Dr Laura Day Ashley

Dr Laura Day Ashley

School of Education

Contact details

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

Laura became Lecturer at the School of Education in 2011 after completing a Birmingham Research Fellowship. Prior to that she worked as a member of a team on a large-scale research programme, the National Evaluation of the Children's Fund (DfES) at the University of Birmingham. She joined the University of Birmingham from the University of Oxford where she held an ESRC research studentship and ESRC postdoctoral fellowship.

Laura Day Ashley discusses the role and impact of private schools in developing countries.


  • DPhil Educational Studies (University of Oxford). 
  • MSc Educational Research Methods (University of Oxford).
  • MA Social Anthropology (University of St. Andrews).


Laura teaches on undergraduate and postgraduate courses. She is Year 3 Tutor for the BA in Education and leads the Schooling: A Social and Cultural History module. She is a tutor on the Practitioner Inquiry in Education Masters module and contributes to the International Studies in Education programme.

Postgraduate supervision

Laura Day Ashley supervises dissertations of Masters International Studies in Education and PhD students. She welcomes expressions of interest from prospective PhD students in the following areas:

  • The private sector/privatisation, including ‘low fee’ private schools in developing countries.
  • Education and marketisation, including academies and free schools.
  • Other forms of non-state schools including NGOs, charitable and philanthropic schools.
  • Non-formal education (including alternative schools, home schooling, indigenous forms of education, peer education and theatre-in-education).
  • History of progressive and child-centred education. 


A key area of expertise is the study of the private sector and non-state actors in education, particularly in developing countries, and Laura has published, edited a collection and reviewed articles and books in this field. Recently she led a multi-disciplinary research team in a rigorous review of the evidence on: The role and impact of private schools in developing countries (2014, DFID). In this video she talks about the key findings of the review.  

Other current research (British Academy) historically investigates Indian influences on progressive education in Britain in the early 20th century. This historical interest grew from doctoral and postdoctoral research (ESRC) in contemporary India into 'private school outreach ' - private schools that provide educational outreach programmes for children who are out-of-school.

Other work has focused on alternative and informal / non-formal practices in education; a particular interest has been how such practices might enable marginal and mainstream communities to come together in educational settings. Examples of this type of work include a study of peer education for street children in Kolkata, and the use of Forum theatre to explore issues around homelessness and refuge in London secondary schools.

Other activities

Laura Day Ashley has been invited to deliver keynote papers at prestigious national and international conferences and seminars, which she also regularly attends to present her ongoing work. She also regularly reviews books and articles for peer-reviewed academic journals.


Review articles

Day Ashley L, Mcloughlin C, Aslam M, Engel J, Wales J, Rawal S, Batley R, Kingdon G, Nicolai S, Rose P (2014) The role and impact of private schools in developing countries: a rigorous review of the evidence. Department for International Development.

Peer-reviewed journal articles

Day Ashley, L. (2013) The shifting politics of the private in education: debates and developments in researching private school outreach in India, Comparative Education. 49, 2, pp.206-225 DOI: 10.1080/03050068.2012.686258

Day Ashley, L. (2010). The use of structuration theory to conceptualize alternative practice in education: the case of private school outreach in India, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 31, 3, 337-351. DOI: 10.1080/01425691003700599 . This article also appears in the following compendium: Ball, S.J. (ed.) (2017) Sociology II. Routledge Major Reference Works. Major Themes in Education Series. Routledge: London.

Day-Ashley L. (2006) Inter-school working involving private school outreach initiatives and government schools in India, Compare (36) 4, 481-496. DOI: 10.1080/03057920601024941

Day Ashley L. 2005. From margins to mainstream: Private school outreach inclusion processes for out-of-school children in India, International Journal of Educational Development, 25, 2, 133-144. ISSN: 0738-0593. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijedudev.2004.11.016 

Day Ashley L. 2002. 'Putting Yourself in Other People's Shoes': the use of Forum theatre to explore refugee and homeless issues in schools, Journal of Moral Education, 31, 1, 21-34. ISSN: 0305-7240. DOI: 10.1080/03057240120111418

Editorship of journal special issue

Day Ashley L. and Caddell, M. (2006) (Guest Editors) Compare Special Issue: The private education sector: towards a reconceptualisation. (36) 4. Includes editorial: Caddell M and Day Ashley L ‘Blurring boundaries: towards a reconceptualisation of the private sector in education.’

Contributions to edited works

Day Ashley, L. (2017a) ‘Planning your research’ in Coe, R.J., Waring, M., Hedges, L.V. , Arthur, J.  (eds.) Research Methodologies and Methods in Education, Second Edition, Sage: London.

Day Ashley, L. (2017b) ‘Case study research’, in Arthur, J., Waring, M., Coe, R.J., Hedges, L.V. (eds.) Research Methodologies and Methods in Education, Sage: London

View all publications in research portal


Research on non-state education and private schools in developing countries funded by the Department for International Development, UK (DFID) is cited in DFID Education Policy 2018 and has informed Save the Children's Global Policy Position on User Fees in Education and Private Schools.