Dr Karen West

Reader in Sociology and Policy

Karen West

I joined Aston in 2004, first in the Public Policy and Public Services Group in Aston Business School.  In 2007, I was instrumental in the merger of Public and Social Policy with Sociology, and moved to the School of Languages and Social Sciences.   Since 2016, I have been Head of the Sociology and Policy Department as well as leader of the Ageing Lives Cluster of the Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing.  The focus of my work for about the last twelve years has been on ageing and I have carried out numerous research projects on this general theme, including research on local community support services for older people, extra care housing and support, social care and older adults, and extended working life.  I have two current research projects. The first is an investigation of the benefits of volunteer bereavement support for older recipients of bereavement support -including those bereaved by dementia- and older volunteers, funded by Cruse Bereavement Care in association with the ExtraCare Charitable Trust.  The second, funded by the Averil Osborn Fund and the Tudor Trust and in collaboration with colleagues from Lancaster, LSE, UCL and the OU, is examining the benefits of co-housing as a general model of housing and support for later life.  The work is being carried out, in the first instance, in partnership with the Older Women’s Co-housing Network (OWCH).  All of my research seeks to make an impact on policy and practice, but always also with a view to advancing theoretical understanding of contemporary ageing.  

The focus of my theoretical work is the broad theme of ageism and, in particular, the ageism embedded in public policy and policy discourse more generally.  My current book project seeks to reinvigorate critical gerontology and, in particular, examines how policy, broadly understood, manages capitalism’s ambivalent relationship to ageing and longevity and, in turn, how that impacts on subjectivity.   I am also interested in the potential of intergenerational relationships in overcoming age prejudice and, to that end, am leading an interdisciplinary group of scholars at Aston and beyond to develop collaborative research projects on this theme.

I teach on undergraduate and post-graduate programmes in Sociology, Public Policy and Social Policy at Aston.  Among other innovations, I have introduced the topic of ageing to the curriculum in an effort to bring ‘age education’ (Gullette, 2017) into HE.  In 2017 I was appointed Visiting Professor at the University of Örebro, Sweden, where I am supporting their interdisciplinary EU-funded PhD programme on ageing and helping to develop collaborative research proposals in the general field of ageing.   

Undergraduate modules

  • LK1011 Becoming a Social Scientist
  • LK1012 Social Problems and Public Policies (A): Making and Implementing Polices
  • LK3006 Ageing, Society, Policy

Postgraduate Modules

  • LBM005 Social Policy: Contemporary Themes and Challenges


  • Research Methods and Skills

Peer reviewed journal articles

Book sections

Glynos, J., West, K., Hagger, B. and Shaw, R. (2014, forthcoming)’ Narrative, Fantasy, and Mourning: A Critical Exploration of Life & Loss in Assisted Living Environments’, in Fotaki, M. and Kenny, K. (eds) The Psychosocial and Organization Studies: Affect at Work.

West, K. (2014, forthcoming) ‘Older people, population ageing and policy responses’ in Bochel, H. and Daly, G (eds) Social Policy(3rd edition), Routledge.

West, K. (2007) Intermunicipal cooperation in France: incentives, instrumentality and ‘coquilles vides, in Hulst, R and Van Montfort, A, Intermunicipal Cooperation in Europe, Kluwer/Springer.

Thornley, A and West, K. (2005) ‘The contribution of the Greater London Authority to London’s Strategic PlanningAgenda’, in Johnstone, C. and Whitehead, M, New Horizons in British Urban Planning, Ashgate.

Book Reviews

West, K. (2013) Review of Hugh T. Miller ‘Governing narratives.  Symbolic politics and policy change’ Critical Policy Studiesvol 7/3: pp. 364-371.

West, K., Review (2008) of John Loughlin, Subnational Government: The French Experience, Public Administration, Vol 86/4:1139-1140.

West, K, (2008) Review of Harald Baldersheim and Hellmut Wollmann (eds), The Comparative Study of Local Government and Politics: Overview and Synthesis, Public Administration, Vol 86/3: 871-872

Room:  NW 925
Phone: 0121 204 3194
Email:  k.west@aston.ac.uk