Dr Paul Wakeling



I am a sociologist of education with particular interests in higher education, especially access to postgraduate study; and in social inequalities. I joined the Department as a lecturer in 2008, after a previous career in higher education administration. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2013.

I have a first degree in Sociology (Liverpool); Masters degrees in Education (by research) from York and Social Research Methods and Statistics (Manchester); and a PhD in Sociology from Manchester on social class differences in access to postgraduate study.

Departmental roles

I teach modules on research methods and the history and sociology of education and supervise undergraduate and postgraduate students.



My broad interests are in the sociology of education (particularly higher education), social stratification and social mobility. My current research focus is access to postgraduate study, particularly social class, gender and ethnic inequalities. I use a range of research methods but have a particular interest in analysis of large secondary datasets and the use of administrative and transactional data for research.

My recent work has included a report on transition to higher degrees in the UK for the Higher Education Academy (with Gillian Hampden-Thompson) and a British Academy-funded interview study of motivations for access to doctoral programmes.

From January 2014 I am conducting research for HEFCE and ESRC on research projects funded as part of HEFCE's Postgraduate Support Scheme.

Current projects

Current and recent projects include the following:

  • the relationship between social class and access to postgraduate study, testing theories within the sociology of education
  • programme analysis of HEFCE's Postgraduate Support Scheme
  • widening participation to postgraduate study
  • elite reproduction and higher education in Britain (with Mike Savage and colleagues associated with the Great British Class Survey)
  • access to doctoral study (British Academy funded, with Adél Pásztor)
  • comparative research on gender and access to doctoral study in Europe and beyond (with Prudencia Guttiérez Esteban and Tom Lock)
  • celebrity and social mobility (with Tom Lock, Lucy Wadsworth and Hannah Whyman)
  • social class and educational background of academic staff
  • the demographics of the discipline of sociology in British universities

Research group(s)


2015 HEFCE (£43,284) Investigating an age-threshold for independence at postgraduate level (with Ann Berrington and Adriana Duta, University of Southampton)

2014 - 2015 ESRC and HEFCE (£98,916) Postgraduate Support Scheme Analysis Project.

2014 - 2015 Higher Education Funding Council for England - Principal Investigator for data-led element of the Postgraduate Support Scheme project 'Widening Access to Postgraduate Study and the Professions' (led by University of Sheffield and involving the Universities of Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Warwick and York). Total funding for the project: £2.9M

2012 - 2013 Higher Education Academy (£9,864) 'Transition to postgraduate study across the UK: quantifying influential factors across institutions and countries' (with Gillian Hampden-Thompson)

2011 - 2012 British Academy Small Grant (£7,390) 'Access to doctoral study: a multi-institutional investigation of participation and non-participation at PhD level' (with Adél Pásztor, Newcastle University) (ref. SG101994)

2009 - 2010 NCCPE-ESRC Research Synthesis (£14,985) 'Widening Participation from Undergraduate to Postgraduate Research Degrees' (with Chris Kyriacou)

2009 - 2010 ESRC International Training and Networking Opportunities award (£39,997 F.E.C.) for ‘Comparative educational pathways – an international spring school’ (joint with Gillian Hampden-Thompson and Vanita Sundaram) (ref. RES-810-210-0032)


 I currently supervise seven PhD students:

  • Tina Baker - the effects of recent government policy on Further Education students' employability in England
  • Maria Ana Chavana Villalobos (CONACYT funded) - drop-out and retention in public higher education in Mexico
  • Jenn Chubb - the research impact agenda and academics' views on public duty
  • Emma Howes - the future of the prep school
  • Ioanna Katsikopoulou - vocational education and social cohesion in Greece and England
  • Agata Lambrechts (ESRC funded) - higher education for refugees and asylum seekers in the European Union countries.
  • Joyce Vuban (Commonwealth Scholar) - policy borrowing in public higher education in Cameroon

External activities


  • British Educational Research Association
  • British Sociological Association
  • ESRC Peer Review College
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Society for Research into Higher Education
  • Consortium of Higher Education Researchers

I am a member of the UK Council for Graduate Education's working group on postgraduate funding and resourcing.

I am a trustee of the University of York Graduate Students' Association.


I was consultant to the Economic & Social Research Council in their international benchmarking reviews of social science research in the UK, covering Politics and International Studies (2006/7), Economics (2007/8), Sociology (2009), Psychology (2010) and Human Geography (2012). I also completed a study of research impact and potential impact of ESRC-funded research under the theme of social diversity and population dynamics with colleagues in the Centre for Housing Policy.

International Links

I am a founder member of the EducEight Group, a network of scholars interested in the sociology of education from Argentina, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Poland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. We have arranged six previous international conferences for junior researchers including an ESRC-funded international spring school on comparative educational pathways which was held in York in April 2010. Our most recent event was held in April 2014 at Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic.

Editorial duties

Editorial board member, Sociology

Editorial board member, HE

Invited talks and conferences

I regularly give invited talks on the topic of widening participation and access to postgraduate study.


Contact details

Department of Education
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 324329

Personal website