Accessibility statement

Dr Liz Thomas



I have worked in the field of higher education equity - widening access and promoting student success for around 25 years, and I joined the Department of Education at the University of York in 2022. My background is eclectic, including social policy and evaluation. My research covers many aspects of the higher education student experience, and is predominantly qualitative, or mixed methods studies. I am committed to using research to make a positive difference; and it has informed national policy in the UK and abroad; and I have led change programmes involving teams from over 100 higher education institutions across the UK.  I have worked at the Open University, Staffordshire University, the Higher Education Academy (now Advance HE) and Edge Hill University, in a range of roles.

I am module leader for a core research methods unit for postgraduate taught students, and teach on the optional module ‘Higher Education in the twenty-first century’. I am contributing to research, learning and teaching and student experience and equity in higher education across the University.

Departmental roles



Initially my research focused on access to HE, but it soon became apparent that access is insufficient, and success in higher education and beyond are paramount. My research developed to focus on widening participation, student engagement and belonging, inclusive learning, teaching and assessment, and progression to postgraduate study and graduate employment. I have led and contributed to many national and international studies, and am author and editor of eleven books, and many book chapters and journal articles. My research has been influential in several spheres, including informing the development of the Teaching Excellence and Student Success (TEF) process, and the Access and Participation Plan (APP) process, especially evaluation approaches. My research has informed two 4* internationally excellent impact case studies in the REF 2014 and 2021. 


I am currently researching ‘Engagement, belonging and success in diverse taught postgraduate programmes’, using innovative qualitative methods to explore the student experience, with a view to making recommendations to improve practice. I continue to be interested in and to write about commuter student engagement.  I have recently completed a comparative study on the experience of nursing students in the UK and Norway.

Research group(s)


I am available to supervise PhDs related to widening participation and student success. Current PhD students are focusing on student belonging, and student persistence.

Contact details

Department of Education
University of York
YO10 5DD