Education Observatory

Research in Education at the University of Wolverhampton

Research Team and Advisory Group

Dr Lydia Lewis

  • Project lead
  • Research Fellow, University of Wolverhampton
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I have a background in sociology and, since 2010, have developed a programme of research on education and mental health, focused on adult community learning.  This has built on previous research in the area of mental health service user and survivor politics.  My research has been funded by the AHRC-led Connected Communities Programme, ESRC, MRC and the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF).  Between 2004 and 2014 I founded and led the British Sociological Association Sociology of Mental Health Study Group, with support from the Sociology for Health and Illness Foundation, and remain actively involved with this Group. I currently convene an Education and Mental Health Research Group at the University of Wolverhampton.  I am looking forward to leading this SMaRteN project about doctoral researchers’ experiences, which will build on my previous research about social, educational and power inequalities and mental health, and will address an important area for Higher Education policy and practice.

Dr Gurpinder Lalli

  • Project team member
  • Reader in Education for Social Justice and Inclusion, University of Wolverhampton 
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  • Twitter: @gurpinderlalli

I am a Reader in Education with interests in social justice and inclusion. I have led funded research projects on informal learning spaces in schools and curriculum studies in higher education, and have expertise in qualitative, action research and researching disadvantaged groups. I am currently Vice-Chair of the B.A.M.E. Staff Network at the University of Wolverhampton and am actively engaged in advocacy for minority ethnic groups and supporting the widening participation agenda in Higher Education.Through my lived experience as a PGR, I understand the challenges that minority ethnic doctoral students face. I am aiming to use this research to support the University of Wolverhampton’s vision to further diversify the PGR student population.

Amy Wells

I joined NSUN after completing a year as the elected Welfare Officer on Leeds University Union’s Student Executive. I graduated from the University of Leeds in 2019 and worked for a year as a Postgraduate Researcher (PGR) Experience Intern in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) faculties as part of my degree. Using my lived experience of mental ill-health and trauma, I am also currently on an Advisory Committee for Student Minds and a Welfare Volunteer for the Nightline Association.

Tayeba Khan

  • Project team member
  • PhD Student, University of Wolverhampton
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  • Twitter: @TayebaKhan6

My research focus is policies and practices concerning resilience and wellbeing for teachers.  My PhD builds on a previous MA study I undertook at the University of Warwick and is entitled, ‘Using the Capabilities Approach to explore contextual and organisational factors that promote resilience for teachers in British primary schools’.

I have experience of conducting qualitative field work and knowledge and understanding regarding the importance of social support in promoting mental health and wellbeing.  My experience as a PGR from a BAME community will also be useful to this project. I have first-hand experience of the challenges faced by BAME PGRs, something which I will be able to reflect and draw on throughout this study. This project will support me in further improving my skills in conducting action research as a means of data collection and intervention.

Dr Jawiria Naseem

  • Project team member; University of Birmingham lead
  • Lecturer in Education and Social Justice, University of Birmingham
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  • Twitter: @JawiriaNaseem

I am Lecturer in Education and Social Justice at the University of Birmingham.  I am particularly interested in the education and employment nexus and its impact on the life trajectories and experiences of Muslims and other minority ethnic graduates. Notably, my work builds on comparative research between France and the United Kingdom as two Western European countries that are shaped by migration and colonial histories.

Dr Anna Lavis

  • Project team memberAssociate Professor of Medical Anthropology, University of Birmingham
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  • Twitter: @annalavis

I am a medical anthropologist working across the Institute of Applied Health Research and Institute for Mental Health at the University of Birmingham, where I lead a programme of work on relationships between young people’s mental health and social media. With funding from Samaritans; ESRC; NIHR; NSPCR and the Wellcome Trust amongst other sources, my research has an emphasis on understanding experiences and subjectivities of distress and mental ill-health in social, cultural and political context.

Dr Owen Gower

  • Advisory Group member
  • Director, UK Council for Graduate Education (UKCGE)
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  • Twitter: @dr_og 

As Director of the UKCGE, I am responsible for delivering the Council’s charitable objectives – notably to promote an equitable and inclusive postgraduate sector. I oversee the Council’s work in sharing effective practices to support the mental health and wellbeing of postgraduate researchers. I have a background in engaging academic research in public policy, having spent ten years in knowledge exchange work within the charitable sector. My work has also included supporting doctoral candidates through a number of training events to help them develop their research skills and interests. I have a PhD, have taught at several UK Universities, and am a member of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Jo Hodgkiss-Wilson

  • Advisory Group member
  • EdD student, University of Wolverhampton
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As an FE lecturer, I have worked extensively with learners with a wide range of additional needs, and am a diversity champion and LGBT+ advisor to the ‘Be Safe’ team within my professional setting. I also sit on the board of my college’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group.  In addition, I am a trainer on approaches to effective inclusion and differentiation strategies.  Creating a sense of belonging and social justice within the educational environment has always been a key motivating factor behind my career choices, more recently culminating in my selection of thesis topic – an exploration of inclusion issues faced by students who identify outside the gender binary within the further education sector.  As a non-binary individual myself I am acutely aware of how these issues can seriously undermine an individual’s identity and create a perception of non-belonging in educational settings.

Matthew Johnson

  • Advisory Group member
  • PhD Student, University of Sussex, Research Funding and Development Coordinator, Coventry University

As a Black British researcher, I believe that my experience will provide valuable insights for this project. Beyond my doctoral work, I have real-world policy experience at the UK and international levels. I have worked as an employment and skills researcher based in the Economic Intelligence Unit in the West Midlands, where I led on what was termed the ‘People agenda’. A large part of this work was based around mental health and wellbeing. Recently, I have also been part of a policy advisory team to the Social Mobility Commission that considers equitable education across all phases and which also includes work on mental health. 

Professor Sarah Hayes

  • Advisory Group member
  • Professor of Higher Education Policy, University of Wolverhampton
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  • Twitter: @sssaaarah

As a researcher in Higher Education (HE) policy with a background in sociology, I have published widely on the neoliberal context in which universities operate, on linguistic analysis of policy and the experiences of students and staff. I have led a range of funded research projects across learning communities of different kinds and examined levels of disadvantage in the UK and internationally in relation to digital inclusion. In relation to intersectionality and identity, I have just completed a monograph on ‘postdigital positionality’ (published by Brill) which explores the intersections of identity in the postdigital lives of those studying and working in HE. I currently convene the Midlands HE Policy Network and am looking forward to helping to disseminate the findings of this SMaRteN project through this Network and to exploring the implications of the research findings for HE policy and practice.

Professor Helen Spander

  • Advisory Group member
  • Professor of Mental Health Studies, University of Central Lancashire (UClan)
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  • Twitter: @HSpandler

I have a particular interest and expertise in critical approaches and social theory in the area of mental health, and in the politics of mental health and mental health care. My work is located within the emerging field of Mad Studies. I have worked in mental health advocacy, have completed many research projects in mental health, and am the author of numerous books and articles. My recent/current work includes a booklet about including non-binary gendered people in sport and a Wellcome Trust project about radical mental health zines (MadZines). I am also the Editor of Asylum: the radical mental health magazine and a Research Degrees Tutor. In my teaching and research supervision role at UClan, I co-facilitate a regular PGR forum with a colleague who is involved in UClan’s minority ethnic PGR student strategy.

Michelle McLardy

  • Advisory Group member
  • PhD Student (Education), University of Birmingham

As a senior lecturer in higher education, I have worked extensively with postgraduate students for over 10 years, across a range of different programmes, but my main focus is within the field of Human Resource Management. It is my experience of teaching and supervising international students that led me to research the challenges they face in a UK higher education context. I have subsequently developed this into my doctoral research which explores academic perspectives on decolonising the curriculum, examining their opinions, perceptions and resistance to these new initiatives. Within my professional role I also sit on a series of awarding gap groups at various levels and have recently created an Advanced Diversity and Inclusion module that focuses on approaches to effective equity, inclusion and belonging strategies from both a theoretical and a practical business perspective.