Professor Vivien Lowndes

Professor Vivien Lowndes

Institute of Local Government Studies
Professor of Public Policy

Contact details

Institute of Local Government Studies
School of Government and Society
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Professor Vivien Lowndes undertakes research, teaching and knowledge transfer on local governance, political institutions, citizen participation, migration and gender. 


  • PhD Political Science, University of Strathclyde (Local Government Decentralisation & Institutional Change), 1994
  • MPhil Development Studies, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex,1989
  • BA Sociology (First Class), University of Bristol, 1984


Vivien Lowndes previously worked at the Universities of Essex and Nottingham, and at De Montfort University where she was PVC for Research.  Before coming into academia, she worked in local government and the voluntary sector.  Vivien is a member of the sub-panel for Politics and International Studies for the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), the UK’s periodic assessment of research quality.  She was Deputy Chair of the sub-panel for REF 2014.  Vivien is the Chair of the Editorial Board for Local Government Studies and a former editor of Political Studies and Political Studies Review.  Vivien Lowndes is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Vivien’s research is interdisciplinary, spanning political science, public policy and urban studies.  Theoretically, she is well known for her work on institutionalism (Why Institutions Matter, with Mark Roberts, Palgrave 2013).   With David Marsh and Gerry Stoker, Vivien is co-editor of Theories and Methods in Political Science (4th edition, Palgrave, 2018).

Vivien works with practitioners and policymakers on local governance issues.  She has been an adviser to the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee, the Lyons Inquiry on Local Government, and the Council of Europe’s investigation into the future of democracy.  Her ESRC funded research on citizen participation (with Lawrence Pratchett and Gerry Stoker) led to the development of the CLEAR model, which has been tested in a dozen European countries and was adopted as Council of Europe Ministers Recommendation 2009 (2).


  • MSc Public Management and Leadership (public management module)
  • MPA (collaboration and partnership module)

Postgraduate supervision

Vivien Lowndes supervises PhD students in her areas of research expertise:

  • local governance and local democracy
  • citizen participation
  • local partnerships
  • public service reform
  • institutions and institutional change
  • gender and institutions


Vivien is currently undertaking research on gender and institutions, focusing on Police and Crime Commissioners (with Francesca Gains, University of Manchester, funded by the European Research Council).  She is also looking at flexible (or 'incomplete') institutional design in the context of sub-regional devolution in England, and at why processes of institutional formation vary in different parts of the country.

Internationally, Vivien is undertaking research on local government responses to Syrian refugees in Turkey, with Rabia Karakaya Polat (Isik University, Istanbul), funded by the British Academy/Newton Fund.  She recently completed a project for the Leverhulme Foundation on migration policy and practice in the UK.  Vivien has a longstanding interest in community cohesion and is the co-author of Faith in the Public Realm with Adam Dinham and Rob Furbey (Policy Press 2009). 

Vivien is working with partners at the University of Sao Paulo (Andre Aquino and Andre Lino) to research barriers and facilitators of municipal resilience in four Brazilian cities.  This research and knowledge transfer project is funded by the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Global Innovation (IGI), which aims to stimulate interdisciplinary international collaborations.  Vivien leads the IGI’s work on institutions and city resilience.

Other activities

  • ESRC Impact Accelerator Award, Collaboration Network to explore the use and application of research in the development of Combined Authorities (with Anne Green and Rebecca Riley) (2018-19)
  • Member of Local Government Information Unit Devolution Network (2017)
  • Submission to Women and Equalities Committee (House of Commons) Inquiry into Government plans for achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 (to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls), with Francesca Gains (University of Manchester) (December 2016)
  • Design and delivery of four policy workshops to support the development of Combined Authorities in the Midlands, UK (October 2015 – January 2016)
  • Presentation on the use of evidence in adjudicating faith-based asylum claims to Rainbow Project Social Justice Workshop, Nottingham January 2016 (with Roda Madziva)
  • Evidence to Commission on Standards in Public Life, Inquiry into Local Policing; participation in associated Research Roundtable, and publication of blog on CPSL website, with Francesca Gains (2015)
  • Organiser and chair, ‘The Austerity Puzzle:  How local government is not just surviving but also innovating’, Policymakers’ Workshop, University of Nottingham (2015)
  • Organiser and chair, ‘Police and Crime Commissioners – 2 years on’, Public Lecture by Paddy Tipping, Nottinghamshire PCC, and Panel Discussion, University of Nottingham, including live tweeting and follow-up blog (Ballots and Bullets’ website) (2014)
  • Advisory Board Member, Decentralisation Decade, Institute of Public Policy Research (inquiry into devolution options within England) (2014)



Lowndes, V. D. Marsh and G. Stoker and (eds) (2018) Theories and Methods in Political Science, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan (4th edition) 

Lowndes, V. and M. Roberts (2013) Why Institutions Matter, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Dinham, A., R. Furbey and V. Lowndes (eds) (2009) Faith in the Public Realm, Bristol: Policy Press


Lowndes, V. and Paxton, M. (2018) ‘Can agonism be institutionalised?  Can institutions be agonised?  Prospects for democratic design’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations (online early

F. Gains and V. Lowndes (2017) ‘Gender, Actors and Institutions at the Local Level: Explaining Variation in Policies to Address Violence against Women and Girls’ Governance (online early, DOI: 10.1111/gove.12329)

V. Lowndes and M. Lempriere (2017) ‘Understanding Variation in Processes of Institutional Formation’ Political Studies (online early, DOI: 10.1177/0032321717724325)

Lowndes, V. and Gardner, A. (2016) ‘Local government under the Conservatives: Super-austerity, devolution and the “smarter state”’, Local Government Studies, Vol 42, No 3, pp 357-375

Lowndes, V. and Madziva, R. (2016) ‘”When I look at this van, it’s not only a van”: Symbolic objects in the policing of migration’, Critical Social Policy, 36:4, 672-692

Gains, F. and V. Lowndes (2015) ‘How does the gendered organisation of political life make a difference? Examining an institution in formation – Police and Crime Commissioners in England and Wales’, Politics and Gender, Vol. 10 524-548

Lowndes, V. (2015) ‘How are things done around here?  Uncovering institutional rules and their gendered effects’ (part of a ‘Critical Perspectives’ section on methods for researching institutions), Politics and Gender, Vol. 10, 685-691

Chapman, R. and V. Lowndes (2014) ‘Searching for Authenticity?  Understanding Representation in Network Governance – The Case of Faith Engagement’ Public Administration, Vol. 92, No. 2, pp 274-290

Lowndes, V. and K. McCaughie (2013) ‘Weathering the perfect storm? Austerity and institutional resilience in local government’, Policy and Politics, Vol. 41, No. 4, pp 533-549

Lowndes, V. and S. Squires (2012) ‘Cuts, Collaboration and Creativity’, Public Money and Management, Vol. 32, No. 6, pp 401-408

Lowndes, V. and L. Pratchett (2012) ‘Local Governance under the Coalition Government: Austerity, Localism and the “Big Society”’ Local Government Studies, Vol. 38, No. 1, pp 21-40

Lowndes, V. and L. Thorp (2011) ‘Interpreting “community cohesion”: Modes, means and mixes’, Policy and Politics, Vol. 39, No. 4, pp 517-36

Blanco, I., V. Lowndes and L. Pratchett (2011) ‘Policy Networks and Governance Networks: Towards Greater Conceptual Clarity’, Political Studies Review, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp 297–308

Durose, C and V. Lowndes (2010) ‘Explaining neighbourhood approaches to urban regeneration in Manchester, UK: A multi-level analysis’, Local Government Studies, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp 341-359

Chapman, R and V Lowndes (2009) ‘Accountable, authorised or authentic?  What do “faith representatives” offer urban governance?’ Public Money and Management, Vol. 29, No. 6, pp 371-378

Dinham, A and V. Lowndes (2008) ‘Religion, resources and representation: Three narratives of faith engagement in British urban governance’, Urban Affairs Review, Vol. 43, No. 6, pp 817-845

Chapman, R and V. Lowndes (2008) ‘Faith in governance? The potential and pitfalls of involving faith groups in urban governance’, Planning Practice and Research, Vol. 23, No.1, pp 57-75

Lowndes, V. and H. Sullivan (2008) How low can you go? Rationales and challenges for neighbourhood governance’, Public Administration, Vol. 86, No. 1, pp 1-22

Leach, S and V. Lowndes (2007) ‘Of roles and rules: Analysing the changing relationship between political leaders and chief executives in local government’, Public Policy and Administration, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp 183-200

Lowndes, V., L. Pratchett and G. Stoker (2006) ‘Local political participation: the impact of rules-in-use’, Public Administration, Vol. 84, No. 3, pp 539-561

Lowndes, V., L. Pratchett and G. Stoker (2006) ‘Diagnosing and remedying the failings of official participation schemes: the CLEAR framework’, Social Policy and Society, Vol 5, No 2, pp 281-191

Lowndes, V. (2005) ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed… How institutions change (and stay the same) in local governance’, Policy Studies Vol 26, No 3, 2005, pp. 291-309

Lowndes, V. and S. Leach (2004) ‘Understanding local political leadership: constitutions, contexts and capabilities’, Local Government Studies, Vol 30, No 4, pp. 557-575

Lowndes, V. and H. Sullivan (2004) ‘Like a horse and carriage or a fish on a bicycle: How well do local partnerships and public participation go together?’, Local Government Studies, Vol 30, No 1 pp. 52-74

Lowndes, V. (2004) ‘Getting on or getting by? Women, social capital and political participation’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, Vol 6, No 1, pp. 47-66

Lowndes, V. and D. Wilson (2003) ‘Balancing revisability and robustness? A new institutionalist perspective on local government modernisation’, Public Administration, Vol 81, No 2, pp. 275-298

Lowndes, V. (2002) ‘Between rhetoric and reality: does the 2001 White Paper reverse the centralising trend in Britain?’, Local Government Studies, Vol 28, No 3, pp. 135-147

Lowndes, V. (2001) ‘Rescuing Aunt Sally: taking new institutionalism seriously in urban politics’, Urban Studies, Vol 38, No 11, pp. 1953-1971

Lowndes, V. and D. Wilson (2001) ‘Social capital and local governance: exploring the institutional design variable’, Political Studies, Vol 49, pp. 629-647

Lowndes, V., L. Pratchett and G. Stoker (2001) ‘Trends in public participation: local government perspectives’, Public Administration, Vol 79, No 1, pp. 205-222

Lowndes, V., L. Pratchett and G. Stoker (2001) ‘Trends in public participation: ctizens’ perspectives’, Public Administration, Vol 79, No 2, pp. 445-455

Lowndes, V. (2000) ‘Women and social capital – a comment on Hall’s “Social Capital in Britain”’, British Journal of Political Science, 30, pp. 533-40

Lowndes, V. (1999) ‘Rebuilding trust in central/local relations: policy or passion?’, Local Government Studies, Vol 25, No 3, pp. 116-136

Lowndes, V. and C. Skelcher (1998) ‘The dynamics of multi-organisational partnerships: an analysis of changing modes of governance’, Public Administration, Vol 76, No 2, pp. 313-333

Lowndes, V. (1997) '"We are learning to accommodate mess".  Four propositions about management change in local governance', Public Policy and Administration, September, pp. 80-94

Lowndes, V. (1997) 'Change in public service management: New institutions and new managerial regimes', Local Government Studies, Vol 23, No. 2, pp. 42-66

Lowndes, V. (1997) 'Change in public service management: New institutions and new managerial regimes', Frontieres, Vol. 5, pp. 51-82 (special issue on 'Urban studies in the English speaking world', Universite Paris-IV Sorbonne)

Lowndes, V., P. Nanton, A. McCabe and C. Skelcher (1997) 'Networks, partnerships and urban regeneration', Local Economy, Vol 11, No 4, pp. 333-342

Lowndes, V. (1997) ‘Evaluating “Sustainable Strength”’, Social Services Research, Vol. 12, pp. 10-23

Lowndes, V. (1996) 'Varieties of new institutionalism: A critical appraisal', Public Administration, Vol. 74, No. 2, pp. 181-197

Book chapters

Lowndes, V. (2016) ‘Storytelling and narrative in policymaking’ in Stoker, G. and Evans, M. (eds) Evidence-Based Policymaking in the Social Sciences: Methods that Matter, Bristol: Policy Press

Madziva, R. and Lowndes, V. (2016) ‘What counts as evidence in adjudicating asylum claims? Locating the monsters in the machine – an investigation of faith-based claims’ in Nerlich, B., Smith, A., Hartley, S. and Raman, S. (eds) Here be Monsters’: Science, Politics and the Dilemmas of Openness, Manchester: Manchester University Press (in press)

Gardner, A. and Lowndes, V. (2016) ‘Negotiating austerity and local traditions’ in M. Bevir and R. Rhodes (eds) Rethinking Governance: Ruling, Rationalities and Resistance, London: Routledge

Lowndes, V. and L. Pratchett (2014) ‘Indirect not insignificant: The Council of Europe’s acquis as an instrument of institutional design’ in S. Griggs, A. Norval and H. Wagenaar (eds) Decentred Governance: Democracy, Conflict and Participation, Cambridge University Press

Lowndes, V and L Thorp (2010) ‘”Preventing Violent Extremism” – Why Local Context Matters’ in R Eatwell and M Goodwin (eds) The New Extremism in 21st Century Britain, London: Routledge, pp 124-141

View all publications in research portal


Communities and Cohesion

Professor Lowndes is interested in local government and local democracy, including citizen participation.  She looks at the dynamics of institutional change in public services and governance, including the role of gender.   

Policy experience

Vivien works with practitioners and policymakers on local governance issues.  She has been an adviser to the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee, the Lyons Inquiry on Local Government, and the Council of Europe’s investigation into the future of democracy.  Her ESRC funded research on citizen participation (with Lawrence Pratchett and Gerry Stoker) led to the development of the CLEAR model, which has been tested in a dozen European countries and was adopted as Council of Europe Ministers Recommendation 2009.  She is currently undertaking research on English devolution and the formation of combined authorities.