Aoife O’Higgins

Aoife is a research assistant and DPhil student at the Rees Centre. Her research examines the risk and protective factors for educational outcomes of children in care, with a particular focus on how carers help young people.

Aoife holds a MSc in Evidence Based Social Interventions from the Department of Social Policy and Intervention, Oxford and a MA in Refugee Studies from the University of East London. Aoife worked in social care for seven years, including five as an advocate for refugee and migrant children.


Current Research

What are the risk & protective factors for educational outcomes for children in care?

  • Study 1: What is the relationship between being in care and educational outcomes of children foster or kinship care? A systematic review. See full report.
  • Study 2: What are the factors associated with educational outcomes of children in foster or kinship care? A systematic review. (link to journal page?)
  • Study 3: What do carers do to support the educational success of children in care?

Informed by the findings from both reviews, study 3 examines the critical role played by carers in supporting the education of children in care. Specifically, the analysis uses a large Canadian dataset to explore whether the involvement of carers over time is associated with gains in attainment.

Supervisors: Professor Judy Sebba, Rees Centre & Professor Frances Gardner, Dept of Social Policy and Intervention

Other research:

  • Aoife was also part of the research team looking at the educational progress of looked after children-linking care and educational data, a project funded by the Nuffield Foundation. As part of this project, she analysed data on migrant children in care.
  • Aoife is completing a systematic review on placement type and educational, physical and mental health outcomes of forced migrant children in care. This I sa joint project with Dr Ellie Ott (link?) and Dr Michael Shea.
  • Aoife works with a team of researchers at The University of Ottawa. Research includes secondary data analysis on risk and protective factors for children in care and a systematic review on the involvement of carers for educational outcomes for children in care.


  • Policy Evaluation and is seminar convenor at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford.
  • Systematic Reviewing for the Social Sciences, Social Sciences Division, Oxford
  • Teaching Children in Care (PGCE module), Department of Education, Oxford
  • Doctoral development training, Social Sciences Division, Oxford.
  • Social work with refugees and asylum seekers, University of West London.



  • O’Higgins, Aoife (In press) “What is the impact of placement type on the mental health of independent migrant children? A systematic review of the evidence.”
  • O’Higgins, Aoife (2014) ““Book Review: Safeguarding Children from Abroad: Refugee, Asylum Seeking and Trafficked Children in the UK” “, International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care
  • O’Higgins, Aoife and Evans, Rosalind (2013) “‘Change 4 Me? Young refugees’ and migrants’ research on social inclusion and educational achievement in London’ “, Mitsuko Matsumoto ed.,Education and Disadvantaged Children and Young People. Bloomsbury Academic
  • O’Higgins, Aoife (2012) “Vulnerability and Agency: An irreconcilable dichotomy for social workers working with young refugees in the UK”, New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development (Special Edition: Independent Child Migration—Insights into Agency, Vulnerability, and Structure) 136 70-93
  • O’Higgins, Aoife (2011) “The Destitution of Young Refugees in the UK”, Oxford Monitor (OxMo) 1: 2 8-11


  • Oct 2012: Promoting unprotected unaccompanied children’s access to their fundamental rights in the European Union (PUCAFREU, organized by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France). Presentation title:Vulnerability and agency: Beyond an irreconcilable dichotomy for social service providers working with young refugees in the UK.
  • May 2011: Canadian Association of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (CARFMS) Conference 2011: Human Rights Challenges. Presentation title: Reconceiving the Rights and Needs of Young Refugees.
  • May 2010: CARFMS Conference 2010: Challenges and Change in Forced Migration. Presentation title: Safeguarding and refugee children in the UK.
  • Apr 2010: BASPCAN Conference: Safeguarding and young refugees. Presentation title: Destitution and safeguarding young refugees.

Journal articles

  • O'Higgins, A, Ott, EM, Shea, MW (2018) “What is the Impact of Placement Type on Educational and Health Outcomes of Unaccompanied Refugee Minors? A Systematic Review of the Evidence.”, Clinical child and family psychology review.

  • Tessier, NG, O'Higgins, A, Flynn, RJ (2018) “Neglect, educational success, and young people in out-of-home care: Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses”, Child Abuse and Neglect. 75 115-129.

  • O'Higgins, A (2015) “Safeguarding Children from Abroad: Refugee, Asylum Seeking and Trafficked Children in the UK”, International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care. 11(1) 71-72.

  • O'Higgins, A (2012) “Vulnerability and agency: beyond an irreconcilable dichotomy for social service providers working with young refugees in the UK.”, New directions for child and adolescent development. 2012(136) 79-91.

  • O'Higgins, AA “The destitution of young refugees in the UK”, Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration.

  • Luke, N, O'Higgins, A “Is the care system to blame for the poor educational outcomes of children looked after? Evidence from a systematic review and national database analysis”, Children Australia.

  • O'Higgins, AA “Analysis of care and education pathways of refugee and asylum-seeking children in care in England: Implications for social work”, International Journal of Social Welfare.


  • Sebba, JC, Berridge, D, Luke, N, Fletcher, J, Bell, K, Strand, S, Thomas, S, Sinclair, I, O’Higgins, A (2015) The Educational Progress of Looked After Children in England: Linking Care and Educational Data. Oxford: Rees Centre & Bristol University.

  • O'Higgins, AA, Sebba, J, Luke, N (2015) What is the impact of being in care on the educational outcomes of children? An international systematic review.

  • Luke, N, Sinclair, I, O'Higgins, AA The Educational Progress of Looked After Children in England. Technical Report 2: Relating Care to Educational Attainment and Progress.


  • Research student

College affiliation

  • St Cross College

Research groups

  • Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education

Publications, books and other work