Professor Deborah Youdell

Professor Deborah Youdell

School of Education
Professor of Sociology of Education
Director, Public Service Academy

Contact details

School of Education
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston, Birmingham
B15 2TT, United Kingdom

Deborah Youdell is Professor of Sociology of Education in the School of Education and is the Director of the Public Service Academy, an initiative that brings together the public service expertise of the College of Social Sciences to engage and inform public service bodies in Birmingham as well as nationally and internationally.  

Deborah's work in the Sociology of Education is concerned with the relationship between policy, practice and inequalities. Her work explores how inequalities are connected to subjectivities, everyday practices, pedagogy, institutional processes and policy. Her research spans issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, social class, ability and disability. A central concern of her work is how educators can practice politically to intervene in inequalities.

Deborah's work is underpinned by engagements with post-structural thinking about power, the subject, space, and the political. Key theorists include Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, as well as the work of Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Her research expertise is in ethnography and action research.

Deborah is author of School Trouble: identity, power and politics in education and Impossible Bodies, Impossible Selves: exclusions and student subjectivities. She is co-author of the award-winning book Rationing Education: policy, practice, reform and equity.

She is on the Executive Editorial Board of the British Journal of Sociology of Education; Regional Editor of the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education; and is on the Editorial Boards of Race Ethnicity Education and Gender and Education.


  • PGCert. Education Studies (Teaching and Learning in Higher Education) (Macquarie University)
  • PhD Sociology of Education (Institute of Education)
  • MA Women and Writing (University of East Anglia)
  • BSc Applied Social Science (University of North London)


Deborah Youdell has been a member of academic staff at the Institute of Education, the University of Cambridge and Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Before joining the School of Education at the University of Birmingham she was Professor of Education at the Institute of Education, University of London. In her early career she was an education researcher at the University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales and the Institute of Education, University of London.


Deborah teaches Identity, Politics and Everyday Life, a module taken by third year students of Education and Sociology.

Postgraduate supervision

Deborah Youdell has wide experience of working with doctoral students and has seen a number through to completion. She has supported many of her students in securing research council and other studentships and many have been published during their study and gone on to academic employment on completion. She is happy to work with prospective students developing their research proposals and is interested in supervising doctoral work across a range of concerns with substantive, theoretical, political and/or methodological intersections with her own research.

Current students

Paula Lemeu, University of Birmingham, ICT use in Educational Assemblages. 

Evidora Markou (Institute of Education) Greek Ministry of Education funded study of Intercultural Education and Principal Habitus.

Laura Teague (Institute of Education), ESRC-funded study of pedagogy and politics in the primary classroom.


Mapping Public Services Project

This is a Public Service Academy project that brings together colleagues from across the Colleage of Social Science with expertise in a range of public service areas to develop a map of the current public serive terrain that reaches across legislative, policy, service and discipline areas. 

Building Global Civics: transnational approaches to marginalised young people's civic learning and action

This project is currently under consideration by the Spencer Foundation. It is a collaboration with colleagues in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cyprus, and Australia and asks fundamental questions about the situated possiblities for civic learning and action; how these are impacted by forces of globalisation; and whether and how these instances might be interrogated to develop a model for Global Civics. It uses case study methods to offer fine-grained accounts of actual instances of civic learning and action amongst diverse groups of marginalised youth and these are interrogated using multiple theoretical frameworks in order to produce new knowledge about civic learning and action.

Becoming Students: subjectivities in an ‘SEBD’ school (past project)

This ethnographic study explored the possibilities for and limits of recognition for boys attending a school for those diagnosed as having ‘social, emotional and behavioural difficulties’. A key feature of the work was the exploration of educators’ interventions into the exclusions and injustices that mark the education experiences of many of these students. This work is reported in a number of journal articles and is a central empirical strand on the book School Trouble: identity, power and politics in education.

No Outsiders: approaches to sexualities equality in primary schools (past project)

This ESRC research project brought academics from the University of Sunderland, University of Exeter and Institute of Education together with over 30 educators to undertake action research in primary and early years classrooms. Together the project team developed a wide range of pedagogic approaches to sexualities equality and explored the impacts and implications of these for classrooms and schools as well as wider approaches to gender and sexuality politics. This work is reported in a number of journal articles and chapters and is a central empirical strand on the book School Trouble: identity, power and politics in education.

Hidden Privatization in Public Education (past project)

This research, supported by the global teacher union Education International and the National Union of Teachers, used survey and deep internet research as well as case study methods to explore the range, nature and scale of privatization tendencies in education systems globally. The work has been taken up and responded to by many teacher unions internationally.

Other activities

Regional Editor (UK), International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.
Executive Editorial Board, British Journal of Sociology of Education.
Editorial Board, Gender and Education.
Editorial Board, Race Ethnicity and Education.
College of Reviewers, Journal of Education Policy.

External Examiner, MA Gender Studies, University of Sussex.

External Examiner, BA Education, Cardiff University. 


Selected Publications


Youdell, D. (2011) School Trouble: identity, power and politics in education, Abingdon, Routledge

Youdell, D. (2006) Impossible Bodies, Impossible Selves: exclusions and student subjectivities, Springer

Papers and chapters

Youdell, D. (2012) Fabricating ‘Pacific Islander’: Pedagogies of expropriation, return and resistance and other lessons from a ‘Multicultural Day’. Race, Ethnicity, Education, 15(2) 141-155. DOI: 10.1080/13613324.2011.569243

Youdell, D. & Armstrong, F. (2011) A politics beyond subjects: The affective choreographies and smooth spaces of schooling. Emotion, Space, Society, 4(1), 144-150.

Youdell, D. (2011) Intelligibility, agency and the raced–nationed–religioned subjects of education, in K. Bopal & J. Preston (Eds) Intersectionality and ‘race’ in Education. New York, Routledge.

Youdell, D. (2010) Pedagogies of becoming in an end-of-the-line 'special' school. Critical Studies in Education, 51(3), 313-324. DOI: 10.1080/17508487.2010.508810

Youdell, D. (2010) Queer outings: Uncomfortable stories about the subjects of post-structural school ethnography. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 23(1), 87-100. DOI: 10.1080/17508487.2010.508810

Youdell, D. (2010) Recognizing the subjects of schooling: Engagements with Judith Butler, in L. Gandin, M. Apple & S. Ball (Eds) Routledge International Handbook of Sociology of Education, New York, Routledge.

Youdell, D. (2010) Performativity: making the subjects of education, in Z. Leonardo (Ed), Handbook of Cultural Politics in Education, SensePublishers.

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