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James Harrison

Research Student

Research Student in the School of Education


My PhD research focuses on higher education student activism, the critical sociology of higher education, and its connection to theories and practices of citizenship. I plan to use ethnographic methods to study activists' understandings and experiences of citizenship in their activism and everyday lives, as well as the relationship between activism, citizenship and the political purpose of higher education on UK university campuses. My PhD research is supervised by Dr Rille Raaper (School of Education, Durham University), Prof Gidon Cohen (School of Government and International Affairs, Durham University) and Prof Anoop Nayak (School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University). Within the School of Education, I will be teaching on EDUC2351 (Higher Education: Issues of Exclusion and Inclusion) for the 2023-24 academic year.

I am a member of the Higher Education and Social Inequality (HESI) research group, the Higher and Further Education research cluster within the School of Education, and the Centre for Political Thought within SGIA.

I completed a BA in Politics at Durham's School of Government and International Affairs in 2021, with a dissertation focusing on Conservative Party activists and political and ethnic identity. I then completed an MA in Research Methods (Education) from the School of Education in 2022, with research focusing on the potential applications of AI and machine learning for studying public reactions to student activism via social media.

During my undergraduate studies, I held a Laidlaw Scholarship in Research and Leadership at the School of Education, conducting research on political and ideological identity in Labour Party student activists at UK universities.

Outside of my studies, I have served as an SSCC member and Education Committee student representative, and served as MCR President and ex officio College Governor at St Chad's College 2022-23. I have also served as a researcher and project lead for a charity focusing on global LGBT+ human rights.

Research interests

  • HE student activism and politics
  • Politics of higher education
  • Theories of citizenship and citizenship education
  • Social movements and identity
  • Ethnographic methods in political/educational research