Durham University

Durham Law School

Staff profile

Professor Thom Brooks, BA, MA, MA, PhD, FAcSS, FHEA, FRHisS, FRSA

Personal web page

Dean in the Durham Law School
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 44365
Room number: PCL211
Associate in the Department of Philosophy

Contact Professor Thom Brooks (email at thom.brooks@durham.ac.uk)


Thom Brooks is an award-winning author, columnist, policy advisor and public speaker. He appears frequently on television, radio and in print media discussing immigration & citizenship, Brexit ‘Brexpert’ and “the man behind Remain and Leave” vote, British politics, punishment & sentencing, US politics and other topics as a highly sought after commentator and expert. His general research interests are in ethics, law and public policy.

Thom Brooks is Professor of Law and Government and the Dean at Durham Law School and an Associate Member in Department of Philosophy and Professor in School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University. He has held visiting appointments at the University of Oxford, University of St Andrews, Uppsala University and Yale Law School at Yale University. Brooks taught previously at Newcastle University. Brooks is an Academic Bencher of the Honourable Society of Inner Temple and the Vice President-Elect of the Society of Legal Scholars, the oldest and largest learned society for academic lawyers.

Brooks is the top academic broadcaster worldwide in Globelynx (Press Association) Network with 1,500+ media appearances (see list of 2018 appearances or 2019 appearances) on BBC One, BBC Two (‘Newsnight’), BBC News, BBC World ServiceCNN, ITV, Channel 5Sky News, Al Jazeera, ABC News 24Deutsche Welle, Euronews, France 24, RT, WTNH (ABC)BBC Radio 4 (with Andrew Marr), BBC 5 Live, The Economist, Money Week and all major UK newspapers and many others including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. He has co-hosted programmes on immigration as well as British and American politics, and been a Brexpert for Sky News. Brooks writes columns for Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, Sunday Express, The AtlanticFabian Review, Huffington PostLabourListNew Statesman, Northern Echo and others. He has been interviewed by Adam Boulton, Colin Brazier, Kay BurleyAnna Jones, Eddie Mair, Andrew Marr, Maxine MawhinneyDermot Murnaghan, Beverley O’Connor, Francois Pickard, John Simpson, Jeremy Thompson and  Andrew Wilson among others – and debated George Galloway and Toby Young live on television.

As inaugural Dean of Durham Law School at Durham University, he is leading the biggest growth in the School’s 50 year history increasing academic staff from 42 to 75+ over the next few years – building new critical mass in key areas, improving our research capacities, expanding into new areas like Chinese law launching the ground-breaking Centre for Chinese Law and Policy already one of the largest in Europe starting the first ever Chinese law summer school in the UK, reducing our staff-student ratio and retaining Durham’s small group tutorials of 6-8 students and seminar teaching at the heart of our enriching student experience. Brooks introduced the first on-site teaching for the New York and California state bar exams in partnership with BARBRI delivered at no other UK law school. Durham Law ranked 3rd in the UK in the most recent Research Excellence Framework. In 2017, Durham Law School achieved its best ever results reaching 40th in QS World Rankings and 93% overall satisfaction in the National Student Survey. These achievements were recognised by the House of Commons in Early Day Motion 875 in Parliament. Durham University is the third oldest university in England and situated in a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Durham Castle is one of the university’s colleges. Brooks has stood in for the Vice-Chancellor representing Durham University abroad and serves on several senior working groups and committees covering workload models, an effectiveness review of academic boards of studies, a review into academic administrative workload and several senior appointment panels. Brooks chairs a University-wide working group on non-staff budget allocations. He sits on the BARBRI SQE Advisory Board where he advises on addressing changes in the regulatory framework for qualifying solicitors. He features in Hogan Lovells’ Graduate Recruitment Brochure.

Current Research

Brooks is an immigration law and policy specialist with wide-ranging expertise. He is the leading expert on Britain’s the Life in the UK citizenship test and the author of the only comprehensive report examining it (brief, report, video). This is frequently highlighted in Parliamentary debates and noted in the media worldwide. His latest book is Becoming British and published last year by Biteback. Brooks contributed to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration’s report into the integration of immigrants, especially on issues of EU free movement restrictions, improving the UK citizenship test and integration strategy. Brooks gave evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement and its final report lists 7 recommendations by Brooks on revising English requirements, an overhaul of the UK citizenship test, launching a new advisory group and much more — he is the second most cited person in the 168 page report. He is well known for arguing the UK’s citizenship test is “like a bad quiz” – a view repeated in global media since 2013, discussed in Parliament and supported by the Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

Brooks is active in the UK’s Labour Party as a member and advisor. He is quoted in Labour’s policy commission that led to its 2015 campaign manifesto and he advised on Labour’s ground-breaking 2017 election manifesto rejecting arbitrary targets, reinstating a migration impacts fund, launching an evidence-based review of existing immigration policies and more action on refugees. He continues to advise Labour on immigration and he advocates for a number of policies, including: the need for an Advisory Group on citizenship and immigration, Migration Impacts Reduction Fund, revised citizenship test and a focus on impacts instead of net migration targets. Brooks’s research has helped expose that new checks introduced by the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ to expose unknown migrants unlawfully in the UK has failed to identify a single individual, that the Government earns surpluses of up to 900% from immigration fees with much of this spent on non-immigration areas, that the Immigration Health Surcharge paid by migrants to allegedly offset expected costs to their local NHS are not actually earmarked for their local NHS authority and Brooks broke the story about a previously unknown Home Office form for spouses to report ex-partners for deportation uncovering it had received no risk assessment, been part of any formal consultation and no forms received.

Motivated to learn about immigration from his personal experience as a migrant and naturalised British citizen, Brooks has supported hundreds of migrants and citizens looking for information about migration for over two decades in the UK and abroad. He regularly delivers public lectures and seminars to improve the public’s understanding of migration issues, challenging common misperceptions and a leading national advocate for more progressive policies. He advises the award-winning BBC One drama “Call the Midwife” and the BBC One programme “Rip Off Britain” on immigration-matters.

Brooks is one of the UK's top commentators on Brexit playing key parts in the debate from its start. In a public consultation on the EU Referendum wording, Brooks argued that it should be changed to remove bias and ensure consistency with recent constitutional-related referenda. The Electoral Commission agreed and quotes Brooks in support of this change in their final report which was accepted by the government and approved by Parliament. Brooks is one of the leading critics of the government's strategy for Brexit raising serious doubts about whether Brexit is necessary to achieve immigration targets in a column for The Times and whether Brexit will lead to any substantial change - his views are widely covered by the national and international media. Brooks was the first to point out that the recent drop in net migration was not a policy success for government, but driven by a weak economy and uncertainty over Brexit - with an increasing number of British citizens choosing to leave the UK helping fuel lower migration figures.

Brooks is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Science (FAcSS), the Royal Historical Society (FRHisS), the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and the Higher Education Academy (FHEA). He was invited for inclusion in Debrett's People of Today for its 2016 edition and Who's Who from 2019. He won a Faculty Award for Outstanding Contribution to Media from Durham University in 2013 and Lecturer of the Year for his faculty from Durham University’s Student Union in 2014, Law Teacher of the Year from Durham Law School in 2015, Durham University's Excellence in Learning and Teaching Award in 2016, runner-up for the Inspirational Academic Award from Durham Students' Union and shortlisted for Law Teacher of the Year from the Northern Law Awards in 2015. His book Punishment was named ‘Book of the Month’ by the European Sociological Association. Brooks is the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Alumnus Award from Arizona State University's School of Politics and Global Studies.

His publications cover topics including alcohol policy, behavioural economics and 'nudges', British politics, capabilities approach, citizenship, climate change, constitutional law, criminal law, criminal justice, democracy, international affairs, immigration, jury trial, just war theory, leadership, political strategy, restorative justice, sentencing, shame punishment and strategic communication. Brooks writes widely on philosophy, including historical figures (Plato, Kant, Hegel, British Idealism) and contemporary debates with special interests in jurisprudence and political philosophy and the work of Dworkin, Nussbaum, Rawls and Sen. His work has also been used to classify whiskey.

Curriculum vitae (interactive) is available upon request.

Research Supervision

Teaching Areas

  • Criminal Law
  • Immigration Law & Policy
  • Jurisprudence & Political Philosophy
  • Legal Frontiers (Law, Public Policy & Public Advocacy)
  • Sentencing Law & Policy
  • UK Constitutional Law

Video / Audio Podcasts

An Ethical Approach: Immigration and Refugee Policy Post-Brexit (Fabian Society) (audio)

David Cameron's proposed EU reforms on BBC News (video)

Refugee Week Talk - Newcastle City Council (video)

On claims Prime Minister scaremongering on border security at Calais on BBC News (video)

On US election campaign on Sky News (video)

Calais migrant crisis: Is France doing everything it can? (video)

Migration and Citizenship with Andrew Marr on BBC Radio 4 (January 2016) (audio)

BBC World Service - Industrial Decline and Europe's Left (audio)

Interview with ABC News about UK's EU Referendum and Brexit (video)

The 'Life in the United Kingdom' Test: Is It Unfit for Purpose? (June 2013) (video)

Live panel interview about Calais refugee crisis on "Inside Story" - Al Jazeera (video)

Post-election analysis of 2015 General Election - ABC News (May 2015) (video)

Interview with Prof Robert Talisse about Thom Brooks's monograph Punishment (2012) for 'New Books in Philosophy' (audio)

Brexit, Trump and Democracy - Thom Brooks interviewed by Robert Talisse (audio)

Interview on Philosophy 24/7 about citizenship tests (April 2017) (audio)

Research Interests

  • Asylum and Refugee Law
  • Behavioural Economics
  • Brexit
  • British Politics
  • Capabilities
  • Citizenship
  • Constitutional Law
  • Criminal Justice
  • Criminal Law
  • Global Justice & Human Rights
  • Immigration Law & Policy
  • Jurisprudence
  • Migration Law
  • Political Philosophy
  • Public Policy
  • Restorative Justice
  • Sentencing
  • Stakeholder Theory
  • Strategic Communication

Selected Grants

  • 2015: Reforming the 'Life in the UK' test (£2660.00 from ESRC)
  • 2007: Hegel's Speculative Politics: Towards a Systematic Reading of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (£20,586 AHRC)

Research Groups

  • Centre for Criminal Law and Criminal Justice
  • Centre for Ethics and Law in the Life Sciences

Selected Publications

Authored book

Chapter in book

  • Brooks, Thom & Sankey, Diana (2017). Beyond Reason: The Legal Importance of Emotions. In Ethical Rationalism and the Law. Capps, Patrick & Pattinson, Shaun Oxford: Hart. 131-148.
  • Brooks, Thom (2017). Hegel on Crime and Punishment. In Hegel's Political Philosophy: On the Normative Significance of Method and System. Brooks, Thom & Stein, Sebastian Oxford: Oxford University Press. 202-221.
  • Brooks, Thom (2017). Hegel's Philosophy of Law. In The Oxford Handbook of Hegel. Moyar, Dean Oxford: Oxford University Press. 453-474.
  • Brooks, Thom (2016). Punitive Restoration: Giving the Public a Say on Sentencing. In Democratic Theory and Mass Incarceration. Dzur, Albert, Loader, Ian & Sparks, Richard Oxford: Oxford University Press. 140-161.
  • Brooks, Thom (2015). Leadership and Stakeholding. In Leadership and Ethics. Boaks, Jacqueline & Levine, Michael Bloomsbury Academic. 199-201.
  • Brooks, Thom (2015). The Capabilities Approach and Political Liberalism. In Rawls's Political Liberalism. Brooks, Thom & Nussbaum, Martha C. New York: Columbia University Press. 139-174.
  • Brooks, Thom (2014). Alcohol, Risk and Public Policy. In Alcohol and Public Policy. Brooks, Thom London: Routledge. 27-33.
  • Brooks, Thom (2014). Ethical Citizenship and the Stakeholder Society. In Ethical Citizenship: British Idealism and the Politics of Recognition. Brooks, Thom Palgrave Macmillan. 125-138.
  • Brooks, Thom (2014). Political Philosophy. In G. W. F. Hegel: Key Concepts. Baur, Michael Routledge. 76-90.
  • Brooks, Thom (2014). Stakeholder Sentencing. In Popular Punishment: On the Normative Significance of Public Opinion. Ryberg, Jesper & Roberts, Julian V. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 183-203.
  • Brooks, Thom (2013). Bernard Williams, republicanism, and the liberalism of fear problems and prospects. In The moral philosophy of Bernard Williams. Herrera, C. D. & Perry, Alexandra Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars. 107-113.
  • Brooks, Thom (2013). Capabilities. In The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. LaFollette, Hugh Blackwell. 692-698.
  • Brooks, Thom (2013). Citizenship. In The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. LaFollette, Hugh Blackwell. 764-773.
  • Brooks, Thom (2013). Criminal Harms. In Law and Legal Theory. Brooks, Thom Leiden: Brill. 149-161.
  • Brooks, Thom (2013). Global Justice and Politics. In The Routledge Companion to Social and Political Philosophy. Fred D'Agostino & Jerry Gaus Routledge. 517-525.
  • Brooks, Thom (2012). Between Statism and Cosmopolitanism: Hegel and the Possibility of Global Justice. In Hegel and Global Justice. Buchwalter, Andrew Dordrecht: Springer. 65-83.
  • Brooks, Thom (2012). Hegel and the Unified Theory of Punishment. In Hegel's Philosophy of Right. Brooks, Thom Oxford: Blackwell. 103-123.
  • Brooks, Thom (2012). Natural Law Internalism. In Hegel's Philosophy of Right. Brooks, Thom Oxford: Blackwell. 167-179.
  • Brooks, Thom (2011). Retribution and Capital Punishment. In Retributivism: Essays on Theory and Policy. White, Mark D. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 232-245.
  • Brooks, Thom (2011). What Did the British Idealists Ever Do for Us? In New Waves in Ethics. Brooks, Thom Palgrave Macmillan. 28-47.
  • Brooks, Thom (2010). Punishment and British Idealism. In Punishment and Ethics: New Perspectives. Ryberg, Jesper & Corlett, J. Angelo Palgrave Macmillan. 16-32.
  • Brooks, Thom (2009). Muirhead, Hetherington, and Mackenzie. In The Moral, Social and Political Philosophy of the British Idealists. Sweet, Will Imprint Academic. 209-232.
  • Brooks, Thom (2008). Is Plato's Political Thought Anti-Democratic. In Anti-Democratic Thought. Kofmel, E Imprint Academic. 17-33.
  • Brooks, Thom (2007). Human Rights. In Encyclopedia of Governance. Bevir, Mark SAGE. 1: 423-428.
  • Brooks, Thom (2006). The Reception of Hegel in Britain. In The Encyclopedia of British Philosophy. Grayling, AC & Pyle, Andrew Thoemmes Continuum. 1424-1425.
  • Brooks, Thom (2005). Herbert Lionel Adolphus Hart. In Dictionary of Twentieth Century British Philosophers. Brown, Stuart Thoemmes Continuum. 389-391.
  • Brooks, Thom & Freyenhagen, Fabian (2005). Introduction. In The Legacy of John Rawls. Brooks, Thom & Freyenhagen, Fabian Continuum. 1-21.

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