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Associate Members

Centre Members

Members of the Centre for Social Mobility share an interest in rigorous research and effective practice that supports students to progress into higher education, should they wish to do so, and also to achieve within higher education and beyond. We aim to support and enhance research and practice locally at the University of Exeter and our local communities, nationally, and internationally.



Ruth Flanagan

Ruth Flanagan, Lecturer in Education (Academic), Race Equality Resource Officer (Professional Services) 

What: Interested in individual's worldviews and their potential impact on learning and teaching in primaryand higher education, examining the role of narrative and hermeneutical interpretation to facilitate this understanding.

How: Theoretical research, quantitative, qualitative research, mixed methods.

Quote: 'We belong to a historical tradition through relation of distance which oscillates between remoteness and proximity to interpret is to render near what is far (temporally, geographically, culturally and spiritually)' (Ricoeur, P.,1986:32)

George Koutsouris


Dr George Koutsouris, Lecturer in Education (special educational needs and inclusion)

What: Interested in social inequalities, social inclusion, disability-related difficulties, curricular and extra-curricular experiences at university.

How: Qualitative, mixed methods and theoretical research.


Debra Myhill

Professor Debra Myhill, Professor of Education

What: I am interested in language, inequality and social justice, particularly how literacy is a key gateway to empowerment, educational achievement and democratic participation. In particular I am interested in writing and the teaching of writing with greater emphasis on developing young writers’ metacognitive and metalinguistic understanding of the decisions they make in writing.

How: Qualitative research, particularly interviews, classroom observation and text analysis but also mixed methods approaches, including RCTs, with robustly-designed complementary qualitative data collection.

Dr Chris Playford, Lecturer in Sociology

What: I am interested in better understanding social inequalities in education and the labour market. This includes attainment at the end of compulsory schooling, variation in school subjects studied, transitions through education into work and the measurement of social stratification and job quality. 

How: Quantitative data and statistical modelling. I specialise in the secondary analysis of large-scale survey and administrative data.



Dr Katherin Barg, Lecturer in Education, Graduate School of Education

What: Interested in social inequality in school transitions and transition to higher education, educational decision-making, parental involvement and parenting values, teacher students' attitudes towards social inequality, teacher assessment and decision-making

How: Quantitative research and mixed methods ‌

 Dr Julie Pepper, Lecturer (E&S), Advanced Teaching Practitioner – Collaboration & Innovation, Degree Apprenticeships, Dept of Management, UEBS

What: I returned to academia at Exeter in 2021 after a career break to have my children. I am currently a lecturer in Degree Apprenticeships teaching professional practice and have an Advanced Teaching Practitioner role in Collaboration and Innovation. I have an interdisciplinary research background and have published papers on women in risky leadership positions, rule breaking, healthy workplaces and the careers that young people aspire to.

How: Qualitative & quantitative research. I have an interest in using @lego serious play in research.

Why get in touch: I would love to hear from anyone interested in maths anxiety/maths self-concept, young people’s aspirations, raising awareness of degree apprenticeships, identity, and wellbeing. I also have an interest in communicating information in new ways.



Verity Hunt, Communications and Marketing Officer

What: I work on marketing campaigns to promote widening participation in HE and to promote the work of the University in this area.

Why get in touch: If you need help in promoting your WP work or need advice on communications channels.


Dr Alexey Bessudnov, Senior Lecturer (Sociology)

Who: Alexey Bessudnov, Senior Lecturer in Quantitative Sociology

What: social inequalities in education; ethnic groups; educational evaluation.

How: longitudinal data analysis and field experiments.

Learn more: visit


Dr Chris Boyle, Associate Professor in Inclusive Education and Psychology


Nick Givens, Equality & Diversity Co-ordinator


Lauren Stentiford, Lecturer in Education, Graduate School of Education

What: Interested in student transitions to university, gender and social class in higher education, disciplinary teaching and learning cultures, inclusive pedagogies.  

How: Qualitative research, participatory research, systematic reviews. 

 ‌Zhimin xiao

Dr ZhiMin Xiao, Lecturer in Education, Graduate School of Education

What: Interested in educational data science, learning and teaching of quantitative methods, digital education as a way to unbar the gate without lowering the bar. 

I believe social mobility can be better achieved when universities and the staff they employ are incentivised enough to change the “fortress mentality” we see all too often in higher education institutions.

How: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research.


Dr Alison Truelove, Lecturer in Critical Practice, UEBS

What: Designing, delivering and evaluating interventions to address achievement gaps; encouraging ‘hard to reach’ students to access academic support; facilitating alternative routes into higher education; teaching enhancement.

How: I lead on student and staff academic development in the Business School, including success and progression elements of widening participation activity, and am Academic Subject Lead for UEBS on the Transforming Transitions research project. This has included evaluations of our initiatives around academic tutoring and maths support, and prompted further revisions of our induction programme. I’m working with external organisations to facilitate alternative modes of entry onto HE programmes, and to develop pre-arrival support and materials to ease the transition of non-traditional students into university-level study.

Why get in touch: I’m always interested in sharing approaches to improving access to HE and narrowing achievement gaps, in particular within large student cohorts.


Tricia Nash, Research Fellow

Matthew Channon

Matthew Channon, Lecturer, Law School


Lee Snook, Academic Liaison Librarian

What: I am responsible for evaluating and selecting library resources, and planning and delivering library research skills support to help students make the best use of library resources.

How: I am interested in building inclusive library skills support and resources for all levels of learning and prior experience; developing pre-arrival and induction materials to ease the transition into HE library research and offering stepped skills materials to encourage students to build their skills and knowledge in a progressive way that is best suited to their individual competency level and learning style.

Why get in touch: Get in touch if you’d like to know more about library support for students, or if you would like advice on developing effective research strategies to discover materials relevant to your own social mobility research projects.


Claire Lavers, Senior Lecturer in the Business School

What: Interested in performance gaps in HE outcomes for students with protected characteristic and in promoting accessible teaching practice amongst staff.

How: Qualitative and quantitative research as well as delivering training sessions.


Dr Darren Moore, Lecturer, Graduate School of Education


Amy McEwan, Academic Liaison Librarian

What: I design, facilitate and evaluate digital and face-to-face interventions to support students in engaging with evidence and developing research skills. I am currently working on projects supporting student transition and wellbeing and I am interested in how Library Services can support the student lifecycle in higher education.

How: Practical support for students, 1:1 information and digital skills support (finding and evaluating information), resource development

Why get in touch: If you’d like to discuss how the Library can support student skill development, or if you would like to discuss projects or partnerships to improve support for students.


Professor Penny Jane Burke, University of Newcastle, Australia

What: I am an Honorary Professor in the College of Social Sciences and International Studies. At the University of Newcastle in Australia, I am the Director for the Centre of Excellence for Equity in Higher Education and Global Innovation Chair of Equity.

How: I am committed to generating research and practice that contributes to social and institutional transformation. My work is firmly located in, and has generated new, social justice methodologies, as part of a wider project of reconceptualising equity in higher education and lifelong learning. My work, spanning a career of two-decades, is brought to bear in the development of CEEHE, a framework for embedded equity now recognised internationally as a unique and leading model of ethical praxis.

Jeff Grim, University of Michigan, USA 

What: I’m a final year PhD candidate in Higher Education with a concentration in Organizational Behaviour & Management at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in the US.

How: My research largely centers on equity issues in higher education from an organizational perspective. I focus my research on student widening participation & progress, academic careers and leadership, and comparative contexts (like the US and UK). My dissertation focuses on the leader identity development of newly-tenured faculty of colour and I have worked with Dr. Anna on projects related to university aspirations of low-income students and elite university admissions selection processes.

Why get in touch: My time at Exeter and working with Dr. Anna and Nicola have been some of my best experiences in graduate school. Please get in touch with me if you have questions about research, evaluation, or assessment; organizational theory; have an interesting research project idea; or have a question about US context. I’m happy to chat!


Dr Will Shield, Child and Educational Psychologist, Graduate School of Education

What: I’m interested in inclusive educational practice and applying psychology to support learners from a range of backgrounds to progress through education.

How: Applied psychological practice; quantitative and mixed methods research.

Kevin Denny, Associate Professor in the School of Economics, University College Dublin & a Senior Fellow at the Geary Institute for Public Policy

What: I am interested in understanding the causes and consequences of human development particularly education and health (& their interaction). I have a particular interest in educational inequality especially with regard to access to higher education. I also work on the effects of education on attitudes and the determinants of educational attainment.

How: My research mostly involves the econometric analysis of large datasets including longitudinal data. I use data for Ireland, the UK and around Europe mostly.

Why get in touch: If you’re interested in economists’ approach to educational inequality and mobility I am happy to talk. I am also interested in methods of causal inference in econometrics/statistics as applied to large complex datasets.

Manuela Barreto, Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology

What: My research focuses on marginalization, identity, and stigma, and specifically on the impact of prejudice and discrimination on wellbeing, social relationships, and aspirations. I am also interested in the role of culture, identity, stigma, and life transitions in experiences of social (dis)connection.

How: Reviews, quantitative research (including cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys, and experiments), qualitative research, mixed methods.

Dr. Matt S Gobel, Lecturer in Social and Organisational Psychology

What: Interested in 1) improving first-generation students’ mental health, well-being and academic achievement, 2) understanding intersectionality of social class, gender and ethnicity from a cultural psychology perspective, and 3) examining first-generation students’ transitioning into and experience of high-status occupational environments.

How: Mixed methods approach with strong quantitative emphasis.

Why get in touch: Please get in touch to discuss how social contexts of selective higher education institutions affect first-generation students, and if you are interested in partnership in order to facilitate their transitioning into high-status occupational environments.

Dr. Annabel Watson, Senior Lecturer in Language Education, School Direct Programme Leader, Secondary English PGCE Course Leader

What: Working in the fields of literacy, writing development and secondary school English education, I’m interested in how we can support students from diverse backgrounds to understand language critically and use it powerfully.

How: Primarily qualitative methods, and particularly interviews, lesson observation and analysis of pupils’ work.


Dr. Samuel Pollard, Senior Lecturer in Medical Science, UEMS

What: I have a range of teaching and leadership responsibilities across the College of Medicine and Health and the University. My core educational interests are centred on reducing the barriers to success for mature students within HE.

How: I chair the Mature Student Strategy Working Group that sits underneath the Success for All Strategy; and its primary aims are to increase mature student recruitment and experience whilst reducing the attainment and non-continuation rate gaps.

Why get in touch: If you are interested in exploring collaborations within the area of mature students in HE.