Professor Deborah Youdell

Deborah Youdell

School of Education
Head of the School of Education
Professor of Sociology of Education

Contact details

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

Deborah Youdell is Head of the School of Education and Professor of Sociology of Education.  She is a member of the Centre for Research in Race and Education (CRRE).

Her work is at the forefront of the developing field of biosocial education, which brings emerging knowledge in the new biological sciences together with social science accounts of education to generate new insights into learning and the learner. Her latest book Biosocial Educationco-authored with molecular biologist Martin R. Lindley, sets out an agenda for biosocial research in education. Deborah leads the Biosocial Research Network. 

biosocial education

This latest line of research intersects with Deborah’s longstanding concern with how inequalities are connected to subjectivities, everyday practices, pedagogy, institutional processes and policy. Deborah’s research has spanned issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, social class, ability and disability and has been underpinned by engagements with post-structural thinking about power, the subject, space, and the political. 

Deborah is the author of School Trouble: identity, power and politics in education and Impossible Bodies and Impossible Selves: exclusions and student subjectivities. She is co-author with David Gillborn 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 and is on the Editorial Board of Race Ethnicity Education.

Read her blog: 


  • 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

Bobby Beaumont – Childhood in the camps: investigating the provision and effects of play-based interventions for displaced children living in refugee camps.

Alejandra Meyer Romero - Promotion and Retention in Chilean Primary Schools: Policies and Practices

Carol Wild -  Art education, practice and politics 


The Disability under Siege project is supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund.

The body social: synthesising sociology and biology to re-conceptualise student identity 

British Academy Mid-career Fellowship

This Fellowship brings together evidence from sociology and biology to understand and disseminate what these disciplines can tell each other about the making of children and young people’s bodies, minds, and social and learner identities. It includes a focused review of literature from across the target disciplines, consultation with biological and social scientists, and a series of inter-disciplinary expert workshops. Public engagement is at the heart of the programme which will deliver a series of bespoke interactive workshops and events for professionals, volunteers, community members, parents/guardians, and children and young people.  

Destination Work (Public Service Academy)

This project is being led by Dr Ian McGimpsey and is providing research and evaluation to Birmingham City Council (BCC) as part of their 'Destination Work' youth employment programme. 

Schools, Family Support and Early Help

This project is being undertaken in collaboration with Dr Jerry Tew and Birmingham Education Partnership and is working with a group of schools in Birmingham to explore experiences of Family Support and Early Help with a view to understanding how schools can best support children and families. 

Flying Seagull Project: Joining the laugh-olution (Public Service Academy)[DY6] 

The Flying Seagull Project is a charity that brings circus and related activities to children, especially those in crisis. The research supported the Flying Seagulls to gather audience responses and documented their practice and its impact.

Other activities

Executive Editorial Board, British Journal of Sociology of Education.
Editorial Board, Race Ethnicity and Education.


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. (2017). Bioscience and the sociology of education: the case for biosocial education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 1-14. doi:10.1080/01425692.2016.1272406

Youdell, D. (2016). A biosocial education future? Research in Education, 96(1), 52-61. doi:10.1177/0034523716664579 

Allan, J. & Youdell, D. (2016) Ghostings, materializations and flows in Britain’s special educational needs and disability assemblage, Discourse.

Lindley, M.R., and D. Youdell. (2016) "The absent body: bio-social encounters with the effects of physical activity on the wellbeing of children and young people " In Families, Young People, Physical Activity and Health: Critical Perspectives, edited by S. Dagkas and L. Burrows. London: Routledge.

Youdell, D, and I. McGimpsey. (2015) "Assembling, disassembling and reassembling 'youth services' in Austerity Britain." Review of. Critical Studies in Education 56 (1):116-30.

Youdell, D. (2015) From policy sociology to assemblage ethnography. In K. Gulson, A. Metcalfe & M. Clarke (Eds.), Post-Structural Theory and Education Policy. London: Routledge, 110-121. 

Youdell, D. (2014) Identity and Identity Politics in David Phillips (Ed), Sage Encyclopaedia of Philosophy and Theory in Education, Sage. 

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.

View all publications in research portal