Professor Reza Gholami

Professor Reza Gholami

School of Education
Professor of Sociology of Education

Contact details

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

Reza Gholami (PhD, FRSA) is Professor of Sociology of Education, UK. He earned his PhD in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at SOAS, University of London. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Senior Editor of the Sociology of Education section of the Journal of Cogent Education.

Professor Gholami’s research focuses on racial and religious diversity in education – the questions, challenges and opportunities thrown up by it. Using mixed methods and community-led research, he is interested in better understanding diversity as both context and content for education in order to foster positive inter-communal relations and improve educational and citizenship outcomes for minoritized youth. His work is rooted in social justice, and he has developed concepts such as ‘diasporic education’ and ‘living diversity’ as highly generative theoretical and pedagogical tools. His previous and ongoing research, funded among others by the ESRC, AHRC and the Leverhulme Trust, has shown that organic educational collaborations between the formal and non-formal sectors (including diverse communities and the Third Sector) are a powerful way to address chronic educational inequities and develop innovative policies and practices for the future. Such educational collaborations are underpinned by a wealth of local/urban, national and transnational networks and therefore reflect the empirical social realities of diverse communities more accurately than existing (nation-centric) models. 

Professor Gholami also contributes to global debates around Islamophobia and its ongoing societal and educational implications, for example through counter-extremism policies. He conceives of Islamophobia as operating along the two vectors of racialization and ‘religification’ with the latter posing important questions for a critical study of secularism in education. His work has attempted to account theoretically for both vectors while applying these ideas to understand and tackle the educational disadvantages that Muslim students face.


  • BA, MA, PhD (London)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Fully accredited by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS)


Prof. Gholami leads the UG Dissertation Module

Postgraduate supervision

Current students

  • Abdulrahman Alghaith
  • Ingrid Abrahams
  • John Keech
  • Gitanjali Patel
  • Michelle McLardy
  • Megan Whitehouse 

Please contact Prof. Gholami directly if you are interested in pursuing doctoral research under his supervision.


Current projects

  • Free Expression at School? The Making of Youth Engagements with Race and Faith (with Prof. Karl Kitching) – funded by The Leverhulme Trust
  • Does Birmingham Belong to Me? Arts-Based Pedagogies for Identity, Belonging and Citizenship – funded by The Paul Hamlyn Foundation
  • Developing Research Leaders Focused on Belonging, Equity, Quality and Co-Production – funded by QR, UKRI
  • Non-Formal Intercommunal Education (in the UK, Australia, and the US) – funded by ESRC

Other activities

Selected (recent) Keynote lectures and invited talks 

Learning for Fear: How Islamophobia is Manufactured and Made Educational. Invited lecture at the Department for Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, 9 October 2023. 

Destructive Knowledges: Coloniality, Decolonization and ‘Living Diversity’. Keynote lecture given at the Think Diversity event, University of Birmingham, UK, 1 June 2023. 

Breaking the Mould: A Global Re-framing of Islamophobia in Education. Invited lecture at the Faculty of Education, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, 2 February 2023. 

Placing Communities at the Centre of Educational Theory, Research and Practice. Seminar given at the School of Education and Professional Studies, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, 26 January 2023. 

Race, Community and Diasporic Education: Intercultural pedagogies in/of the superdiverse city. Invited lecture at the Institute of Social Science, Religion and Philosophy, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Oslo, Norway, 26 October 2022 

Barriers Facing Muslim Students in UK Higher Education. Invited talk at Community Policy Forum, 7 June 2022 

Religification and Islamophobia in the Secular University: Examining the Muslim Student Awarding Gap, invited seminar given at Edge-Hill University Faculty of Education, 28 October 2021. 

The Value of a Critical Ethnography of the Secular Today: Muslim Minorities and Secular Power, plenary lecture given at the Institute for Social Anthropology and Empirical Cultural Studies, University of Zurich, 14 December 2020 

‘City-zenship’: What does a ‘Brummie’ Education Look Like? Talk at a virtual event I organised and led for the Festival of Social Sciences, 10 November 2020

Islamophobia and Racism: The Institutional ‘work’ of Education, Secularism and Policy, Keynote Lecture given at the “Inclusivity in Education” conference at Middlesex University, London, 3 July 2019 

Racialized Humanity. Invited talkat the “Humanity under Duress” conference, University of Sheffield, 19-21 June 2019 

Diasporic Education: Challenges and Possibilities. Plenary lecture at “Diaspora and Internationalization in Higher Education” organised by BAICE at the UCL Institute of Education, 10 May 2019 

Religion, Prevent and Free Speech. Invited talk at “The Far Right and the Politics of Free Speech” SOAS, University of London, 1 March 2019 

Secularism, Policy and Education in an Age of Extremisms, invited talk by the Department of Education, Practice and Society, UCL Institute of Education, 29 November 2018 

Diasporic Living and the Secular – Lessons for Identity, Citizenship and Education, Keynote Lecture delivered at the Non-religion and Secularity Research Network conference, King’s College, London, 6 July 2018 

Selected recent conference papers

Becoming City-zens: Community-Inclusive Urban Education for Social Justice, Liveable Cities (AMPS), New York City College of Technology (CUNY), New York, USA, 14-16 June 2023 

Towards Critical Secular Studies in Education: Addressing Secular Education Formations and their Intersecting Inequalities, Critical Research on Religion Conference, Queen’s University Belfast, 10-13 June 2022. 

Non-Islamiosity – a Review of a Concept, annual conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists, University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal, 23-27 July 2020 

The Politics of Diasporic Integration, IAMCR annual conference, Madrid, Spain, 7-11 July 2019 

Cosmopolitanism as Transformative Experience: Education, Extremisms and a New Social Ethic in the Post-Truth Era, International Sociological Association, XIX World Congress of Sociology, Toronto, Canada, 15-21 July 2018 

Indicators of peer esteem

  • Since 2022: Senior Editor (sociology of education) Cogent Education
  • Since 2020: Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA)
  • 2019-2020: Grant application reviewer for the British Academy (the “Education and Learning in Crises” Programme)
  • 2019: Grant application reviewer for Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA)
  • Since 2018: Member of the Editorial Board: Educational Review (impact factor 3.605)
  • Since 2017: Member of the Editorial Board: Sage Open (impact factor 2.032)
  • Since 2017: Member of the Editorial Board: International Studies in Sociology of Education
  • Member of the West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner’s Academic Advisory Board


Recent publications


Panjwani, F, Revell, L, Gholami, R & Diboll, M (eds) 2018, Education and Extremisms: Rethinking Liberal Pedagogies in the Contemporary World. Routledge. <>


Kitching, K, Kandemir, A, Gholami, R & Rahman, MS 2024, 'Education policy and ‘free speech’ on race and faith equality at school', Journal of Education Policy.

Gholami, R 2023, 'Diasporic education in the mainstream school: creative pedagogies of belonging across time and space', Educational Review.

Kitching, K & Gholami, R 2023, 'Towards Critical Secular Studies in Education: Addressing secular education formations and their intersecting inequalities', Discourse.

Gholami, R 2022, 'Thinking and working with ‘diasporic education’: the challenges and possibilities of a concept', International Studies in Sociology of Education.

Gholami, R 2021, 'Critical Race Theory and Islamophobia: challenging inequity in higher education', Race Ethnicity and Education, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 319-337.

Gholami, R & Sreberny, A 2018, 'Integration, class and secularism: the marginalization of Shia identities in the Uk Iranian diaspora', Contemporary Islam.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Gholami, R 2022, Reflections on the Impact and Legacy of ‘Trojan Horse’: an Intersectional View. in C Diamond (ed.), The Birmingham Book: Lessons in urban education leadership and policy from the Trojan Horse affair. Crown House, pp. 289-312. <>

Gholami, R & Doharty, N 2020, Racialized Humanity. in Humanity under Duress. <>

Gholami, R 2019, The Politics of Diasporic Integration: The Case of Iranians in Britain. in The Wiley Handbook of Diasporas, Media and Culture. Wiley-Blackwell.

Gholami, R 2018, Citizenship and education in an age of extremisms. in A Peterson, G Stahl & H Soong (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of Citizenship and Education. 1 edn, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1-15.

Spellman-Poots, K & Gholami, R 2018, Iranians in Great Britain: Integration, Cultural Production and Challenges of Identity. in MM Mobasher (ed.), Iranians in Diaspora: Challenges, Negotiations, and Transformations. University of Texas Press. <>

Other contribution

Gholami, R 2020, Coronavirus: Social distancing is cutting asylum seekers off from education and support. The Conversation . <>

Other report

Rahman, S, Kitching, K, Gholami, R, Kandemir, A & Khokan, MR 2023, Youth Engagement with Race and Faith at School: National Pupil Survey Headline Findings Report. University of Birmingham. <>

Working paper

Gillborn, D, Bhopal, K, Crawford, CE, Demack, S, Gholami, R, Kitching, K, Kiwan, D & Warmington, P 2021 'Evidence for the commission on race and ethnic disparities' University of Birmingham.

View all publications in research portal

Media experience

Knowledge exchange and non-academic engagement

2023: Scale Magazine’s article about my work on ‘living diversity’ and non-formal education with artist Vanley Burke and the Ikon Gallery 

2023: ‘In Conversation’ with Vanley Burke at The Exchange in Birmingham, UK 

2023: BBC coverage of my collaborative work as part of the Birmingham Migrant Festival 

2022: Exhibition at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. This showcases the innovative educational work I have been doing with Ikon Gallery, Migrant Voice, renowned photographer Vanley Burke, and Birmingham communities. BBC’s coverage of the exhibition 

2020: Contributed to and featured in a three-part BBC Radio 4 documentary about the ‘Trojan Horse’ affair for a series called ‘The Corrections’ (Broadcast throughout November 2020) 

2020: Designed and led a high-profile event for the 2020 Festival of Social Sciences with distinguished guests such as Cllr Brigid Jones, the Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, and Kamal Hanif OBE, CEO of Waverly Educational Foundation – in addition to 250 ‘live’ attendees, the event was showcased and received nearly 9,000 views on Facebook 

2019: Interviewed (live) by Voice of Islam Radio’s Breakfast Show on matters of Islamophobia in Europe, 13 Aug. from minute 37:34) 

2019: Interviewed (live) by Voice of Islam Radio’s Breakfast Show on matters of structural racism, free speech and positive discrimination. 12 March. from 1:35,36)

2018: quoted in BBC News in a story entitled “Young people anxious from terror coverage”