Forum (
British Educational Research Association (BERA)
American Educational Research Association (AERA)
(Special Interest Group 'Critical Perspectives on Early Childhood' / Early Childhood Education Dissertation Award Committee)
New Zealand Association for Research in Education (NZARE)
Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC) / University of Wolverhampton
Longitudinal study on Early Years Professional (EYPs)
(Member of Scientific Advisory board 2009-2012)
Vernieuwend en permanent leren in het omgaan met diverse ouders: Professionalisering van beroepskrachten en ontwikkeling van een diversiteitsgevoelig ouderbeleid
via vernieuwend en permanent leren (VPL) / MUTANT, Utrecht, The Netherlands
(Member of Scientific Advisory Board)
Diversity in Early Childhood Education and Training (DECET) international network

Peer Review

European Early Childhood Education Research Journal (EECERJ)

Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood (CIEC)


Early Years. An International Journal of Research and Development

Educational Policy. An Interdisciplinary Journal of Policy and Practice

Journal of Child and Family Studies

Early Education

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