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

Education, Inequality, Migration studies, Social policy, Mixed methodologies, Human Geography, Population change, Child Poverty, Longitudinal Analysis, Scotland and Europe, UK


My work is broadly, and theoretically, framed by my interest in inequalities and social justice. My doctoral research combined these long-standing interests by exploring how young migrants to Scotland make the transition from compulsory education. Youth transition is an established field, but very little work has been undertaken to understand the current experiences and outcomes of school-aged migrants in Scotland. The research used innovative longitudinal methods to shed light on how poverty, ethnicity, and geography intersect creating distinct pathways for young people with migrant and minority backgrounds. My research integrates advanced quantitative methods with qualitative approaches and seeks to shed light on the (re)production of educational inequalities.

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 sit on the Advisory Board of the TEAMS project which focuses on the work of teachers with migrant students in three different national contexts - Sweden, Finland, and Scotland.

I’m also a Co-Investigator in an UKRI-funded project examining crisis-resilient childcare systems in times of COVID-19. 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. 

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 is longitudinal and combines quantitative and qualitative data to shed light on the (re)production of inequalities. As well as these research interests, I am passionate about pedagogical innovation which has motivated a co-authored book that is in preparation. 

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 second-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

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.

Book here