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Centre Members

embers 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.


Dr Anna Mountford-Zimdars, Director (Academic) and Professor of Social Mobility

What: Interested in entry to university, curricular and extra-curricular experiences at university, learning and teaching in higher education, student outcomes, higher education policy. 

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

Quote: "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. - Marcel Proust"

Nicola Sinclair

Nicola Sinclair, Director (Practice) and Head of Widening Participation

How: I’m the University’s strategic lead for widening participation and am involved in driving forward targeted interventions and institutional changes to diversify our student body and close gaps in student outcomes. I’m particularly interested in student-focused approaches which are evidence-led and achieve lasting impact.

Why get in touch: If you are interested in collaborating with the Centre or want to know more about the University’s work to improve access and participation.

Core Members

Dr Pallavi Amitava Banerjee, Senior Lecturer in Education, Graduate School of Education

What: Interested in evaluations, researching social inequalities in educational outcomes (school and higher education), educational effectiveness and improvement, transition, access, progression in higher education, evidence-based policy. 

How: Quantitative research and systematic reviews.    

Dr Karl Devincenzi

Dr Karl Devincenzi, Recruitment and Schools Relationship Manager

What: The primary purpose of my role is to build and maintain effective relationships with schools and colleges in order to drive up applications / conversions to the University of Exeter to grow student numbers and the diversity of our student intake. My interests also include higher education policy, widening access and student support.

Why get in touch: Do get in touch should you wish to discuss how we may be able to work in partnership in order to support students making an informed decision about their higher education options.

Sam Dyer

Samantha Dyer, Widening participation (WP) Strategy and Evidence Manager

What: My role is to take a strategic view across all of the University’s work across the student lifecycle to ensure we are working in an impactful and evidence-led way. This involves working with colleagues across the institution, managing colleagues who lead on data analysis and under-represented groups as well as liaising with colleagues around the sector to capture and implement best-practice. I lead on our approach to WP governance and strategy and operational development of the University of Exeter’s Access and Participation Plan.

Why get in touch: to discuss practical solutions to difficult problems affecting the access and participation of HE students and approaches to the monitoring and evaluation of WP initiatives.

Joanne Moore

Joanne Moore, Research Fellow

What: Joanne has formerly held roles as an educational researcher at the University of Manchester and Open University.

How: Impact evaluation, Process evaluation, Quantitative, Qualitative and Mixed Methods research. 

Why get in touch: She has a detailed understanding of widening participation policy and practice, including co-authoring a guide to data sources for widening participation practitioners. She is currently working on a collaborative project to support evaluation of the impact of outreach.

Melissa Ruddock, Widening Participation Manager

What: My role is to manage the University’s flagship fair access programmes, Exeter Scholars and Realising Opportunities, and to head up the team that works with the University’s six Colleges to create, deliver and evaluate an exciting portfolio of discipline specific widening participation activity.  Helping participants make informed decisions about their future and choose the right subject areas for them is at the centre of what we do and working in partnership with a wide range of schools we use the University of Exeter’s leading teaching and cutting edge research to do this.    

Why get in touch: If you are a school interesting in participating in Exeter Scholars or Realising Opportunities or to discuss what subject specific opportunities we can offer to your students.  If you are an academic colleague or graduate researcher who would like to get involved in developing or delivering widening participation in your discipline area or simply to find out what is already happening.

Kirsty Janes

Dr Kirsty Janes, Student Recruitment Evaluation and Data Analyst

What: I support the targeting and evaluation of our student recruitment, outreach, and widening participation activities through the analysis of internal and external data.    

Why get in touch: If you want to find out more about our evidence-base in relation to the widening participation lifecycle (student access, success and progression in HE).

Dawn Lees

Dr Dawn Lees, PFHEA, Curriculum and Work-related Learning Manager, Student Employability and Academic Success

What: I am particularly interested in supporting students’ transition into university and ensuring that all students can access the skills development support they need to thrive. I sit on the university’s Access and Participation Plan Management Group and chair the SEAS WP Group.

How: Practical support for students; leading the Academic Skills and Student Engagement Team delivering academic skills in the curriculum, 1-1 Study Skills support, Peer Learning and Students as Change Agents Projects.

Lee Elliot Major

Dr Lee Elliot MajorProfessor of Social Mobility

What: As a Professor of Practice he is focused on the impact and dissemination of research, working closely with schools, universities, employers and policy makers. His Penguin book Social Mobility and Its Enemies has attracted attention across the world. His forthcoming Bloomsbury book What Works? offers best bets to teachers for improving outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. He commissioned and co-authored the first Sutton Trust-EEF toolkit, a guide used by 100,000s of school leaders.

How: Research - Lee focuses on understanding the main drivers of social mobility in society and developing evidence-informed ways of improving the prospects of disadvantaged young people. Teaching - Lee lectures on what we know about social mobility levels in Britain and other countries, and how research and evidence can impact on education policy and practice.

Dr Neil Harrison, Associate Professor in Education and Social Justice

What: Broad range of research interests around educational inequalities, with a particular focus on access to higher education – social class, gender, ethnicity and disability.

How: Mixed methods and interdisciplinary approaches, within a critical realist tradition. Analysis of national administrative datasets.

Why get in touch: Opportunities for collaborative research



Natalie Bracher

Natalie Bracher, Outreach and Success Officer

What: My role is to support students from a background that are currently under-represented nationally, and at the University of Exeter. My role specifically focuses on those smaller groups which evidence suggests require a bespoke approach.

Joanna Merrett, Doctoral Researcher, Graduate School of Education

What: Joanna Merrett is a dedicated researcher with over a decade of experience working closely with home education communities. Her extensive background in this field has driven her to explore various aspects of education beyond traditional schooling, with a primary focus on home education, alternative education approaches, pedagogies, educational policy, systematic disadvantage, equity in access to national qualifications, and pathways for home-educated young individuals to higher and further education. Joanna received the prestigious Hutton Prize for her research in 2022.

Her interest are in Home Education and Other Alternatives to School Education; Education Pedagogies, Education Policy, Systematic Disadvantage in Education, Equity in Access to National Qualifications, Access for Private Candidates and Home-Educated Youth to Higher and Further Education.

How:  Joanna's research expertise extends across various methodological approaches, enabling a holistic understanding of the complex issues within education. Her methodological toolkit includes:

Qualitative Research, Quantitative Research, Mixed Methods, Participatory Research, Action Participation Research

Why Get in Touch: If you share an interest in alternative education, unconventional learning environments, self-directed and autonomous learning, and are enthusiastic about collaborative research efforts or co-authoring papers related to non-traditional forms of education, Joanna Merrett is an excellent contact to reach out to. She welcomes inquiries and collaboration opportunities from individuals passionate about advancing research in education beyond the confines of traditional schooling.


Kate Blackmore

Kate Blackmore, Pathways to Law & Outreach officer within the College of Social Sciences & International Studies

What: I am the Pathways to Law coordinator and Outreach Officer responsible for planning and implementing in-school and on-campus events and programmes within a Social Sciences context. These events are typically aimed at students in south-west schools in years 9-13, with an aspirational focus.

Why get in touch: If you are a school teacher who would like to find out more what we offer within the College and wish to develop partnerships in the future. 

Quote: 'Any experience is a good experience if you can learn from it.' 

Melody Barnes

Melody Barnes, Outreach Officer

What: I lead on the coordination and delivery of events with schools hosted on our Exeter campuses. I also lead on the organisation and delivery of the residential programmes taking place at the University of Exeter over the Easter and Summer holidays. These residentials include the year 10 and year 12 pathways of the Exeter Scholars programme. 

Jo Thacker

Joanne Thacker, Student Recruitment and Field Trip Support Manager

What: I am responsible for our team of Outreach Officers and WP Assistants working at our Campus in Penryn, Cornwall who deliver information, advice and guidance to all prospective students from whatever their background. We offer opportunities to visit campus either for open days, for taster sessions or subject related events. We are proud to deliver a programme of activity (in and out of local schools) for all students whether they have considered university as an option for their future or not.

Why get in touch: If you are interested in attending one of our open days or wish to get your school involved with what we have to offer.

Laura Drinkwater

Laura Drinkwater, Outreach Officer, based at our Penryn Campus in Cornwall 

What: I work with secondary schools and students across Cornwall and beyond to provide IAG support, encouraging them to raise aspirations and awareness about the benefits of higher education. My role also supports student recruitment activity for the University of Exeter, and specifically our Penryn Campus.

Why get in touch: If you’re a teacher or adviser, and are after further information about the work we do and how we may be able to support you, please do let us know.

Richard Prest

Richard Prest, Outreach Officer

What: I work with schools and young people across Cornwall and the South West. This involves delivering workshops and presentations, providing IAG as well as helping to raise aspirations towards Higher Education, especially amongst underrepresented groups. I also maintain relationships with schools and colleges across the South West encouraging engagement directly with the University of Exeter.

Why get in touch: If you’re a teacher or adviser and want to know about how we could support your students. 


Dr Alice Mills, Outreach Officer for CEMPS

What: I organise school visits to Exeter University and visits out to schools as part of our programme of widening participation activities. I work with academics to help them to disseminate their research to a wider audience and develop and deliver engaging STEM activities for schools.

Why get in touch: If you are a school teacher and want to explore working with us. 

Read more at here 

 ‌Dr Lisa Alberici

Dr Lisa Alberici, Lecturer in Academic Practice

What: Interested in widening participation and student transitions to/in higher education, academic practice development, and promoting inclusive teaching practices.

How: staff development, scholarship, and resource development.

‌‌Sarah Dyer

Dr Sarah Dyer, Director of Education Incubator and Associate Professor in Human Geography


Dr Vrinda Nayak, Associate Academic Dean for Students (Racial Equality and Inclusion)

What: I am part of the Education Leadership Team at the University. In my role, I support the delivery of our mission and objectives with regard to racial equality and inclusion as set out in the University’s Education Strategy and Access and Participation Plan. A key objective is to create effective interventions to improve access, attainment and outcomes for BAME (Black Asian and Minority Ethnic) students. A major part of this would be leading on the work to embed inclusion throughout our education programmes and other learning opportunities. In addition, I aim to create an inclusive university culture where all students can fulfil their potential.

Why get in touch: If you would like to discuss any ideas to improve the student experience at University of Exeter with respect to racial equality and inclusion, please get in touch with me. You are also welcome to contact me if you have specific queries related to any educational strategies that we are implementing to improve BAME access and attainment at the University.


Dr Jonathan Doney, Lecturer in Education, Graduate School of Education

What: My teaching and research focuses on Education Policy development and the history of Education. I'm particularly interested in policies relating to social mobility and widening participation, both at school and university level. I also undertake international comparative research in education policy and am keen to expand international collaborations in this area.

How: I use a variety of research methods, including questionnaires, interviews, focus group work, as well as documentary analysis and an approach to policy interrogation called Statement Archaeology that I have developed over the past few years based on post-structural theory and approaches to historical analysis.

Why get in touch: If you are interested in collaboration, or have policy exploration work underway that you'd like to discuss, please do get in touch!