Professor Ravi KS Kohli

Professor of Child Welfare

Professor Ravi Kohli

I am a migrant to the UK. I am a qualified social worker. These two aspects have informed much of what I do today. I am interested in the migratory lives of young people who seek asylum in richer countries or are trafficked into and within those countries.

Many have faced dangers. Many are frightened. Many are talented and ambitious. They face all sorts of challenges, including a fundamental one of coming back to an everyday life after the death of ordinary living.

I try to understand the colours that make up the kaleidoscope of their lives. My work is often about understanding journeys of safety, belonging and success following different types of migration, including forced migration.

So for me it’s an honour to help young people to feel that they are understood. My work also helps their carers and law and policy makers to make sense of what to do for the best now that they are together.


Academic Qualifications

  • BA (Hons) Social Psychology - University of Sussex
  • MA in Social Work - University of York
  • PhD - University of East Anglia

Professional Qualifications

  • Certificate of Qualification in Social Work - Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work (CCETSW)
  • Diploma in Advanced Social Work (Children and Families) - Goldsmiths College, University of London

Teaching Role

My teaching is in relation to refugees and asylum seeking children and young people. I also teach on aspects of qualitative research, and on the application of systemic ideas to professional practices. Currently I am Director of Studies or 2nd supervisor for a number of PhD and Professional doctorate students.

Research Interests

  • Social Work with asylum seeking and refugee children and their families Working with unaccompanied asylum seeking children book cover
  • The resettlement of unaccompanied asylum seeking young people, including those in foster care
  • Issues of credibility in asylum claims by children
  • Undocumented children, including those whose asylum claims have failed
  • The use of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in welfare Services for children
  • Children who are irregular migrants, and not visible to the authorities in a country of asylum
  • The detention and return of children and young people whose asylum claims have been refused
  • Schemes for advocacy and guardianship for trafficked and asylum seeking children

Research Projects


Foster Care for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking and Refugee Children

Fostering unaccompanied asylum-seeking young peopleThis study was carried out in association with the British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF). It was lead by Jim Wade and Ala Sirriyeh at Children and Young People's Social Work Team within the Social Policy Research Unit at York University.

The study was published in 2012 as Wade, J, Sirriyeh, A, Kohli, RKS and Simmonds, J Fostering Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Young People: Creating a family life across 'a world of difference' London: BAAF. View a summary of the report [PDF]


Scottish Guardianship Service Pilot: an evaluation

A 30 month evaluation of a Guardianship Service for unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people in Scotland, run by the Aberlour Trust and Scottish Refugee Council, funded by Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.

This evaluation was conducted in collaboration with Professor Heaven Crawley at Swansea University. View the final report


Supported Options Fund for Young People with Irregular Immigration Status

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy are funding the evaluation of initiatives that will enable children and young people who have irregular immigration status access to independent advice and support.

I am working with the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR) to evaluate the ways help reaches such young people via three key strands – via advice services in the UK, online support, and in reaching out to those leaving the UK

November 2012

A review of Country of Origin reports: Independent Advisory Group on Country Information (IAGCI)

A follow up review to the COI reports for 2008, emphasising the use of the UNCRC in COI report structures and content. The report was jointly authored, with Fiona Mitchell and Helen Connolly.

February 2014

Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY)

This evaluation considered whether guardianship could be used to assist separated young people in Northern Ireland. The main report, co-authored with Helen Connolly and Helen Beckett, is available here

September 2014 to November 2015

First evaluation of independent child trafficking advocates (ICTAs)

The evaluation is funded by the Home Office. It considers the ways specialist independent advocates can support and advise children who are trafficked. Barnardo's is running the trial across 23 local authorities in England.

The results of the evaluation will inform the Modern Slavery Bill as it passes through Parliament. A range of experts in the University, as well advisors in relevant policy and law, are working together on delivering the evaluation


Second evaluation of independent child trafficking advocates (ICTAs)

Since the Modern Slavery Act came into force in 2015, the UK Government has been funding the delivery of the ICTA Service in three sites in England and Wales. The Home Office is in charge of the quantitative aspects of the evaluation, and I am leading a team in gathering qualitative data. The final report will be published in 2019.


I am the Project Leader for a 4 year NordForsk funded research project on the lives of young people who are refugees in Finland, Norway and Scotland. The project examines how they make new lives in a new country. Our fieldwork is longitudinal. Over time we interview them and help them to create artwork that showcases their talents and skills, and allows them to draw out their relationships in the present, the future and the past. We also interview people who they value, locally and transnationally. We focus on integration as mutuality. We focus on hospitality and reciprocity. Overall, we gather stories about building peace and prosperity as an expression of relational wellbeing. The project is called Drawing Together because of its art based approaches, and because with them, we build stories of how people are drawn to each other over time.

Government Advisory Roles

2012 to 2013

Joint Select Committee on Human Rights (JCHR)

I was a specialist adviser to the Committee that examined the human rights of separated children in the UK. The Committee report is available here:

House of Lords Select Committee On The European Union: EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee 23rd March 2015

Expert witness to the enquiry into unaccompanied minors in the European Union. Report available here

TV broadcast available here.

All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

Evidence given on the Evaluation of ICTAs. London. House of Lords. 15th March 2016.

Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015

Expert Reviewer - appointed to lead the national review of child trafficking within the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Due to report back to Parliament April 2019

Service to the Academic/Professional Community

  • Member, PUCAFREU research network (Promoting unprotected unaccompanied children’s access to fundamental rights in the European Union). Poitiers, FRANCE.
  • Member NORDUM (Nordic Network for Research Cooperation on Unaccompanied Refugee Minors). Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland.
  • Advisor, UNHCR project The Heart of the Matter: assessing credibility when children apply for asylum in the European Union. Belgium
  • Advisory Board member of the Coming of Age in Exile (CAGE) research project. This longitudinal large scale project extends to all Nordic countries. 2015-2019. See
  • Advisory Board member for the TRUST project in Finland, focussing on the long-term resettlement of unaccompanied children into Finnish society, 2016-2018. See
  • Consultant to an Erasmus+ research and development project for NGO’s in France, Italy, Greece and Germany. Building knowledge from local practices: a solution for better care and support of unaccompanied minors in Europe. 2017 to 2020. See here for project description
  • Output assessor for REF 2014, Sub-Panel 22: Social Policy and Social Work
  • ESRC/AHRC – Member of Commissioning Panel for the AHRC-ESRC Forced Displacement call, September 2016
  • Associate Editor Child and Family Social Work from April 2005 to June 2015
  • Editorial Board member. Nordic Social Work Research. See here


  • Kohli RKS (2018) Protection: migrant children and institutional protection, in J Bhabha, J Kanics, D Senovilla Hernández (eds.) Research Handbook on Child Migration. Edward Elgar
  • Kohli RKS & Dutton J (2018) Working in complex, short-term relationships in G Ruch, D Turney & A Ward (eds.) Relationship-Based Social Work (2nd edition). Jessica Kingsley
  • Kohli RKS and Kaukko, M (2017) The management of time and waiting by unaccompanied asylum-seeking girls in Finland. Journal of Refugee Studies. doi:10.1093/jrs/fex040
  • Put Yourself in our Shoes book coverCronin, C, Sandhu, B Kohli RKS (2015) Put Yourself in Our Shoes: Considering Children’s Best Interests in the Asylum System. Law Centres Network. London p1-196
  • Kohli, RKS, Hynes, P, Connolly, H, Thurnham, A, Westlake, D, D’Arcy, K (2015) Evaluation of Independent Child Trafficking Advocates trial. Research Report 86. Home Office. December 2015
  • Kohli RKS (2014) Protecting asylum seeking children on the move. Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales, 30:1
  • Kohli RKS, Connolly, H and Beckett, H (2014) By their side and on their side: Reviewing the evidence for guardianship for separated children in Northern Ireland. NICCY
  • Crawley, H and Kohli, RKS (2013) 'She endures with me': an evaluation of the Scottish Guardianship Service Pilot. Paul Hamlyn Foundation, p1-98
  • Kohli RKS (2012) Methodological considerations in working with asylum seeking children and young people, in S Becker, A Bryman and H Ferguson (eds.) Understanding research: Methods and approaches for social work and social policy. Bristol. Policy Press
  • Kohli RKS (2011) Working to ensure Safety Belonging and Success for unaccompanied asylum seeking children. Child Abuse and Neglect 20: 311–323
  • Kohli, RKS, Connolly, H & Warman, A (2010) Food and its meaning for asylum seeking young people in foster care. Children's Geographies 8:3, 233–245
  • Kohli RKS & Dutton J (2010) Working in complex, short-term relationships in G Ruch, D Turney & A Ward (eds.) Relationship-Based Practice in Contemporary Social Work. Jessica Kingsley
  • Kohli RKS (2009) Understanding silences and secrets in working with unaccompanied asylum seeking children in N Thomas (ed.) Children, Politics and Communication. Policy Press
  • Kohli RKS & Connolly H (2009) Young People Seeking Asylum, in A Petch (ed.) Managing Transition: support for individuals at key points of transition. Policy Press
  • Kohli RKS (2008) Unaccompanied asylum seeking children and the transition into care in Lefevre M & Luckock B (eds) A guide for social work practice in foster, adoptive and residential care. British Association of Adoption and Fostering. P204-212
  • Social Work with Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children book coverKohli RKS (2007) Social Work with Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. Palgrave Macmillan p1- 240
  • Kohli, RKS & Mitchell, F (eds.) (2007) Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children: Issues for Policy and Practice. Palgrave Macmillan. p1-160

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