Professor Gary Thomas

Professor Gary Thomas

School of Education
Emeritus Professor of Inclusion and Diversity

Contact details

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

Professor Gary Thomas took up the post of chair in education at Birmingham in 2005. Before university teaching, he worked as a teacher and as an educational psychologist. In higher education – at the University of Leeds, at Oxford Brookes University, UWE and University College London – his teaching and research have focused on inclusion, special education, and research methodology in education. 

Gary has received research funding as principal investigator from the AHRC, the ESRC, the Nuffield Foundation, the Leverhulme Trust, the DfE, Barnardos, the Cadmean Trust, local authorities and a range of other organisations. Most of his funded research has been on inclusive or special education, though his Leverhulme Research Fellowship was awarded to examine the role of theory in education.

He led an ESRC thematic seminar competition in the Teaching and Learning Research Programme on the assessment of quality in educational research.

Gary Thomas was executive editor of Educational Review for over six years and he was the founding co-editor of the International Journal of Research and Method in Education. He was also a co-editor of the British Educational Research Journal

His book Education: A Very Short Introduction is published by Oxford University Press and is now in its second edition, and his book for students on research methods, How to do Your Research Project, is now in its fourth edition. Gary Thomas’s work has been translated into eight languages.


  • PhD
  • MEd (Ed Psych)
  • CPsychol
  • PGCE
  • BA (Hons) Psychology

Postgraduate supervision

Current students

Adel Alanazi, Inclusive education in Saudi Arabia

Layla Alshareef, Constructions of ‘dyslexia’ in KSA

Audrey Halpin, Correlates of inclusion

Jesvir Mahil, Ofsted and creativity

Raj Pahill, Positive psychology and education

Sarah Wall, Effective schools

Former students (University of Birmingham)

Martha Cass, Early stressors in childhood

Graeme Martin, Chaos theory and education

Claire Sutton, Emotions and the experience of teaching

Sarah Clemerson, ESRC 1+3 scholarship. Autism and space

Clare Rawdin, Well-being and the curriculum

Michael Nugent, Laughter and inclusion

Leonard Kiarago, EBD provision in Kenya

Sonja Casha, Inclusive education in Malta

Jeanette Nelson, ESRC 1+3 scholarship student. Home schooling

Margaret Wiredu, The use of consultancy in support services

John Kirkman, Understandings of science

Sue Endicott, Behaviour in playgrounds

Teresa Lehane, Use of teaching assistants


His recent research and scholarship have centred on inclusive education, on the work of additional personnel in schools and research methodology in education, with a particular focus on the epistemology of special education.

Gary Thomas is currently ...

i) leading an AHRC funded research project entitled The changing nature of 'connectivity' within and between communities

ii) a co-investigator on the Sense-funded project (PI Liz Hodges) The experiences of diagnosis for people with Usher syndrome


Selected Publications

Macnab, N., Thomas, G. and Grosvenor, I. (2023) Connected Communities: The changing nature of ‘connectivity’ within and between communities.

Thomas, G. (2016) After the gold rush: questioning the “gold standard” and reappraising the status of experiment and randomized controlled trials in education Harvard Educational Review, 86, 3, 390-411 

Thomas, G. and Myers, K. (2015) The anatomy of case study. London: SAGE Publications.

Thomas, G. (2016) Progress in social and educational inquiry through case study: generalization or explanation? Clinical Social Work Journal, doi 10.1007/s10615-016-0597-y

Thomas, G. (2013) Education: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Book details

Thomas, G. (2012) , A review of thinking and research about inclusive education policy, with suggestions for a new kind of inclusive thinking. British Educational Research Journal. 39, 3, 473-490. DOI: 10.1080/01411926.2011.652070

Thomas, G. (2012) Changing our landscape of inquiry for a new science of education. Harvard Educational Review, 82, 1, 26-51.

Thomas, G. (2011) A typology for the case study in social science following a review of definition, discourse and structure. Qualitative Inquiry, 17, 6, 511 – 521. DOI 10.1177/1077800411409884

Thomas, G. (2011) The case: generalization, theory and phronesis in case study, Oxford Review of Education, 37, 1., 21-35 DOI: 10.1080/03054985.2010.521622

Thomas, G. (2011) How to do your case study: a guide for students and researchers. London: Sage.

Thomas, G. (2010) Doing case study: abduction not induction; phronesis not theory. Qualitative Inquiry, 16, 7, 575-582.

Thomas, G. (2007) Education and Theory: Strangers in Paradigms. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Thomas, G., & Loxley, A. (2007) Deconstructing Special Education and Constructing Inclusion. Buckingham: Open University Press. (2nd edition)

Thomas, G. & James, D. (2006) Re-inventing grounded theory: some questions about theory, ground and discovery. British Educational Research Journal, 32 (6): 767–795.