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Dr Sol Gamsu

Assistant Professor

Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology
Associate Fellow in the Institute of Advanced Study


I am a sociologist and a geographer of education with a strong commitment to the politics of education and envisaging alternative futures for education and society more broadly. My interests lie at the intersection of sociology, geography and history and the central theme running through my work is how structures and experiences of power and inequality in education are reproduced over time and through different local and regional geographies.

Before joining Durham sociology in January 2019, I was a postdoc at the University of Bath on the ESRC-funded project, the Geographies of Higher Education: spatial and social mobilities. With Mike Donnelly (PI), we developed an exciting programme of research on spatial inequalities of race and class in the transition to higher education and on inequalities in graduate recruitment. I was awarded my PhD in Geography from King’s College London in April 2017. It focussed on the geography of elite and middle-class schooling in England. Both my masters and undergraduate degrees were interdisciplinary, drawing on sociology, history, geography and languages (French and German) and this background plays out in my work which continues to span different disciplines.

I am keen to supervise PhD students with an interest in any aspect of educational inequality sociological, spatial or historical. I have particular expertise in secondary schooling, post-16 and higher education but I am also interested in lifelong learning and working-class education. I know the British systems of education best, though I have some more limited knowledge of education in France, the US and Chile and am keen to work with students and colleagues internationally. Theoretically my background is Bourdieusian with a good dose of Doreen Massey, Antonio Gramsci and Stuart Hall but I try to be theoretically open and heterodox.

I am also keen for my work to be politically engaged and engaging and to make my work publicly accessible. I regularly blog, tweet and write policy briefs around educational inequality. I have also been actively involved in education policy, notably around private schools as one of the co-founders of the Abolish Eton campaign group and in my capacity as an active member of the University and Colleges Union.

If I'm not doing that, then in normal times you might find me walking in the hills (preferably the Pennines), reading sci fi (preferably utopian) or travelling somewhere to keep up with my own diaspora of friends and family. These days I'm probably on zoom though.

Research interests

  • Access to higher education
  • Education Policy
  • Elite education
  • GIS and social network analysis, PCA, LCA and other interesting statistical methods (especially in R)
  • History of education
  • Mixed methods research
  • Politics of higher education
  • Regional and local geographies of education and how these combine with race, class and gender
  • Secondary schooling, post-16 education and lifelong learning

Esteem Indicators

  • 2021: Editorial Board - British Journal of Sociology of Education :
  • 2020: SAGE Prize Winner Sociological Research Online Article of the year: Awarded for paper co-authored with Michael Donnelly and Alex Barratta.
  • 2020: British Journal of Sociology of Education Best ECR Paper 2020: Each year, the Executive Editors of British Journal of Sociology of Education pick a winning article from a shortlist of articles by early career researchers. View shortlisted papers and previous winners here.
  • 2017: Editorial Board Sociological Review:
  • 2000: Invited speaker: Invitations to speak at various conferences, research seminars and public events. An indicative recent list:

    June 2021. Why are some children worth more? Economic inequality between state and private schools. Hosted by The World Transformed. Presentation of Common-Wealth research report and panel discussion with Prof. Rebecca Boden and councillor and teacher Stephen Longden.

    June 2021. Great mistakes in education policy: And how to avoid them. British Educational Research Association event and book launch. Discussant.

    April 2021. The material basis for elite education: capital, charity and the state. Special Session at the British Sociological Association Annual Conference.

    December 2020. Balloon Debate on ‘What is the right age to begin academic selection?’. Debate hosted by the Higher Education Policy Institute with politicians, key education stakeholders. I argued the case for no selection at any age which was the most popular position.

    July 2020. The sociology and history of Sheffield's schools. A presentation and discussion hosted by local campaign group, Sheffield Transformed.

    March 2020. Why we do not need elitism in education. TedX Newcastle College event.

    February 2020. Place, inequality and undergraduate mobilities in college-based and university-based higher education. Seminar organised by Holly Henderson, Society for Research and Higher Education, London.

    September 2019. Various speaking engagements at Labour Party Conference with the Centre for Labour and Social Studies and Comprehensive Future.

    September 2019. Widening Participation Research Seminar, UCL, London.

    May 2019. Research seminar at Uppsala University, Sociology of Education Research Group.


Book review

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Newspaper/Magazine Article

Other (Print)


Supervision students