Professor Judith Harford was conferred to the Fellowship of the Academy in autumn 2023. She is Professor of Education at the School of Education at University College Dublin (UCD), and her research focuses on the history of education policy with a particular emphasis on gender and social class.
The author of over 70 articles and chapters, Judith has written and edited numerous books including The Opening of University Education to Women in Ireland; Secondary School Education in Ireland, 1922-67; A Cultural History of Education in the Modern Age; and Piety and Privilege: Catholic Secondary Schooling in Ireland and the Theocratic State, 1922-67.
Outside of her position at UCD, Judith is also Chair of the Royal Irish Academy Social Sciences Committee; Public Interest Representative on the Law Society of Ireland Board of Examiners; and a Fellow of the Geary Institute, UCD. She has acted as an international advisor to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Estonian Research Council. She is a Fellow of both the Royal Historical Society (London) and the Massachusetts Historical Society (USA), an Ireland Canada University Foundation Flaherty Visiting Professor, and a Fulbright Scholar in the Social Sciences.
Judith has held Visiting Fellow appointments at Harvard University, the University of Cambridge, University College London, the University of Toronto and Boston College. As the Vice President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at UCD from 2018-2021, she contributed regularly to the national press on educational issues. She was awarded the Irish Research Council Impact Researcher of the Year Award for 2022 in recognition of her work in the area of gender and social class inequalities in education.
What are the social sciences and why do they matter?
Social science research empowers us to understand and make sense of the complex, evolving and unpredictable world in which we live. Understanding how social, cultural, political and economic forces shape our lives and the world in which we live is fundamental to our shared future and collective endeavour.
What inspires you most about your work?
I am passionate about harnessing the potential for education to create a more inclusive society. Witnessing the difference education can make to the life of an individual, a family, and a community inspires and motivates me to continue to advocate for a more inclusive educational landscape.
What is the most urgent issue social scientists need to tackle today and within the next three years?
There is a range of pressing issues social scientists need to tackle in the short to medium term. Human rights violations, food and energy insecurity, poverty, erosion of social cohesion, gender-based violence, climate change and geopolitical conflict are some of the most urgent, many of which intersect. The key issue is how social scientists can work together and with others in the research and policy space to address these issues.
What does being a Fellow of the Academy mean to you?
I am deeply honoured to be conferred as a Fellow of the Academy and to join a community of world-leading social scientists. I look forward to advancing the work of the Academy in both tackling and anticipating global challenges.