Professor Vanita Sundaram



I joined the Department in March 2006 after holding a five-year research post at the Danish National Institute of Public Health. I was primarily involved in research on gender-specific health effects of violence and sexual abuse. This was also the main focus of my doctoral research, which I conducted alongside a research assistantship.

Since joining the Department of Education, my research has focused on sexual harassment and gender-based violence in education settings; the development of research-informed prevention models; methodologies for  conducting research on harassment and violence with children and young people; and the content and role of sex and relationships education. I am a member of the Centre for Research in Education and Social Justice and am keen to supervise research students working in any of the areas outlined above, as well as other issues related to education and social inequality. My current research projects focus on: sexual violence in higher education; sexual harassment and violence in schools; developing culture-change initiatives to challenge violence and harassment in educational contexts.

My undergraduate degree (Sociology) and my MA (Women’s Studies) were both completed at the University of Kent at Canterbury. I completed my PhD in Public Health at the University of Copenhagen. 

Departmental roles

  • Chair, Board of Studies (2016-present)
  • Equality & Diversity Champion (2015-present)
  • Chair, Athena SWAN departmental committee (2013-present)
  • Director of Undergraduate Studies (2011-2013)
  • Admissions Tutor (2009-2011)
  • Deputy Director of Undergraduate Studies (2009-2011)

University roles

  • Departmental representative (Education), Athena SWAN working group
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee
  • Social Sciences Faculty Board, elected academic member



My current research interests include young people’s experiences of violence, bystander approaches to preventing harassment and violence in school, the content and role of sex and relationships education and 'lad culture' and sexual violance in higher education.  I am interested in working with motivated research students on any of these areas and other issues within education and social justice more broadly.

Funded projects

  • 2017-18 HEFCE (£42,528). Developing an intersectional approach to training on sexual harrassment, violence and hate crime (with Alison Phipps, University of Sussex).
  • 2017-18 HEFCE (£49,237). Cascading training to change culture: An institution-wide approach to prevention, intervention and response to sexual violence. Higher Education Funding Council for England (with Rob Aitken, Department of Politics, University of York).
  • 2017-19 (£15,000). ESRC Impact Acceleration Account. Universities Supporting Survivors of Sexual Violence.
  • 2016-18 European Commission, Daphne programme. (£195,005). Universities Supporting Survivors of Sexual Violence. (led by Brunel University and in partnership with University of Sussex, Panteion University (Greece), Universitat Rovira i Virgili (Spain), Universidad del Pais Vasco (Spain), Universita degli Studi di Torino (Italy), Daphne programme, European Commission. Total €907,833 grant.
  • 2013-14 Society for Research into Higher Education. (£10,000) Lad Culture in Higher Education: Exploring Staff Perspectives. (with Carolyn Jackson, Lancaster University).
  • 2013-14 University of York (£2,000). Education young people about sex: a scoping study of school-based sex education in the UK.
  • 2011-12 Esmee Fairbairn. (£77,868). Creating Citizenship Communities. (led by Ian Davies and Gillian Hampden-Thompson).
  • 2010-11 Society for Educational Studies. (£5,000). Young people and violence: understandings of violence and discourses of acceptability.
  • 2010. UNICEF (£300,000). Education in Emergencies and Post-Conflict Transition Programme. (led by Sultan Barakat, and with David Connolly, Frank Hardman and Steve Zyck).
  • 2009-10 (£15,000). ESRC International Training and Networking Opportunities award. (led by Paul Wakeling and with Gillian Hampden-Thompson).
  • 2008-09 University of York (£2,000). Developing Inclusive Methologies for Research with Children with SEN (with Alison Wilde, Leeds Beckett University)
  • 2005-06 Danish Ministry of Health (£20,000). Suicide risk among minority ethnic groups in Denmark (with Karin Helweg-Larsen, National Institute of Public Health, Denmark and Lillian Zollner, University of Southern Denmark)
  • 2003-04 Danish Ministry for Gender Equality and Social Affairs. (£18,000). Violence victimisation as a gender-specific process.
  • 2002-05 Nordic Research Academy. (£50,000). Violence victimisation as a gener-specific process.
  • 2002-04 European Commission. (£60,000). Prevalence and health sequels of violence (with Karin Helweg-Larse, National Institute of Public Health, Denmark).
  • 2001 European Commission. (£94,000) Data collection on intentional injuries (with Karin Helweg-Larse, National Institute of Public Health, Saakeje Mulder, Consumer Safety Institute, The Netherlands, Rafaello Raboni, Ministry of Health, Rovigo, and David Stone, University of Glasgow).

Research group(s)


  • 2017- Erin Shannon
  • 2016- Elizabeth Mwebe
  • 2015- Annis Stead (Lad culture and higher education: definitions, prevalence and challenge)
  • 2015- Dawn Evans (Exploring the journeys of African and Caribbean women into leadership position in FE)
  • 2015- Eleni Zotou (Exploring trainee teachers’ perceptions of cultural and ethnic diversity in primary schools)
  • 2014- Catherine Atkinson (Children’s ‘doing’ of gender and sexuality in the primary school)
  • 2014- Paulina Bronfmann (Teaching human rights through the plays of Shakespeare)
  • 2014- Fang Guo (Sex and relationships education in schools)
  • 2011- Fasil Demsash (Exploring cultural diversity in English secondary schools)

Completed PhD students

  • 2008-2012 Dung Tong Tuyet (Identity and second language acquisition: Barriers to intercultural communication among Vietnamese students in the UK)
  • 2012-2016 Helen Sadler (The role of teaching assistants in facilitating the social inclusion of young people with special educational needs)
  • 2012-2016 Manuel Lopez Pereyra (Sexual diversity in UK schools: A study of trainee teachers’ awareness and perceptions of sexual diversity)
  • 2011-2016 Jawaher Alwedinani (Gender and subject choice in higher education in Saudi Arabia)

External activities


  • Co-chair, Gender and Education Association
  • Gender and Education Editorial Board
  • Sociology Associate Board
  • British Educational Research Association
  • British Sociological Association
  • The 1752 Group, Advisory Board

Editorial duties

Reviewer for:

  • Gender and Education
  • Sociology
  • Journal of Interpersonal Violence
  • Gender and Society
  • ESRC
  • The Sociological Quarterly
  • Social Science and Medicine

International links

  • National Institute of Public Health, Denmark
  • University of Southern Denmark
  • Deakin University, Australia
  • University of Copenhagen
  • Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain


Contact details

Department of Education
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 323466