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The International Centre for the Study of the Mixed Economy of Childcare (ICMEC)

About us

The International Centre for the Study of the Mixed Economy of Childcare (ICMEC) is a multi-disciplinary research centre set up in May 2007, by Professors Helen Penn and Eva Lloyd. It is based in UEL’s Cass School of Education and Communities. ICMEC works to generate greater knowledge about Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) provision in countries which employ mixed economies of welfare and education services. ICMEC aims to critically analyse and document rapid trends toward privatisation and marketisation of early education and childcare provision in the UK, and to set these in the wider context of international changes.

The centre, which has close links with UEL’s Royal Docks Business School, brings together academics and students from across the University and other academic institutions nationally and internationally, as well as childcare business leaders, policy makers and professionals from the public and private childcare sectors.

ICMEC was officially launched by Stephen Timms MP, Minister of State for Competitiveness at the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform at an international conference held at UEL's Docklands Campus on 10th September 2007. While it acts primarily as a virtual centre to support collaboration and serve as a meeting point and clearing house for all interested in the mixed economy of childcare, ICMEC also organises meetings and seminars in Britain. These feature a range of national and international speakers in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) and related fields.

ICMEC’s aims:

  • To generate greater knowledge about Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) provision in countries which employ mixed economies of welfare and education services
  • To explore the contribution to young children’s well being within mixed economies of childcare 
  • To develop an international and multi-disciplinary approach to exploring mixed economies of childcare
ICMEC’s work programme:
  • Developing a policy-relevant research agenda concerning comparisons between ECEC privatisation and marketisation processes in a variety of countries
  • Establishing a virtual network of academics and stakeholders from the public, private for-profit and private not-for-profit (PVI) childcare sectors, in order to create a forum for the discussion of pertinent trends and developments in mixed economies of childcare
  • Organising a programme of events and international seminars to profile relevant scholarship and support knowledge transfer
  • Presenting ICMEC generated research and other pertinent findings to a wide range of audiences nationally and internationally, including policymakers, academics, childcare business leaders and childcare professionals and parents
This work programme was agreed at the first meeting of ICMEC’s Advisory Board on 10 September 2007.


Director: Professor Eva Lloyd -

Visiting Scholar: Ivana La Valle

Members of ICMEC’s Advisory Board contribute to the work of the research centre in many different ways. ICMEC ‘s co-directors are grateful for the advice and practical support they continue to receive from members of the Advisory Board.

Members of ICMEC’s Advisory Board contribute to the work of the research centre in many different ways.  ICMEC ‘s co-directors  are grateful for the advice and practical support they continue to receive from members of the Advisory Board:
  • Jim Barry – Emeritus Professor of Gender and Organization Studies, Business School, UEL and Visiting Professor at Luleå University of Technology in Sweden.
  • Mike Brewer (until September 2008) – Professor of Economics at the University of Essex and Research Fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies; previously an Economic Assistant at HM Treasury.
  • Kazem Chaharbaghi - Professor of Management at UEL Business of School and Director of University of East London’s multi-disciplinary research programmes.
  • William Laing - economist and Chief Executive of Laing & Buisson, a market research organization specializing in the social care sector, including childcare, which he set up in 1976.
  • Peter Moss – Emeritus Professor in Early Childhood Provision at the Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.
  • Dr Gillian Paul - (from September 2008) is an Associate of Frontier Economics Research and a Research Associate at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, London
  • Susan Prentice - Professor of Sociology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada.
  • Jennifer Sumsion - Foundation Professor of Early Childhood Education, Charles Sturt University, Australia NSW.
  • Raymond A Whyte - Projects & Information Officer, Children and Families Department, LB Brent
The initial Board was invited to serve for 12 months. A process has been developed for seeking expressions of interest and for facilitating regular rotation of membership over subsequent years.

Louise Arnold

David Bara

Paulet Brown

Andrew Colley

Rebecca Crutchley

Casey Edmonds

Dr Eirini Gkouskou

Richard Harty

Dr Janet Hoskin

Katie Ketcher

Debbie Kilbride

Ruksana Mohammed

Havva Oykener

Fran Paffard

Charlotte Page

Graham Robertson

Dr Jennifer Robson

Gemma Ryder

Ben Taylor

Athina Tempriou

Dr Evgenia Theodotou

Dr Carrie Weston

Rose White

Dr Andrew Wilkins

Mark Wilson

Dr Miyoung An, Kookmin University, Seoul, South Korea

Profa. Dra. Rosania Campos, Universidade da Regiao de Joinville / UNIVILLE, Brazil

Giselle Cory, BULA

Dr Nina Hogrebe, University of Muenster, DBR

Dr Jana Javornik, UEL

Dr Sirene Lim, Singapore University of Social Sciences, Singapore

Dr Estelle Martin, Independent researcher

Dr Alganesh Messele, Independent researcher

Prof. Dr Johanna Mierendorff, University of Halle, DBR

Professor Emeritus Helen Penn, Co-founder of ICMEC

Professor Fran Press, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW Australia

Professor Elizabeth Quintero, California State University, Channel Islands USA

Dr Zinnia Mevawalla, Macquarie University, NSW Australia

Dr Gail Yuen, Wai Kwan, The Education University of Hong Kong, China

Prof. Hasina Ebrahim, UNISA, Pretoria, South Africa

Dr Wim Van Lancker, University of Leuven, Belgium

Research projects

ICMEC progresses a research agenda by its staff regularly submitting research proposals to a variety of funding agencies and councils. They do this individually and jointly, as well as in collaboration with other university departments at UEL and at other universities at home and abroad, private research agencies, national NGOs and early childhood specialists.

Seminar Series

ICMEC’s annual programme of international seminars is intended to profile relevant scholarship and support knowledge transfer regarding the format and impact of mixed economies of childcare. It is aimed at a diverse audience of academics, childcare business leaders and childcare practitioners, policy makers at central and local government level, researchers for think tanks and other independent research agencies, journalist and union staff.

For further details and to put your name on our mailing list email Eva Lloyd:

See below for details of our list of Seminar Series: 



Emeritus Professor Helen Penn and Professor Eva Lloyd regularly publish academic papers, some in collaboration with ICMEC Visiting Scholars. For all publications, the best place to look is under their individual staff profiles.

You can find her articles on English Early childhood policy and the early childhood work force here:


Penn, H. and LLoyd, E. (2014) How can Government ensure that early care and education is of good quality in a market system? Learning from international experience. Dublin: Start Strong

On 3 December Emeritus Professor Helen Penn delivered a major speech at a national conference in Dublin organised by childcare NGO Start Strong, a coalition of organisations and individuals seeking to advance children’s early care and education in Ireland. The conference saw the launch of a report – Childcare: Business or Profession? – aimed at moving on the childcare policy debate in Ireland to ensure better quality provision. This report, edited by Toby Wolf from Start Strong, is in four parts.

Professor Helen Penn took the lead, with Eva Lloyd’s input, in drafting a research section on the subject ‘How can the Government Ensure that Early Care and Education is of High Quality in a Market System? Learning from International Experience.’ The conference, which was addressed by James Reilly, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, attracted a large audience as well as a good deal of media and professional attention. To read the report, click on this link: 2014 Start Strong Ireland Childcare_Business_or_Profession_Full_Report_Web_Version

(posted December 2014)
The Journal Economic Affairs, which is associated with the think tank The Institute of Economic Affairs, in October 2014 published a ‘Comment’ piece by Eva Lloyd on an article by economist Gillian Paull in its February 2014 issue, ‘Can government intervention in childcare be justified?’  The title of Eva's contribution is: ‘Comment: we need to change the childcare subsidy system, ’ Economic Affairs, 34 (3), pp. 402-405

(posted December 2014)
  • A major report on the London childcare market was published in early February 2011 by the London Development Agency and launch at an ICMEC seminar on 3 March 2011. Eva Lloyd and Helen Penn co-wrote this report, together with researchers from two independent social and economic research agencies: Roger Tym & Partners and Laing & Buisson. Eva gave a presentation on this report to the GLA Health and Public Services Committee in September 2011 to inform their work on the formulation of a London wide childcare strategy.
To download the report click on:
  • At the start of 2011 Open University Press published a new book by Helen Penn:Quality in Early Childhood Services: An International Perspective. (ISBN 9780335228782)
According to the publishers' synopsis: "This book examines how quality and good practice in early childhood education and care (ECEC) is interpreted and implemented in a variety of settings and circumstances. Drawing on her experience of research and policy making in a wide variety of countries, the author considers the variety of rationales that inform services for early childhood education and care. Services are organized, financed and delivered in many different ways across the world. The policies that have been adopted by governments, and the resources which are made available for implementing them, have shaped practice. On the one hand there are complex ideas about what children should be learning and how they should be learning. These ideas about curriculum and the training of teachers and carers may differ radically between countries. On the other hand policies have been prompted by the need to reconcile family and work obligations and to provide childcare to support working mothers, irrespective of educational concerns. The notions of economic competition and parental choice have led to the growth of private for-profit childcare services which promote a particular view of quality and achievement. Above all, growing inequality within countries, and between rich and poor countries, have undermined attempts to provide good quality services. In an unfair world, the impact of any services is likely to be distorted. This book charts the many different approaches to understanding and measuring quality and gives an exceptionally well-informed overview."
  • Eva Lloyd and Helen Penn recently published a paper on Eva Lloyd's recently completed comparative study of the Dutch and English childcare markets, which was funded by the Royal Docks Business School at UEL. The paper appeared in Public Policy Research, the journal of the think tank Institute for Public Policy Research, IPPR. Lloyd, E. and Penn, H. (2010) 'Why do childcare markets fail? Comparing England and the Netherlands.' Public Policy Research, Vol 17(1), 42-48.
  • The impact of the mixed market economy of childcare on the structure and professionalisation of the early childhood workforce is clearly reflected in the creation of the status of Early Years Professional. Together with Dr Elaine Hallet at the Institute of Education of the University of London Eva Lloyd this year published this paper locating the creation of this status within its policy context and exploring it within the theoretical framework of sociological theories of the professions. Lloyd, E. and Hallet, E. (2010) 'Professionalising the early childhood workforce in England: work in progress or missed opportunity?' Contemporary Issues in the Early Years, Vol 11(1), 75-88.
  • Siyabonana: we all see each other is the title of the latest publication from Children in Scotland in their International Perspective Series on Building Better Childhoods. The book deals with building better childhoods in South Africa, was written by Helen Penn and Trisha Maynard and was published in the last week of February 2010. The report's ISBN number is 978-1 901589-88-7 and it an be ordered online at
  • At the start of June 2009 a major report for the European Commission appeared, written by Helen Penn. She prepared this report on Early Childhood Education and Care: Key lessons from research for Policy Makers in collaboration with a team of experts. To see the report, follow this link: NESSE_ECEC_REPORT_JUNE09
  • Another important report was recently published by the EU Expert Group on Gender, Social Inclusion and Employment. This comparison of childcare policies and systems in 30 countries can be accessed by following this link: the provision of childcare services comparative EU report 2009
  • Zena Brabazon, the ICMEC Research Fellow in 2011 completed her research into the uptake of Children's Centre services, which was undertaken with support from a Children's Workforce Development Council's Practitioner research grant. To see her report follow this link: zena final version feb 26
  • At the start of November 2008 Helen Penn presented a paper, International perspectives on quality in mixed economies of childcare, at a conference organised by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. Her paper has now been published in the National Institute Economic Review's January 2009 issue.
  • In the issues of Nursery World dated 6 November 2008 Eva Lloyd published an analysis piece: 'Informal care too costly for the Dutch.' The Netherlands has pioneered financial help for grandparents childminding for their family, but while uptake has been huge, the system has thrown up unintended side-effects.
  • October 2008. Eva Lloyd's analysis of the interface between New Labour's childcare, family support and child poverty strategies has now been published. This article does discuss developments in the mixed economy of childcare in recent years. 'The interface between childcare, family support and child poverty strategies under New Labour: tensions and contradictions' can be found in Social Policy and Society, 7:4, 479-494.
  • September 2008. The second edition of Helen Penn's book Understanding Early Childhood: Issues and Controversies, has just appeared with Open University Press (2008, 2nd edition). It contains new coverage of global trends in early childhood policy and provision, including market approaches.
  • For a direct link to Helen Penn's 2007 article on the UK childcare market in the journal Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood follow the link in the left-hand margin on this website's landing page under the heading 'Archive'.

ICMEC Working Papers

From 2017 ICMEC is publishing occasional working papers produced by its research associates. The ICMEC Working Paper series is intended to profile relevant scholarship and support knowledge transfer regarding the format and impact of mixed economies of childcare. The series will present preliminary work and are circulated to encourage discussion. Citation of any paper should account for its provisional character. A revised version may be available directly from the author.

ICMEC Working Paper 1


CMEC was selected by the Cass School of Education and Communities as an impact case study to be submitted for the 2014 Research Excellence Framework - REF. The REF decision making panels assessed the 'reach and significance' of impacts on the economy, society and/or culture that were underpinned by excellent research conducted in the submitted unit, as well as the submitted unit's approach to enabling impact from its research. A summary of this ICMEC case study can be found on the uel website: early childhood education and care - UEL


Contact ICMEC

Professor Eva Lloyd

Emeritus Professor Helen Penn

Cass School of Education and Communities
University of East London
Stratford Campus
Water Lane 
London E15 4LZ
Tel: +44 (0)208 223 2834