The University of Sheffield
Department of Sociological Studies

Professor Alan Walker

Professor of Social Policy and Social Gerontology (BA, DLitt, Hon. D.Soc.Sc. (HKBU), FBA, FRSA, AcSS, CBE)
Director of the New Dynamics of Ageing Programme

Photo of Alan Walker

Room: Elmfield, G41 | Telephone: 0114 222 6466 (external), 26466 (internal)

Academic Profile

Alan Walker joined the Department in 1977 and was a Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Reader in Social Policy. He was appointed Professor of Social Policy in 1985 and was Head of Department from 1988 to 1996. He directed the £3.5 million ESRC Growing Older Programme, 1999-2004, and the UK National Collaboration on Ageing Research, 2001-2004. He is currently Director of two major European Projects: INNOVAGE and MOPACT. Previously he directed the European Research Area in Ageing and the FUTURAGE Project. He supervises a large number of postgraduate students and was until recently the Research Director for the Social Sciences Division in the University.


His research interests span a wide range in social analysis, social policy and social planning. He is a specialist in social gerontology and, with two colleagues in the Netherlands, is responsible for developing the concept of social quality and he Chairs the European Foundation on Social Quality, which is based in Amsterdam. Currently he directs the New Dynamics of Ageing Research Programme funded by five Research Councils. He has published more than 30 books, over 200 reports and more than 300 papers in scholarly journals and edited volumes. His work has been published in more than 20 languages. He is a founding Academician of the Academy for Learned Societies in the Social Sciences, and, in 2007, was given lifetime achievement awards by both the British Society of Gerontology and the Social Policy Association. He has been active in the UK voluntary sector for many years and co-founded the Disability Alliance in 1974. He is currently Patron of the National Pensioner's Convention.

Research Topics


Director of the ESRC Growing Older Research Programme on Extending Quality Life (1999-2004).

The twin objectives of the programme were to establish a broad-based multidisciplinary and co-ordinated research programme designed to generate new knowledge on the extension of quality life; and to contribute to the development of policies and practices in the field and, thereby, help to extend quality life. The research topics covered by the programme were defining and measuring quality of life; inequalities in quality of life, the role of technology and the built environment, healthy and productive ageing, family and support networks and participation and activity in later life.


Director of the New Dynamics of Ageing Research Programme (2005-2012)

This multi-disciplinary research programme is sponsored by the ESRC, EPSRC, BBSRC, MRC and AHRC. For further information see


Director of the European Forum on Population Ageing Research (2002-2004)

Director of FUTURAGE: The European Road Map for Ageing Research (2009-2011).
For further information see

Director of the European Research Area in Ageing (2004 - 2012)
For further information see

Director of the UK National Collaboration on Ageing Research (2000-2004)

The objectives of the NCAR were to stimulate new multi-disciplinary research groups in the field of ageing; to develop a new cross-Research Council approach to research on ageing with an explicit interdisciplinary theme; to encourage stronger links between research and policy and practice in the ageing field; and to develop the European dimension of ageing research in the UK.


This mainly focusses on the welfare regimes of the Member States of the European Union and the social policy competencies of the European Commission. Convenor of the European Social Policy Research Network formed under the European Sociological Association and co-founder of ESPAnet.


This is designed to provide an independent rationale for social policy in Europe. The concept comprises social inclusion/exclusion, social cohesion/anomie, socio-economic security/insecurity, and social empowerment/subordination. A European Foundation exists to co-ordinate this work, with members in all EU countries and with links to the European Commission. Chair of this European Foundation on Social Quality which is based in Amsterdam. For further information see


This research covers a broad field and includes theoretical work on the social construction of old age and the relationship between ageing and welfare/social policy; empirical research on the social relationships of old age, attitudes towards ageing and socio-economic security in old age; policy evaluations in the areas of pensions and long term care and comparative research on the impact of societal ageing in both Europe and East Asia and the politics of old age.


This research covers the impact of ageing workforces, age discrimination in the labour market, labour market policies on older workers, employers' responses to workforce ageing and good practice in the employment of older workers. I was responsible for the first European research of actions to overcome age barriers in employment, covering seven EU countries and have co-led the development of a European Code of Good Practice on age and employment.


This is a long-standing interest in the welfare systems of East Asia and China - including many PhD students from Hong Kong, China, Japan and Taiwan - and the Confucian, family oriented, ideology. This research includes comparative work on models of welfare east and west.


Having conducted (with Carol Walker) the first major study in the UK on older people with learning difficulties, this represents on ongoing research programme covering the distribution of health and social services, user involvement, human rights, the principle of normalisation and the problems encountered by older carers.


Again this is a long-standing interest in poverty and inequality, which has recently been amalgamated into the research on social quality (see above). Research concentrates on the dimensions of social exclusion, measuring exclusion and its impact, the meaning of poverty and the lives of those experiencing it. This research includes European and local community dimensions.


This research is largely subsumed under that on social quality and social gerontology but also includes a general interest in ideas of empowerment and the mechanisms by which citizens can be involved actively in decision making and research.


As well as general interests in social policy and ageing there are specific interests in relations between the generations both at a macro level (the social contract) and, at a micro level, within families.

Recent Funded Research Projects
Date Sponsor Details
2013-2017 European Commission Mobalising Active Ageing in Europe (MOPACT)
2012-2015 European Commission Social Innovations for Active Ageing (INNOVAGE)
2009-2011 European Commission A Road May for Ageing Research (FUTURAGE)
2004-2012 European Commission European Research Area in Ageing (ERA-AGE)
2004-2012 ESRC, EPSRC, BBSRC, MRC, AHRC New Dynamics of Ageing
2002-2005 European Commission European Forum on Population Ageing Research
1999-2004 ESRC Growing Older Research Programme on Extending Quality Life

Major Publications

Walker, A. (ed) (2014) The New Science of Ageing, Bristol, Policy Press.

van der Maesen, L. and Walker, A. (2011) (eds) Social Quality: From Theory to Indicators, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 336 pp.

Walker, A., Sinfield, A. and Walker, C. (2011) Fighting Poverty, Inequality and Injustice: a manifesto inspired by Peter Townsend, Bristol, The Policy Press, 320 pp.

Walker, A. (edited with 7 others) (2010) The Peter Townsend Reader, Bristol, Policy Press, 644 pp.

Walker, A. and Naegele, G. (2009) Social Policy in Ageing Societies: Britain and Germany Compared, Basingstoke, Palgrave.

Walker, A. and Aspalter, C. (2008) (eds) Securing the Future for Old Age in Europe, Hong Kong, Casa Verde.

Walker, A. and Mollenkopf, H. (2007) (eds) Quality of Life in Old Age, Springer.

Walker, A. (2006) (ed.) Understanding Quality of Life in Old Age, Buckingham, Open University Press.

Walker, A. (2005) (ed.) Growing Older in Europe, Maidenhead, Open University Press / McGraw Hill.

Walker, A. and Wong, CK. (2005) (ed.) East Asian Welfare Regimes in Transition, Bristol Policy Press.

Walker, A. (2005) (ed.) Understanding Quality of Life in Old Age, Maidenhead, Open University Press/McGraw Hill.Walker, A. and Hagan Hennessy, C. (2004) (eds) Growing Older - Quality of Life in Old Age, Maidenhead, Open University Press/McGraw Hill.

Beck, W. van der Maesen, L. Thomese, F. and Walker, A. (eds) (2001) Social Quality: A Vision For Europe, The Hague and Cambridge (Mass, USA), Kluwer Law International

Walker, A. and Naegele, G. (1999)(eds) The Politics of Old Age in Europe, Buckingham, Open University Press

Walker, A. and Walker, C. (1998) Uncertain Futures - People with Learning Difficulties and their Ageing Family Carers, Pavilion Publishing.

Walker, A (1997) Combating Age Barriers in Employment - European Research Report, Luxembourg, Office of Official Publications of the European Communities

Beck, W., van der Maesen, L., & Walker, A., (eds) (1997), The Social Quality of Europe, The Hague and Cambridge (Mass. USA), Kluwer Law International, Reprinted in paperback by Policy Press (Bristol), 1998.

Walker, A (1997) Ageing and Welfare Change in Europe, Tokyo, Minerva (in Japanese).

Walker, A and Maltby, T (1997) Ageing Europe, Buckingham, Open University Press.

Walker, A., and Walker, C. (1997) Britain Divided: The Growth of Social Exclusion in the 1980's and 1990's, London, CPAG Ltd

Walker, A. and Warren, L., (1996) Changing Services for Older People: The Neighbourhood Support Units Innovation, Buckingham: Open University Press

Walker, A (1996) (ed) The New Generational Contract, Intergenerational Relations, Old Age and Welfare, London, University College London Press.

Walker, A, Guillemard, A. M. and Alber, J. (1993) Older People in Europe, Brussels, EC Commission

Walker, A (1993) Age and Attitudes, Brussels, EC Commission.

Qureshi, H and Walker, A (1989) The Caring Relationship, London, Macmillan/Philadelphia, Temple University Press.

Walker, A. (1984) Social Planning, Oxford, Blackwell

Walker, A. (ed) (1982) Community Care, Oxford, Blackwell

As well as books I have published more than 200 monographs and research reports and over 300 scientific papers in journals and books.

A complete list of publications can be downloaded by clicking the link on the right of this page.

Postgraduate Supervision

At the present time, Alan Walker's teaching concentrates on postgraduate research students. He is one of the UK's most experienced postgraduate research supervisors in the fields of sociology, social policy and social gerontology, with more than 40 successful PhD completion's (a 100% completion record). He would welcome applications from potential postgraduates interested in any of the topics contained in his research section.

Alan Walker's Doctoral Students - gathering 2006Doctoral Students Supervised:

M. Phils:

Current Phd topics include:

To find out more about our PhD programmes, go to:
Studying for a PhD in Sociology

Academic Honours

Queen's Anniversary Prize photo / Event photo

In the News

Old Age is Wonderful
The Daily Mail, 26 May 2014.

Longevity is here to stay – Embrace it
The Financial Times, 09 April 2014.

Active ageing research sets the global agenda
Sheffield University Website, 03 April 2014.

To live longer we have to change outdated ideas of what it means to grow old
Published on The Conversation, 28 March 2014

Impact Champion of the Year 2013
ESRC Website, May 2013

Can we make Sheffield city more fair?
The Sheffield Star, Wednesday 22 August 2012

Interview Lifetime achievers: Alan Walker
Policy World, Newsletter of the Social Policy Association, Winter 2007

£20m to help baby boomers grow older gracefully: Researchers launch project to fight health and social problems as a generation heads for 65
Amelia Hill, culture and society correspondent
The Observer, Sunday 29 October, 2006

Putting ageing at the top of the political agenda
Malcolm Dean
The Edge, November 2005: Issue 20

See also
From the University of Sheffield Newsletter: Lifetime achievement award for Alan Walker