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Institute of Education

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Doctoral research projects

Our centre supervises doctoral students with an array of research projects covering a wide range of themes in sociology.

We aim to:

  • Support and prepare doctoral students for various career paths
  • Facilitate doctoral students with skills of independent research and ability to contribute to ongoing societal and sociological debates
  • Encourage and empower doctoral students to impact society through addressing matters regarding education and equity with sociological research. 

Projects

Understanding Young People's Aspirations to Teach

In the context of teacher shortages disproportionately affecting the sciences, the research uses mixed-methods longitudinal data to consider what influences some young people to aspire to become a teacher (especially in the sciences), and why. 

Funded by the ESRC with the Royal Society of Chemistry.

  • Doctoral student: Emily MacLeod
  • Supervisors: Professor Louise Archer and Professor Martin Mills (Institute of Education, UCL), Annette Farrell (Royal Society of Chemistry).
Constructing the Policy-Dispositif of Private International Education in Myanmar

This research explores issues of educational privatisation and internationalisation in Myanmar; specifically, the emergence of private schools and their efforts of internationalisation with (and through) edu-businesses in the global-North.

The research takes a policy sociology approach and uses various Foucauldian tools to examine how neoliberal education policies are internationally disseminated and enacted within different institutional settings as well as the ways in which the everyday lives of individuals are caught in the grips of the neoliberal policy-dispositif.  

  • Doctoral student: Thu Thu
  • Supervisors: Professor Carol Vincent, Dr Patrick Bailey and Dr Rachel Wilde.
High-stakes assessment and English language learners: Policy enactment in primary schools in England and California

Standards, accountability and testing have long been a topic of debate in education. However, little focus is given to the testing provisions and policies provided to English-as-an-additional-language (EAL) students in Anglo neoliberal societies.

This research will unpack how accountability and high-stakes testing policies for EAL students are constructed in schools and classrooms by focusing on policy enactment by teachers, school leaders and district staff. The research will take a comparative angle, looking at policies in England and California concerning standardized testing throughout primary school.

Theoretical frameworks from policy sociology, critical race theory, deficit theory and power and performativity theories will be used to analyse a series of semi-structured interviews with policy leaders, local authority staff, school leaders and teachers to understand how policy enactment occurs in these cases. The research will also utilise reflective methods to get a longitudinal perspective from teaching staff.

Through its comparative approach, this study will identify cross-contextual factors influencing policy enactment with the aim to develop an overarching understanding of how schools consider these students.

  • Doctoral student: Erin Simpson 
  • Supervisors: Dr Alice Bradbury, Dr Antonina Tereshchenko and Dr Olga Cara.
Facilitating relationships between schools and parents: can an on-site parent centre help?

This research looks at primary schools' relationships with parents, and the researcher is particularly interested in parents whose own experience of school was negative.

The researcher is undertaking a qualitative case study of a new family centre that has opened on a school site in a relatively deprived area of London. It seems to offer an unusual model in the current context, focusing on supporting parents' wellbeing as well as on children's learning. The researcher will be talking to parents and school staff about their perceptions of the centre, including its impact on their relationships with each other and what, if any, impact they think it has had on their children. The researcher expects to draw on Bourdieu's ideas of habitus, capitals and fields, as well as exploring the ethics of care and ideas of community.

Funded by the ESRC.

  • Doctoral student: Rodie Garland
  • Supervisors: Professor Carol Vincent and Dr Annette Braun.
Glocal Masculinities? Elite high-school boys' performances of masculinit(ies) in Turkey

This PhD research examines performances of masculinities among elite-school boys in Turkey through interviews and visual digital methods.

The researcher explores the culturally idealised form(s) of masculinity within private, elite high-schools, how this idealised form(s) within elite-schools are socially-constructed in relation to and against various gender orders and hegemonies existing at regional and global levels, and how elite-masculinity within these schools (re)produces and maintains its hegemony in subtle and ubiquitous ways despite changes in masculine performances. This research draws on theories of Hegemonic Masculinity and Hybrid Masculinities and Bourdieu's concept of cultural capital.

  • Doctoral student: Idil Cambazoglu
  • Supervisors: Professor Jessica Ringrose and Dr Brett Lashua.
Post-threat racialising assemblages: a new materialist and posthumanist study of the Muslim schoolgirls’ subjectivity-becomings in an age of terrorism and counter-terrorism

The research takes feminist new materialist and posthumanist approach to explore the subjectivity formations(becomings) of Muslim schoolgirls as emerging through various relational materialities with humans and more-than-humans. It particularly pays attention to the affective entanglements between bodies, space, time and feelings.

The mixed sensory and participatory methodology of the study; walking intra-views, making a photo diary and face-to-face interviews, enable the material moments and entanglements with humans and more-than-human materials to emerge. The stories, places, objects, images and thoughts that narrated in the interviews, walked in the walkings and made in photo diaries, help the researcher to have a partial understanding of their everyday experiences of fear and racial harassments proliferated by terrorism and counter-terrorism racialising assemblages.

  • Doctoral student: Shiva Zarabadi
  • Supervisors: Professor Jessica Ringrose and Dr Sara Bragg.
An intersectional approach to class relations and working- class women experiences in an elite Chilean university

In the context of Chile’s highly unequal and segregated educational system, this doctoral research analyses class relations in an elite Chilean university.

By taking an intersectional approach, the thesis foregrounds the ways in which working-class women understand and experience inequalities of class, gender and race, in a context underpinned by postfeminist and neoliberal ideologies and postcolonial hierarchies.

Funded by the National Agency for Research and Development (ANID) / Scholarship Program / DOCTORADO BECAS-CHILE/2018 - 72190231.

  • Doctoral student: Paulina Rodriguez Anaiz
  • Supervisors: Professor Louise Archer and Dr Michela Franceschelli.
Chinese girls in the era of Weibo: How do young feminists in China learn about gender and feminism

Combining an online tracking study with individual interviews and social media diaries, this PhD project explores how Chinese young women understand, experience and learn about feminism and gender. More specifically, the research looks into how Chinese young women respond to gendered discourses and challenge cultural and societal norms such as filial piety.

The researcher is particularly interested in the affective-discursive aspects of their digital feminist practices and how social media platforms have enabled new forms of connections, networks and activism.

  • Doctoral student: Xumeng Xie
  • Supervisors: Professor Jessica Ringrose and Dr Tiffany Page.
Black women's counterstories of working in UK Higher Education Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

This PhD research focuses on institutional racism and heteropatriarchal White supremacy in UK higher education science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

The project is a result of a collaboration with seventeen Black women from PhD to professor, who have shared their felt experiences of existing and resisting in the White, male, classed, space of STEM. Informed by theoretical frameworks of resistance such as Black feminist affect, critical race theory, critical Whiteness studies, and abolition justice, this research is unapologetic in confronting the reproduction of White privilege [read: dominance] in the academe, and how this reproduction is constructed and maintained through ‘ordinary’ acts of racism, sexism, surveillance and stereotypes.

The project intends to create a space where resources can be developed, revised, and shared so as to collectively build strategies for survival, resistance, and transformation in HE STEM for Black women, as well as pushing White people to acknowledge Whiteness, and take accountability for White supremacy.

  • Doctoral student: Kylo Thomas
  • Supervisors: Dr Emily Dawson and Dr Chiara Ambrosio.
School-university relationships in widening participation and fair access to higher education

In the context of the widening participation and fair access agenda, this study looks at how schools and universities interact to support pupils to progress to higher education.

Funded by the ESRC.

  • Doctoral student: Sally Holt
  • Supervisors: Professor Carol Vincent and Dr Rachel Wilde.
"I won't be a lawyer, I failed my 11+". An examination of 'near-miss' students' lived experiences of academically selective education

Although academically selective systems are no longer prevalent in English state-funded education, ten of the 151 Local Education Authorities containing secondary schools within England are classified by the Department for Education as wholly selective.

This research explores the issue of academically selective education from the perspective of three students who attend a non-academically selective secondary school within an academically selective area of England. Using Bourdieu's 'thinking tools'. It examines the lived experiences of students who are categorised as ‘high-attaining’ (in terms of their Key Stage 2 result) but who attend a non-academically selective school based on their failure of the 11+ ("near-miss students").

Through the use of a multi-method approach involving interviews, observations and Padlet collages, the research draws upon the Mosaic Approach and utilises a methodology which researches with, rather than on, participants.

  • Doctoral student: Francesca McCarthy
  • Supervisors: Professor Martin Mills and Dr Becky Taylor.
Crisis management in the multicultural setting: experiences of international counsellors during the Covid-19 pandemic in United World Colleges

This qualitative study aims to explore perceived experiences of international school counsellors (ISCs) in a multicultural setting involving the implementation of crisis management in the counselling program. The research aims to explore and delineate the experiences of international school counsellors during the Covid-19 pandemic in United World Colleges (UWC) in a multicultural context and contribute to the discourse that involves crisis protocols and management in counselling.

  • Doctoral student: Aristea Mastoraki (EdD)
  • Supervisors: Dr Olga Cara and Dr Jon Swain.
The engagement and achievement of white working class students in an inner London borough

The underachievement of white working-class pupils is a persistent national issue. This research uses qualitative methods to investigate the lived experience of secondary school students in order to gain insight into barriers and enablers for this group. Bourdieu's concepts of habitus, capital and field provide a framework through which to understand how processes of marginalisation operate in an educational landscape which privileges academic attainment and undervalues the social and emotional aspects of learning.

  • Doctoral student: Emma Simpson
  • Supervisors: Dr Alice Bradbury and Dr John Yandell.
Chinese rural students’ social mobility through higher education: graduates across four decades (1980s-2010s)

In the Chinese context of a stratified education system and significant urban-rural inequality, rural students are generally facing constrained possibilities for social mobility through higher education. Despite these structural constraints, some exceptional rural students manage to get themselves enrolled in the urban university.

Drawing on 50 rural students’ life history interviews, I adopt Bourdieu’s conceptual tools to explore their educational trajectories before, during and after university. The findings of this thesis suggest that, with the joint influences from rural family, community, schooling and local context, participants generally have a strong desire for higher education, which is uniquely generated in the rural field. I argue the chiku (eating bitterness) constitutes the core of dispositions of rural habitus and enables rural students to overcome the hardships and transcend urban-rural inequality through education.

After entering into the university, I find most of the participants in this research experienced varying degrees of misfits caused by the habitus-field disjunctures on their migration from rural to the urban field, such as various manifestations of hysteresis effects and emotional suffering. I suggest the struggle for recognition is at the centre of rural students’ experiences of adapting their rural habitus in accordance with the field of urban university. After the university, I explore the rural students’ experiences of settling down in the city and their identity struggle between rural origin and current status as urban residents. Furthermore, I propose a typology of habitus and the idea of ‘cocktail of habitus’ to explore the continuity and change in rural students’ transforming habitus.

  • Doctoral Student: Jiexiu Chen
  • Supervisors: Professor Carol Vincent and Dr Caroline Oliver.