School of Social and Political Science

Dr Helen Packwood

Job Title

Lecturer in Social Research Methods

photo of Helen Packwood

Room number


Building (Address)

Chrystal Macmillan Building

Street (Address)

15A George Square

City (Address)


Country (Address)


Post code (Address)


Research interests

Research interests

My substantive research focuses on two key areas of social policy analysis - education and migration. I also have considerable expertise in mixed methods research and in linking administrative and census data to explore ethnic inequalities in educational outcomes. My research often uses advanced quantitative methods alongside qualitative approaches to shed light on educational inequalities. As well as these research interests, I am passionate about pedagogical innovation which nurtures my teaching, research and outreach activities.

My doctoral research explored the destinations of school leavers in Scotland. It looked specifically at the trajectories of young people from migrant and minority backgrounds. Youth transition is an established field, but very little work has been undertaken to understand the experiences and outcomes of school-aged migrants in Scotland. The research used longitudinal methods to shed light on how poverty, ethnicity, and geography intersect, creating distinct pathways for young people with migrant and minority backgrounds. 

A range of scholarships, internships, and fellowships have given me an insight into the connections between theory, policy, and practice. I am passionate about bringing these closer together. Working as a researcher within Local and National Government as well as academia has helped me appreciate the role of independent, academic inquiry and its value in creating evidence-based policy. In addition, the experience of frontline teaching and working within communities brings my research to life and keeps me grounded.

Topics interested in supervising

Migration studies, demographic change, mixed methods research

If you are interested in being supervised by Helen Packwood, please see the links below (open in new windows) for more information:


I joined the School of Social and Political Science in 2019 working within the Edinburgh Q Step Centre - which works to equip students with quantitative skills and training. I contributed to the significant expansion of the outreach ambitions of the Centre by establishing the Q Step Academy which aims to raise the profile of social statistics in schools in Edinburgh and across the UK through innovative teaching and research.

In 2020 I became a lecturer in Social Research Methods and a core staff member at the Research Training Centre (RTC) within the School of Social and Political Sciences. Together with colleagues in the Research Training Centre and from across the University, I am involved in research that considers the impact of COVID19 on children and young people, parents, and service providers.

I am currently involved in the Teaching that Matters for Migrant Students (TEAMS) project, supported by NordForsk, which aims to understand how school systems can accommodate the increasing diversity of student populations. It explores the work of teachers with migrant students in three different national contexts - Sweden, Finland, and Scotland.

Other recent projects have involved a UKRI-funded work examining crisis-resilient childcare systems in Scotland. Leading on the qualitative strand of the project, we have focused on the impact of successive lockdowns on families, carrying out fifty in-depth interviews with parents from across Scotland. 


I currently convene and contribute to a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses.


Research Skills for Social Policy (UG Social Policy) 

In-depth interviewing – theory and praxis (Advanced Methods, RTC)

Mixed Methods: principles and practices (Advanced Methods, RTC)

Introduction to Ethnographic Film making (Micro Methods, RTC)

Digital interviewing (Micro Methods, RTC)



Educational Politics and Policy (UG Social Policy)

Education Policy (PG Social Policy)

Research Skills in the Social Sciences: Data Collection (PG Social Research)


I am also a third year personal tutor and PhD supervisor. 



PhD, University of St Andrews

PGDE Education (Geography), University of Edinburgh

MSc. Urban and Regional Planning, Heriot Watt University

BSc. Geography, University of St Andrews


Recent publications

Packwood, H. (2022). Successful Transitions? Tracing the Experiences of Migrant School Leavers in Scotland. Education Sciences12(10), 703. Link here

Naumann, I. K., Sakali, J., Ribe, E., Ralston, K., Marshall, A., Packwood, H., Gorton, V., Glover, H. (2022),
‘Child and Parental Wellbeing during the Covid-Pandemic’, Working Paper 1, February 2022, Childcare and Wellbeing in Times of Covid-19 series, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh,

Packwood, H. (2019) What is success anyway? Examining the experiences and outcomes of school leavers in Scotland. Briefing Report. Link here

Findlay, A., Packwood, H., McCollum, D., Nightingale, G., & Tindal, S. (2018). Fees, flows and imaginaries: exploring the destination choices arising from intra-national student mobility. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 1-14. Link here

McCollum, D., & Packwood, H. (2017). Rescaling Migration Studies: Migration Policy-Making and Implementation at the Local Government Level. Scottish Geographical Journal, 1-17. Link here

Findlay, A. M., McCollum, D., & Packwood, H. (2017). Marketization, marketing and the production of international student migration. International Migration55(3), 139-155. Link here

Findlay, A., Prazeres, L., McCollum, D., & Packwood, H. (2016). It was always the plan’: international study as ‘learning to migrate. AreaLink here

Packwood H, Findlay A, McCollum D, McGowan, T (eds.) (2015) International study for an international career: a survey of the motivations and aspirations of international students in the UK. Centre for Population Change Briefing Paper SeriesPDF here

Tindal, S., Packwood, H., Findlay, A., Leahy, S., & McCollum, D. (2015). In what sense ‘distinctive’? The search for distinction amongst cross-border student migrants in the UK. Geoforum64, 90-99. Link here

Packwood, H. (2015). Book Review: The Price of Rights: Regulating International Labour Migration by Martin Ruhs. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2013. No. of pages: 272. Link here

Packwood, H., Findlay, A., & McCollum, D. (2014). Engaging with immigration policy on the ground: a study of Local Authorities in Scotland. PDF here

Packwood, H., & Findlay, A. (2014). Immigration to Scotland and the constitutional change debate: Geography, difference and the question of scale. PDF here

Works within

Staff Hours and Guidance

Mondays 12-1

Currently online and by appointment.

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