About us

A collage of different imagesLaunched in 2008, the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) produces influential academic research on the third sector. This includes charities, voluntary organisations, community groups, social enterprises, cooperatives, and mutuals.

Such organisations are united by their characteristics; namely, their independence, public purpose, voluntarism in their governance, and activities. They do not trade commercially for profit, and operate outside the formal state or public sphere 

The TSRC’s work investigates the resources, roles, and relationships of these organisations through critical and independent research that is not tied to government or stakeholder demands. By studying the sector in this way, we are able to examine the impact and distinctive contributions these organisations make. We also work closely with practitioners, policy makers, and other academics to develop our research programmes and explore the relevance of findings for practice. 

The Centre currently works with staff from the University of Birmingham, the University of Southampton, Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Lincoln, and the Open University.


The TSRC was launched as a Venture Funded ESRC Research Centre, co-funded by the ESRC, the Office for Civil Society, and the Barrow Cadbury Trust until 2014.  

Following the initial funding, other funds have been drawn in from The University of Birmingham (until 2016), the Barrow Cadbury Trust (until 2018), charitable partners (Big Local; Leverhulme; Wellcome), the European Union’s FP7 Programme, NIHR, and research councils (principally ESRC). 

Research highlights

  • Border Crossings: This programme studies how health policy has understood, and sought to change, the role of charities in the NHS. By developing a collective account of the effects of these organisations in the UK health system, we will change understandings of the NHS and inform suggestions for the future of charities in the NHS.  

  • UK Third Sector Database: There is a substantial gap in the availability of high-quality data about voluntary organisations. We are working with an ESRC-funded group of collaborators to improve data infrastructure on the UK’s third sector and civil society.  

Our research themes

  • Role and Impact of the Third Sector
  • Voluntary Action
  • Data & Evidence Gathering
  • Financing of the Third Sector
  • Service Delivery
  • Change and Continuity

Members of TSRC

Director of TSRC


Associated Staff

Doctoral Research Students

Contact us 

Director of TSRC, Professor John Mohan j.mohan@bham.ac.uk; +44(0)121 414 5405