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Dr Rille Raaper

Associate Professor, Deputy Director of Research

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Associate Professor, Deputy Director of Research in the School of EducationED230A 
Associate Fellow in the Institute of Advanced Study  


Dr Rille Raaper (BA, PgCAP, MA, Ph.D)

I am an Associate Professor in the School of Education where my research interests lie in the sociology of higher education. I am particularly interested in student identity and political agency, and my research explores and critiques the consumerist construction of students, for example, how students enact and/or resist consumer discourses in higher education. I often explore these themes by drawing on critical theory and critical discourse analysis. My British Academy project traced the consumerist positioning of students in English higher education policy and the ways in which it informs student politics. I have published a number of related articles (see the most recent one here) and blog posts to share some of the key findings. The examples of my current research activities include a) a pilot project on student academic and wellbeing support networks during the Covid-19 crisis, please read more here, and b) an exploration of disabled students' political identity and engagement in ableist higher education contexts.

I have also recently been a co-I on the Erasmus+ project 'Development, assessment and validation of social competences in higher education'). The project was led by the Warsaw School of Economics, and it explored the extent to which universities across partner countries helped to prepare students for active citizenship.

I hold a number of roles in the School of Education. I am the Education Studies Programme Director (Student Experience - Year 1) as well as the Research Environment Coordinator. I convene the UG module Higher Education: Issues of Exclusion and Inclusion, and the PG module The Case for Higher Education: From Precarity to Empowerment. I also contribute to the PG module Critical Perspectives in Education.

I supervise a number of PGR students in my expertise areas; I currently also support two Laidlaw Scholars at Durham University whose research projects relate to student politics and free speech in higher education.

I am also a coordinator of the First Generation Scholars Network at the School of Education. I would be very pleased to hear from current or prospective students at the School of Education who are first in their family to go to university.

Before joining Durham in 2016, I held research and teaching positions at the University of Glasgow. I was involved in research projects on assessment practices in higher education and MOOC courses as well as teaching in the areas of research methods and fundamentals of education. Previously, I also worked at the Estonian National Agency of European Lifelong Learning Programme and coordinated the activities of adult education programme Grundtvig in Estonia.


Completed Supervisions

Recovery as a troublesome concept: A phenomenographic study of mental health nursing students’ learning experiences.

Graduating from care: A narrative study of care leavers' journeys into and through university

Information for Prospective Doctoral Research Student Supervisions

I would be pleased to hear from potential research students with an interest in conducting research in matters relating to higher education policies, issues of inclusion and exclusion in higher education, student politics and consumerism in higher education. I am also keen to supervise students who are wishing to apply critical theory and critical discourse analysis in educational research.

Research interests

  • Student experience, identity and agency
  • Higher education policy and practice
  • Politics of higher education and student movements
  • Consumerism in higher education
  • Widening participation in higher education
  • Assessment policy and practice
  • Critical theory and critical discourse analysis

Research Projects

  • Critical Analysis of the Higher Education Green and White Papers (2015-2016): Student Representation and Response
  • DASCHE: Development, Assessment and Validation of Social Competences in Higher Education

Awarded Grants

  • 2017: DASCHE: Development, assessment and validation of social competences in higher education(£43256.00 from Interreg (ERDF) Europe)
  • 2016: Critical Analysis of The Higher Education Green and White Papers (2015-2016): Student Representation and Response(£5895.00 from The British Academy)

Esteem Indicators

  • Awards: I have been recently awarded with the British Journal of Sociology of Education (BJSE) Best Early Career Paper Award 2018 on my article ''Peacekeepers’ and ‘machine factories’ tracing Graduate Teaching Assistant subjectivity in a neoliberalised university''
  • Conference keynotes: 'Troubling the notion of students as consumer: Fabrications, contradictions and political engagement' (Students in Changing HE Landscapes conference, University of Surrey, 14th June 2019)

    ‘Constructing ;student politics in the age of consumerism’ (PESGB Gregynog conference, Wales 25th July 2018)

  • External examining and advising: I have recently examined an EdD thesis at the University of Glasgow.

    I am a member of the PhD Committee for Sharon Ultsch, University of Vermont, USA.

    I am also an expert adviser for the research project 'Meanings of Non-formal Learning. Perspectives of Practitioners and Practice', Tallinn University, Estonia.

  • Invited seminar talks and panel discussions: 'Meanings of Non-formal Learning. Perspectives of Practitioners and Practice. Global Perspectives', Tallinn University, November 2020)

    'The Covid-19 Pandemic and Student Support Networks', CHER, November 2020)

    'The Covid-19 Pandemic and Student Support Networks. Implications for Practice and Leadership', ICSEI, September 2020)

    'From Students to Professionals. Constructing Students Politics in English Students Unions', Lancaster University, February 2020).

    'Reflections of Foucault. Theory, Research and Higher Education', with Mark Ollsen, University of Bath, May 2019)

    'The Marketisation of Higher Education and Student Consumers' (Panel speaker, University of Cambridge, March 2019)

    'Student Politics: Now and Then’ (Panel convenor, University of Hull, June 2018)

  • Member of Editorial Board: I am an Associate Editor for Critical Studies in Education and Social Theory Applied.

    I am also a member of the editorial board for Teaching in Higher Education ;

  • Peer reviewing: Peer reviewing (journals): Journal of Education Policy, Studies in Higher Education, Critical Studies in Education, Teaching in Higher Education

    Peer reviewing (books): ;Bloomsbury Publishing, Palgrave Macmillan, Routledge

  • Professional memberships: Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), British Educational ;Research Association (BERA), Society for Research in Higher Education (SRHE)


Chapter in book

Conference Paper

  • Raaper, R. (2016), Tracing assessment policy discourses in neoliberalised universities. A Foucauldian perspective, Foucault@90 Conference. University of West Scotland, Ayr, Scotland.
  • McGuire, W. & Raaper, R. (2015), Developing a guiding protocol for the moderation of summative assessments, in Gómez Chova, Louis, López Martínez, A. & Candel Torres, I. eds, 7th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies EDULEARN15 Conference. Barcelona, International Association of Technology, Education and Development (IATED), Valencia, 7403-7411.

Edited book

  • Murphy, M., Burke, C., Costa, C. & Raaper, R. (2020). Social Theory and the Politics of Higher Education. Critical Perspectives on Institutional Research. Social Theory and Methodology in Education Research. Bloomsbury.

Journal Article

Other (Print)


  • Raaper, R. (2017), Students as consumers? Tracing the policy context of the Higher Education and Research Bill, British Educational Research Association Conference. University of Sussex, Brighton.
  • Raaper, R. (2016), Tracing power and student subjectivity in assessment. A Foucauldian perspective, British Educational Research Association Conference,. University of Leeds.
  • Raaper, R. (2016), Peacekeepers’ and ‘machine factories’ A Foucauldian exploration of Graduate Teaching Assistant subjectivity in a neoliberalised university, SRHE Conference. Newport.
  • Raaper, R. (2015), Foucauldian analysis of student assessment as a technology of government in neoliberal universities, British Educational Research Association Conference. London.
  • Raaper, R. (2014), Student assessment as a disciplinary and governmental technique in a neoliberal higher education context, EERA/ECER Conference. Porto.
  • Raaper, R. (2013), How did i find my home? A journey from grounded theory to Foucauldian framework in assessment in higher education research, Assessment in Higher Education Conference. Birmingham, UK.

Working Paper

Supervision students