Personal profile

Research interests


Research interests


  • Geographies of education
  • Place, space and identity
  • Youth transitions and contemporary social change
  • UK 'home international' comparative research
  • Indigeneity and education
  • Education policy and social mobility


Current projects



Prior to joining the University of Bath, I was based at the University of Sheffield, and before that Cardiff University (where I gained my PhD). My research interests are broad and I take an interdisciplinary approach, in particular drawing on theories and ideas from education, human geography, and sociology. My work has examined education and contemporary social change, exploring a number of topics relating to higher education participation, social mobility, space and place, education and the labour market, and elite class formation. I am particularly interested in developing new innovative approaches to combining quantitative and qualitative methods. My work has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Sutton Trust, the UK Government’s Social Mobility Commission, NESTA and the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO).

My more recent research has contributed to understanding processes of contemporary social change through the lens of higher education – and I currently lead two ESRC-funded projects in this area. The first project ( Spatial and Social Im/Mobilities ) is a far-reaching study addressing place and young people’s mobilities, taking into account spatial divisions according to race, ethnicity, economy and culture. Based in the UK, the project involved the development of a new mapping method (see here) to explore the spatial structuring of young people’s mobilities through in-depth fieldwork across 20 spatially diverse case studies. A second project in this area (Indigeneity and Pathways through Higher Education, award no. ES/S016473/1) brings together an international team of researchers from Universidad Veracruz, UNAM (Mexico City) and Bath to generate knowledge about how university attended impacts on Indigenous student experiences, skills/knowledge(s) acquired, and identifications across different social domains. Based in Mexico, it is a 3-year cohort study tracing a group of young people who self-identify with an Indigenous group as they progress through university and into the labour market.

I completed my doctoral research (also funded by the ESRC through a 1+3 scholarship) in 2012, which was a quantitatively framed, qualitative study, which examined the relationship between schools and the shaping of young people's university choices. This work involved developing a new approach to researching school effects, drawing on and combining insights from school effectiveness research and the sociology of education.

Research membership


Willing to supervise doctoral students

I am interested in supervising new PhD students researching these topics:

  • Space, place and education
  • Youth transitions and contemporary social change
  • Indigeneity and education
  • Creative and participatory methods
  • Sociology of education in general

I can support prospective students with applications for funding, with a variety of sources available (see funding guidance)

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities


Dive into the research topics where Michael Donnelly is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or