Archive of Research stories

It’s hard work being a smart girl: How today’s schools and screens retell some very old stories about gender and learning

Senior Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University Michele Paule explores real and media worlds of the high-achieving girl at the start of the 21st Century to show how girls are still struggling with some persistent myths about how they learn and how they should be.

In a study conducted across English secondary schools, internet forums and teen TV, Paule explores how girls respond and relate to stories—both experienced and fictional—about ‘smart’ girls:

“One of the most surprising findings of the research was how far back ideas about brilliant, erratic boys and dull, conscientious girls reach—right back to ancient Greece—and also how little actual scientific evidence there is underlying these ideas, even in an age of popularized neuroscience.”

“One of the most surprising findings of the research was how far back ideas about brilliant, erratic boys and dull, conscientious girls reach—right back to ancient Greece.”

Michele Paule, Senior Lecturer in Media, Culture and Communication

“Yet girls, and those who work with them, still form the impression that their success is due to diligence rather than intelligence, that girls’ hard work somehow skews exam results, defrauding boys of their rightful place at the top.

“Girls themselves are aware of how limiting popular stereotypes of feminine achievement can be: geek is not necessarily chic, and intelligence has to be balanced with a hefty dose of femininity if a girl is not to risk social exclusion. As one participant noticed ‘even Hermione gets her teeth fixed’.

“The stereotypes are limited in other ways too. On the project’s forum, one girl asks, ‘Do you have to be posh to be smart?’ The answer is, depressingly, ‘yes’. For example, Dr Who companion Rose Tyler is excluded because ‘she is blonde and off a council estate’. Another respondent describes how she herself was sent to elocution lessons by her parents to combat prejudice against her regional accent. The project’s findings suggest that schools and the media still have a way to go to create conditions in which girls find it easy to thrive intellectually. As one school interviewee neatly summed up: ‘We need better stories’. Teachers and TV producers, over to you.”

A former secondary schoolteacher, Michele Paule is Senior Lecturer in Media, Culture and Education at Oxford Brookes University. She is currently researching girls’ ideas about leadership across different European contexts.Girlhood, Schools, and Media: Popular Discourses of the Achieving Girl is published by Routledge and is available for pre-order.

International Relations, Politics and Sociology annual postgraduate day proves to be a great success

003The International Relations, Politics and Sociology Programme held its Annual Postgraduate Day on 22 June 2016. This mini-conference was a showcase for work being done both by research students and the current MA International Studies cohort. Prospective MA students and online viewers were able to take part via livestream.

Dr Stephen Hurt, course lead for MA International Relations (formerly International Studies), reports that he was delighted to welcome Dr Juanita Elias (pictured, being introduced by Dr Molly Cohran) from the University of Warwick, where she is an Associate Professor in International Political Economy, for a lecture on ‘Gender, IPE and Labour Migration: Perspectives from South-East Asia’. Her lecture covered some of the key findings of her recent academic publications. Starting from the key feminist claim that a focus on social reproduction is vital, Juanita convincingly demonstrated how the role played by domestic workers is central to an understanding of the political economy of South-East Asia. In doing so she argued that social reproduction is becoming increasingly marketised, with states like Malaysia and Singapore encouraging inflows of migration to this effect.

“We are very grateful to Dr Elias for joining us and for prompting a very lively and interesting Q&A session after her lecture”

After the session broke for lunch, guests heard from three current doctoral research students from the department. Kian Pourkemani outlined some of the themes of his project, which is looking at the right of self-determination within international law. Huw Houssemayne Du Boulay set out the design of his research, which seeks to explore the ‘idea’ of Crimea and how this has varied over time in relation to notions of Russian national identity. Emily Cousens then spoke to some of the work she is doing on an interdisciplinary project with Philosophy on the concept of vulnerability within the history of feminist thought.

The International Relations, Politics and Sociology annual postgraduate day concluded with two sets of parallel panels where current MA students gave short presentations on their summer dissertation projects.

These presentations demonstrated the fascinating range of topics that our MA students are conducting research on. The following projects are just a sample to demonstrate the breadth of their interests:

  • ‘To what extent will the continued automation of labour impact social stratification in the global political economy?’.
  • ‘The relationship between scientific knowledge and political ecology in correcting environmental justice’.
  • ‘How a civil society organisation – Pelitit – is promoting food sovereignty and agro-ecological farming practices in Greece’.
  • ‘Producing in/security and its objects: discourse analysis of the reproduction of French citizen after the Charlie Hebdo attacks’.

Find out more about MA International Relations, or research at Oxford Brookes. Keep an eye on the Department of Social Sciences events page to take part in the next postgraduate day in June 2017.

Oxford Brookes lecturers to convene 2017 British Academy Conference

Carrying child news sizeAn interdisciplinary team of lecturers from the Department of Social Sciences at Oxford Brookes University has been selected to convene one of the prestigious British Academy Conferences, to take place in London in 2017. The theme of the conference will be ‘Vulnerability and the Politics of Care’, a subject that has broad academic and public appeal.

Over the course of the two-day conference speakers will present research and engage in discussions about vulnerability in contexts ranging from eldercare to the war on terror, from epigenetics to phenomenology.

The organisers are Doerthe Rosenow (Senior Lecturer, International Relations), Victoria Browne (Lecturer, Politics), Tina Managhan (Senior Lecturer, International Relations), and Jason Danely (Senior Lecturer, Anthropology) – all of whom are first-time applicants to organise the event. They decided to move forward with their British Academy proposal after a successful two-day workshop on the same topic held at Oxford Brookes University in January 2016, which included participants from across the UK and Italy.

For the British Academy Conference, the four organisers have built upon the success of January’s event and invited even more world-class speakers – not only from the UK, but also the US, Germany, Australia, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and Lebanon. One highlight of the conference will be a talk by Professor Judith Butler (University of California Berkeley), widely recognized as one of the most influential voices in contemporary social theory today. Butler, who is best known for her work on politics, gender and queer theory, has been at the center of developing a politics of vulnerability over the past decade, and was a key supporter of the conference proposal. More information on the conference will be available later in the year.

Oxford Brookes University to host the 6th annual National Student Conference for the Royal Anthropological Institute!


The Oxford Brookes Anthropology Society will be hosting the 6th annual National Student Conference for the Royal Anthropological Institute on Wednesday 18 May.

The annual conference is open to all students nationwide, both undergraduate and postgraduate. Tickets are available here, with the £10 attendance fee including refreshments for the day. The day will begin at 9am for registration, ready for a 10am start in the Union Hall.

The theme for the conference is ‘Anthropology in the 21st Century’, a broad theme that will display the broad range of research being conducted in the field. It will be a fantastic opportunity for students to present their work in the form of papers and posters. The day will finish with a keynote speaker (TBC) and a wine reception.

For more information, contact



PhD studentships now available for September 2016 start!

8460 800 by 430The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Oxford Brookes University is pleased to offer a number of full-time PhD Studentships across a range of subject areas for a September 2016 start.

The successful candidate will receive an annual payment of £14,000 as a stipend towards living expenses for a maximum of three years.  Home/EU fees will also be covered by the relevant Department for a maximum of three years.

The Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences spans a diverse range of disciplines that include social sciences, history, philosophy, religion, education, law, English and modern languages, and has a long tradition of producing world-class research. The REF 2014 results confirm our ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’ research status in a range of subjects, and serve as official recognition of the expertise, dedication and passion of our academic community. We are now accepting applications for the following PhD studentships:


Department of Social Sciences

Applications are invited for a PhD Studentship in ‘Lemurs as protectors of the forest: Lemur seed dispersal, forest regeneration and local livelihoods in the littoral forest fragments of Madagascar’ The supervisory team will be led by Dr Giuseppe Donati (Primatology/Biological Anthropology), with Professor Kate Hill  (Anthropology). This proposed PhD project will examine the assumed role of lemurs’ forest regeneration and the likely value of this to local human populations.

Applications are invited for a PhD Studentship in Challenging Security Anew: Probing the Bases and Limits of Critical Security Studies. The supervisory team will be led by Dr Tina Managhan (International Relations) with Dr Doerthe Rosenow (International Relations). This proposed PhD project will explore the ontological and philosophical underpinnings of post-structuralist Critical Security Studies with the aim of furthering its critical ethos and politics.

Applications are invited for a PhD Studentship in Exploring family, care work and fatherhood in the ‘age of migration’. The supervisory team will be led by Professor Tina Miller (Sociology) with Dr Maja Cederberg (Sociology). This proposed PhD project will investigate the role of fathering and examine the emotion work involved in transnational migration, focusing on fathers who are migrants coming to the UK. In particular it will explore how men who are fathers navigate expectations of paternal care and associated emotion work across their home and host country, and how parental obligations and responsibilities are understood, maintained and practiced over time and across borders.


Department of English and Modern Languages

Applications are invited for a PhD Studentship in ‘Avant-Garde Writing, Technology and the Everyday’. The supervisory team will be led by Professor Alex Goody (Twentieth-Century Literature), with Dr Eric White (American Literature).  We are interested in proposals that examine the interactions between the avant-garde writers of modernism and its aftermath and the technological world of the twentieth century. The proposed research should aim to produce a new account of the relationship between the modernist ‘revolution of the word’ and the contingencies and externalities of living in a modern world radically reconfigured through technology (such as transport, inscription, information, communication, surveillance, prosthesis, augmentation and warfare).


Department of History, Philosophy and Religion

Applications are invited for a PhD Studentship in ‘The Art of Pre-Raphaelite Criticism’. The supervisory team will be led by Professor Christiana Payne, (History of Art) with Dr Dinah Roe (19th Century Literature). The proposed project will examine the role of contemporary criticism in the development of the Pre-Raphaelite aesthetic, with particular reference to the work of William Michael Rossetti and Frederic George Stephens.


Viva success from the Centre for Medical Humanities

CMH Viva success_800x430px

The Department of History, Philosophy and Religion are delighted to announce two new Doctors of Philosophy: Dr Alexandra Barmpouti and Dr Hanna Choudhury,  who both successfully defended their theses in March this year.

Alexandra’s thesis was entitled “Eugenics, Demography and Family Planning in Greece, 1950-1980: The Activities of the Hellenic Eugenics Society,” and was examined by Dr Tom Crook, from Oxford Brookes University and Dr Lisa Pine, from London South Bank University

Hanna’s thesis: “The Forgotten Children: The Association of Parents of Backward Children and the Legacy of Eugenics in Britain, 1946-1960,” was examined by Dr Viviane Quirke, from Oxford Brookes University and Professor Mark Jackson, from the University of Exeter.

Both projects were directed by Dr Marius Turda, Director of the University’s Centre for Medical Humanities, which seeks to bring together interrelated research across medical humanities and includes research specialisms in eugenics, forensic medicine and crime and race, immigrations and multiculturalism.

Speaking about the work of his students, Dr Marius Turda said

“These doctoral completions are the culmination of years of hard work and dedicated study on the part of Alexandra and Hanna, their success is richly deserved.”

He added:

“Their achievements also reflect the vibrant academic culture fostered by the new Centre for Medical Humanities in which both of them matured as scholars.”

These successes are a result of the first of five viva examinations taking place in the Department of History, Philosophy and Religion this semester.

New! Fee-waiver scholarship now available for MA International Relations

Portuguese FPU's, Malaysian FPU's Internatioanl Stabilization Forces, ISF, together with the Rapid Intervention Unit from PNTL conducted a practical joint-exercise at the independance field in tasitolu creating scenario of demonstration that would increase the level of hostility for the police to train their tactics against rock throwing, cocktail molotov, burning tyres and demonstrators. Photo by Martine Perret/UNMIT. 17 March 2009.

An annual MA International Relations (all pathways) Fee Waiver Scholarship is available to an international student with suitable academic credentials. This will cover 100% of the tuition fees(£13,620) and is open to international students intending to start their course in September 2016. Applicants for the scholarship will need to hold an offer before submitting their scholarship form.

Find out more about our MA in International Relations programme here. An application form for the fee-waiver scholarship is available from and must be returned by midnight on Thursday 30th June 2016.

The MA in International Relations offers you the flexibility of choosing either our general programme, or one of three specialist pathways (Global Political Economy, Security and Environment) to suit your specific interests. Our postgraduate students benefit from being taught by a team of research-active scholars who publish in their areas of expertise.
In addition to the taught modules, students on our MA in International Relations also get the opportunity to go on a four-day study tour to Brussels and The Hague. Travel and accommodation are included in your fees, and this includes visits to key institutions of the European Union and a range of international organisations, including the International Criminal Court and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. This trip enables students to get a first-hand experience of how these important international institutions work.

You can find profiles of some of our former students at
For general sources of financial support at Oxford Brookes University, see:

Funding for Postgraduate students from the UK and EU
Funding for Postgraduate students from outside the EU

Sociology Lecturer receives funding award from the British Academy

DSC_0018 news cropDr Tamsin Barber, senior lecturer in Sociology, has been successful in receiving a grant from the British Academy for her project: Becoming East Asian: Race, Ethnicity and Youth Politics of Belonging in Superdiverse Britain (with Dr. Diana Yeh, City University, London).

Tamsin’s research project examines emerging East Asian youth identities and social spaces in urban Britain to investigate the changing significance of race and ethnicity in superdiverse contexts (a mix of ethnic and migrant minorities).

The concept of superdiversity has become widely adopted to describe and analyse the ordinary multiculture of everyday urban life in the context of new migrations, but it has been criticised for neglecting issues of power, inequality, exclusion and racism . Her project addresses these absences by examining the significance of race and racism for invisible minorities.

Due to migration, East Asians in Britain are now one of the fastest growing ‘ethnic’ groupings, with the highest percentage of international students; yet they remain invisible in both academic and policy debates on citizenship, integration and multiculturalism. This project investigates how and why young people in London and Birmingham are engaging in racial and pan-ethnic ‘Oriental’ group-making when recent social surveys suggest that race is losing its significance as a dominant identity.

The research will be divided between London and Birmingham, two cities with significant East Asian populations, to allow for a comparative analysis. The research team will conduct in-depth interviews with young Japanese, Thai, Filipino, Korean and Malaysian men and women who use East Asian social spaces, such as events aimed specifically at East Asian youth as well as research on social networking sites.It will provide rich multifaceted data to show how and why young people are ‘becoming East Asian’, as they negotiate the politics of belonging in superdiverse Britain.

Her work will contribute to debates on how political mobilization and belonging are changing under superdiversity, and lead to a research agenda on emerging East Asian youth politics in Britain whilst contributing significant new knowledge on the hitherto ‘uncharted territories’ of invisible youth, who until the 2011 Census were classified as a subcategory of ‘Chinese’, as ‘Chinese: Other’. 


If you’d like to find out more about studying Sociology at Oxford Brookes University, take a look at the subject page.

Brookes School of Education researcher has work published in the TES – a leading online network for teachers

Boy holding up paper (resized)Hamish Chalmers, doctoral researcher in the School of Education at Oxford Brookes, has recently had an article published in the TES, the world’s largest online network for teachers. Hamish, who is researching ways to support EAL (English as an additional language) learners effectively, was commissioned by the TES to write a feature on his research.

Hamish’s article explains the principles behind quality support for EAL learners that acknowledge the skills they bring to the classroom. EAL funding in schools has been cut dramatically, while numbers of EAL learners in UK state schools has never been higher. This means that now more than ever the responsibility for meeting the needs of EAL learners in schools rests with classroom teachers. A common misconception among non-specialist teachers is that EAL needs can be met by the same approaches as used to support SEND (special education needs and disability).

Speaking of his published work, Hamish Chalmers said:

“As a former primary school teacher I was often struck by the lack of dialogue and support for teachers of classes in which diverse linguistic needs were represented. Children for whom English is an additional language deserve teachers who are educated in approaches that have been shown empirically to help them do well at school. The common conflation of EAL with SEN does not help them. I was pleased to have the opportunity to write this piece for the TES, drawing on my teaching experience, and the research I have been involved in at Brookes, to provide a starting point for discussion in schools about how best to promote success for their EAL learners.”

The article was published in the TES on 20 November 2015.

Christmas viva success for the Department of History, Philosophy and Religion

Experiencing smallpox in eighteenth-century England.

A sick man in bed, attended by a physician, and surrounded by members of his family weeping and praying. © The Wellcome Library, London

The week before Christmas witnessed another viva success for the Department of History, Philosophy and Religion, making for four completions so far this academic year.

This time it was the turn of Rosemary Leadbetter, who defended her thesis entitled “Experiencing smallpox in eighteenth-century England.” The disease has now been banished owing to twentieth-century advances in vaccination techniques and immunology; but it was still wreaking deadly havoc in the eighteenth century.

Rosemary focused on the disease in Oxfordshire, where, she argues, even before inoculation was practised, smallpox mortality in the county was being managed through tactics of containment and isolation. Rosemary also examined the role of the smallpox carer, revealing high levels of stress but also resilience thanks to integrated and reciprocal support. Spousal, parental and kinship networks were all vital components of care.

The internal examiner was Dr Viviane Quirke, and the two externals were Professor Steven King (University of Leicester) and Dr Michael Brown (Roehampton University).

Rosemary’s project was directed by Professor Joanne Begiato and Dr Alysa Levene, with further supervisory input from Dr Katherine Watson.

Thrilled with her student’s achievement, Alysa Levene said:

“Professor Begiato and I are very proud of Rosemary’s success, which represents the end of six years’ hard work as a part-time PhD student (and the birth of four grandchildren!). She’s also made a contribution to the department as an Associated Lecturer throughout her PhD and we’re delighted that she can now ask her students to call her Dr Leadbeater!”