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Research students

This page profiles the work of some of our current PhD students.



Mary Campbell-Day

Thesis title:   Mary Gurney: sustaining female education within English academic networks of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

Supervisors: Professor Gary McCulloch and Dr Mark Freeman

My research centres on Mary Gurney (1836-1917). She has been largely excluded from historical accounts, yet the archival evidence indicates that she was one of the leading female educationalists of the late Victorian era. Gurney was a key figure in the creation and survival of the 38 high schools run by the Girls’ Public Day School Company. Gurney was also involved in the development of Girton College in Cambridge and in the Froebel Society’s spread of kindergarten education, as well as being supportive of other educational enterprises for women and girls. Her influence went beyond the confines of middle-class education across a particular set of 45 years; it has affected the delivery of much female education in England up to the present. My research uses the lenses of feminism, networking theory and space/place theory to support the thesis, as it evolves mainly from the study of documentary archives. Auto/biography and prosopography are guides to my life-history approach as well, and I also use the materiality of the past to build my historical account of Gurney’s networking. This research seeks to increase our knowledge and our understanding of past female education.


Anne CollignonPhoto Anne Collignon

Thesis title: Constructing a critical account of the history of a single school. Copenhagen International School 1962 – 2017

Supervisors: Dr Mark Freeman and Professor Gary McCulloch

The research explores the history of an international school, which is one the pioneer schools of the International Baccalaureate Programme and one of the first European International Schools established at the edge of the post­-War period, with a focus on two main aspects of the school mission: its education as international and inclusive. The study aims to explore aspects of the external social, political and cultural forces as well as internal tensions that shaped the development of the school. The researcher adopts an insider position, with the collection of data based on interviews, observations and on the exploration of the school archives.


Katherina Grant

Thesis title: Pupil Experiences of Progressive Education at King Alfred School 1930-1960katherina grant

Supervisor: Professor Gary McCulloch

My research explores the educational experience of pupils who attended King Alfred’s, a North London Progressive school, during the period of 1930 to 1960. Through the use of oral histories, archival documentary evidence and visual images, it is my intention to examine to what extent the pupil experience of what was essentially an experiment and one that was not guaranteed to succeed matched the experience the school hoped the pupils would have. The experiences will be examined through their personal recounts of feelings and routines, their recollections of the people and debates surrounding their general experience and where possible surrounding particular events or practices such as the Dalton Plan.


Yujiro HonguPhoto_Yujiro

Thesis title: Investigation of culture in the Victorian era

Supervisors: Professor Gary McCulloch and Dr Tom Woodin

My research project will explore the meaning of culture in the Victorian era through comparison of the ideas of Thomas Henry Huxley and Matthew Arnold. Culture had been generally regarded as an achievement of Liberal Education based on literature in education until the middle of the era. However, calls were growing louder for science education in tandem with the industrial development of Germany and France. Therefore, the controversy for improvement of Liberal Education was provoked. As a result, the definition and content of culture was re-examined then. Huxley as a defender of science education and Arnold as a defender of literature in education presented different ideas about culture respectively in the controversy. In my project, their theories will be discussed and compared in order to clarify the meaning of culture with attention to characteristics of science and literature.


Karen LillieKaren photo
Thesis title: An investigation of students’ national identities at an international secondary school in Switzerland

Supervisors: Professor Gary McCulloch and Dr Claire Maxwell

Employing both historical and sociological lenses, this research explores how students who receive an economically resourced secondary education that is not designed to serve a specific nation understand and experience their national identity. The analysis will be rooted in a history of the studied school and additionally will aim to address the roles of social networks, the possibility of transcending nationality and the concept of a “global elite.” Methods of data collection will include documentary research as well as semi-structured interviews, questionnaires and observations. The findings will ideally contribute to the developing multi-sited discourse of elite international education.


Francesca Peruzzo

Thesis title: A critical discourse analysis of disability and inclusion: a case-study from an Italian University

Supervisors: Dr Tom Woodin

This research analyses the discourses around policies and practices of inclusion of disabled students within the Italian higher education system. It uses critical discourse analysis to deconstruct the concept of disability from a sociological and historical perspective. A particularly forward-looking Italian university has been chosen as a case-study to provide insight into the existing dynamics. Evidence of key policies will be drawn from documentary analysis of service agreements alongside semi-structured interviews with students and policy-makers. A social constructivist approach which utilises the Social Model of Disability, developed within the field of disability studies, constitutes the theoretical framework and will shed light on how issues of ideology, identity and power are socially and historically situated.


Ed Whiffin bio pic (2)

Edward Whiffin

Thesis title: Public schools, politics and associational culture in England 1900-1939

Supervisors: Dr Mark Freeman and Dr Georgina Brewis

I am a historian of public school boys and identity formation in the early twentieth century. My thesis is focusing on how English public school boys responded to institutional ideologies, particularly through informal and extra-curricular activities. I completed my BA in 2012 and MA in 2013, both at Newcastle University and joined the ULC Institute of Education in April 2014.


Maria Patricia Williams (completed December 2018)

Thesis title: The Contribution of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini to Catholic Educational Practice 1880-1917.

Supervisor: Professor Gary McCulloch

My research explores the educational practice of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917) and her Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Cabrini was born in Lombardy, Italy and went on to establish 59 schools and orphanages in Europe and the Americas. Her priority was to work with Italian migrants. Most of the primary sources used are in Italian. A case study approach has been adopted with studies of Cabrini’s foundations in London, Rome and New Orleans considered within their transnational context. Selected recent publications include:

Williams, M. P., (2015)  ‘Mobilising Mother Cabrini’s educational practice: the transnational context of the London school of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus 1898–1911’, History of Education, Vol. 44 NO.5, p45-69.


profile photo Qianyun YuQianyun Yu  

Thesis title: Understanding the purpose, impact and value of the educational programmes within a major provincial Chinese museum.

Supervisors: Professor Gary McCulloch and Dr Mark Freeman

My research explores the educational programmes within a Chinese provincial museum from the perspectives of their purposes, practices and impacts. Being cultural, historical and educational institutions, increasing importance has been attached to museums in China in the last decade. How do members of staff in the museum and museum users understand and practise the idea of education in the museum? How does this non-formal education affect people of different generations? Participant observation and semi-structured interviews are the main methods of data collection. This project aims at making a contribution to the understanding of museum education in China.

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