Professor Thomas Tufte

Institute Director for the Institute for Media and Creative Industries

An image of Thomas Tufte

Thomas is an internationally leading scholar in the field of communication for social change.

Professor Tufte's expertise and experience lie in critically exploring the interrelations between media texts/flows/genres, communicative practices and processes of citizen engagement and social change. His long-standing research interests have evolved around two key areas: qualitative audience studies and communication for social change research, often times combining the two. 

Thomas has led 7 international research projects in the field (between 1992-2017), having sat on numerous editorial boards, and worked in about 30 countries worldwide. He has collaborated with a broad range of organisations in international development cooperation, such as World Bank, UNICEF, UNESCO, USAID and many more. 

His publications include 15 books (3 monographs, 12 edited volumes) and more than 50 journal articles. Professor Tufte works in both English, Spanish, Portuguese and Danish and his work is published widely in these languages. 

Academic background

Originally trained as a cultural sociologist Tufte started his work life in international development cooperation, first as a stagiaire with UNESCO in Paris in the late 1980s, then a communication officer in the largest Danish NGO, Danchurchaid, and later working for UNDP in Paraguay.

After about 6 years of development practice he wrote a PhD in media studies focusing on the role of television fiction in the lives of low-income women in Brazil. He then embarked on an academic career in Denmark where he worked as an assistant professor and associate professor at the University of Copenhagen (1996-2004), subsequently as a professor at Roskilde University for 12 years (2004-2016).

In 2008 Thomas co-founded the bi-national research centre 'Orecomm - Centre for Communication and Global Change' which organized yearly ‘festivals’ (2011-2016) that quickly became important international venues for debate, dialogue, performance and agenda-setting in research and practice within communication for development and social change.

Thomas Tufte joined Loughborough from a position as Research Director at the School of Media, Communication and Sociology at University of Leicester.

Current research and collaborations

Based on a Hackathon held at Loughborough University London, Professor Tufte is currently co-editing a book with Professor Tacchi on 'Communication for Social Change - concepts to think with'. It is part of the development of a global research network of scholars from 13 countries all working in this field.

In 2017, Tufte collaborated with Dr. Rafael Obregon, Chief of the Communication for Development office at UNICEF New York on co-editing a special section of the Journal of Communication (Vol 67, Issue 5) on the topic of communication and collective action. This topic encountered a very large interest in the research community, and is currently feeding into both research project development and further collaborations with organisations engaged in communication and collective action.

From 2013-2017 Professor Tufte led a large Nordic-funded research project 'Critical Perspectives on New Media and Social Change in the Global South'. It led to many publications, including a special issue of Journal of African Media Studies (Vol 9, No 2, 2017). Professor Tufte is still publishing journal articles from the project.

Following longstanding relations with research colleagues in Colombia, Professor Tufte is currently developing a research project with colleagues from Universidad Minuto de Dios and Universidad Santo Tomas. The project investigates the role of local communication initiatives in peace and reconciliation efforts at community level following the peace agreement signed in 2016.

Current PhD / research supervisions

Current PhD students supervised by Professor Tufte are focused upon communication for development in Brazil and alternative media in India. Professor Tufte is currently interested in supervising research students on topics relevant to his expertise and interests.

Completed PhD / research supervisions

Professor Tufte has supervised PhD students in topics such as media and conflict, media anthropology, communication for development and social change, alternative media and internet governance. 

Over the years, Professor Tufte has been on review panels and vivas of about 25 doctoral dissertations in UK, Australia, USA, South Africa, Brazil, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway , Finland and Belgium.

Interests and activities

Tufte currently sits on editorial boards of Revista Commons (Spain), Communicacion y Sociedad (Mexico), Revista Intercom (Brazil), Comunicare (South Africa), Estudios de Culturas Contemporaneas (Mexico) and Journal of Communication (2015-2018), in addition to being on the international advisory board of the books series on communication for social change run by Palgrave.

Since 2013 Professor Tufte has been a senior research associate with the Department of Communication and University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

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