Neil Cooper


  • 0.09B Lawrence Stenhouse Building

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Personal profile

Areas of Expertise

Learning, teaching and the student experience in Psychology and Higher Education. Qualitative psychology and applied social psychology.


Prof. Cooper joined the UEA in 2001 having previously worked in the health care sector and taught Psychology on health-related programmes in other institutions. He has a first degree in Anthropology and Psychology, and his doctoral work explored social psychological aspects of child protection. Prof. Cooper is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), and a Chartered Psychologist (C.Psychol.) of the British Psychological Society (BPS), with membership of the Social Psychology Section, Qualitative Psychology Section and the Division for Teachers and Researchers in Psychology.

Psychology is an immensely exciting, wide-ranging discipline, and Prof. Cooper finds the edges of the subject the most interesting bits. He was drawn to Psychology through an interest in people, and the way in which everyday individual experience emerges from, unfolds within and contributes to wider social practices. This ‘psychosocial’ inclination has led Prof. Cooper to engage with sociological, anthropological and critical theory perspectives and blend them with a social psychological stance. This fusion underpins his commitment to stimulating and supportive teaching which enables students to cultivate a spirit of independent curiosity and a desire to explore beyond the disciplinary horizon.



PhD Social Psychology, University of Sunderland
BSc (First class) Anthropology and Psychology Goldsmiths’ College, University of London
Certificate in Education (H.E.), University of Sunderland

Research Interests

Qualitative methodologies in Psychology
Pedagogical practice in the teaching of Psychology

Membership of Professional Bodies

British Psychological Society
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)

Key Responsibilities

Head of the School of Psychology Aug 2021 - Present

Teaching Interests

Neil teaches across all three years on the BSc Psychology programme.

  • Teaching areas around 'the self' in Year 1.
  • Teaching qualitative methods in Year 2.
  • Input into 'Goord and Evil' in Year 3.
  • Supervises 3rd year empirical projects, especially those using qualitative methods.
  • Neil teaches qualitative methods in postgraduate courses, and he supervises Masters dissertations.
  • Neil’s commitment to student learning is evidenced by obtaining two UEA teaching fellowships, (2007 & 2011) HEA funding to follow on from these fellowship and receiving Student Union awards for teaching.

Key Research Interests

Neil Cooper’s scholarly work orients around qualitative approaches in psychology. Neil's PhD involved the application of traditional psychological concepts to the arena of child protection practice, and this involved tackling problems of knowledge and power within the research process. He has since tried to engage with social constructionist ideas and their implications for developing psychological accounts of meaning and experience.

Research which Neil is involved with aims to further the understanding of people as social actors, exploring subjective experience as it unfolds within and contributes to wider social meanings. Using methods such as grounded theory and narrative analysis he adopts a psychosocial stance to exploring the interconnections between an individual's lived experiences and their sociocultural environments.

Research projects have included; disciplinary boundaries, inter-professional practices, family relationships, and technological change, as well as methodological issues such as reflexivity and participatory approaches in research. Outputs from this work such as Digital Life Story Work (Hammond & Cooper 2013) have been cited as practice resources by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence).

Neil is also interested in student learning and the student experience in Higher Education, especially the psychosocial processes involved in the transition to university, performance, and confidence.

Current Research Students

Vicky Bristow The impact of financial stress on the wellbeing of health professional university students.

Completed Research Students

Sophie Bagge 2021 A Journey from Science to Art: Valuing the voices of women in the exploration of traumatic childbirth and perinatal mental health.

Peter Jordan 2018 Ethical Decision-Making in Child Protection Work by Health Visitors and Social Workers.

Alexia Zinonos 2014 PhD: Migration and Community Formation: Narratives of Three Generations of Women Living in a Greek Diaspora Community.

Simon Hammond 2012 PhD: Exploring a role for digital technologies in life story work with adolescents in residential care: A discourse analysis. 

Holly Honeyman 2010 PhD: Constructing Designer Babies. (Supervised with Dr. Simon Hampton)

Laura Biggart 2010 PhD: Fathers and work family life: Psychosocial influences. (Supervised with Professor Margaret O’Brien)

Nadir Yalli  2008 PhD: Hospital social work in Saudi Arabia: An investigation of practitioners’ perceptions of the common workplace issues that influence their position and role in health care.

Lesley Dibley 2007 MPhil: Experience of Same Sex parents when their children require health care intervention.