Professor Joan Forbes

Professor Joan Forbes
Professor Joan Forbes
Professor Joan Forbes

BA (Strathclyde), MA (Ed) (Open), EdD (Stirling), PGCE/S, PGCE/P, PGD (HI), PGC (SEN)

Emeritus Reader

Email Address
Office Address

Room 520 MacRobert Building
University of Aberdeen
AB24 5UA

School of Education


Joan Forbes is an Honorary Professor at the Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stirling and Emeritus Reader, University of Aberdeen.  She was appointed Honorary Professor in 2016 having been Reader and Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Aberdeen and prior to that Lecturer at Northern College, Aberdeen. Her research embraces social and cultural theory and policy sociology. Her published studies on inter/professional working, children’s public services, gender and education, and elite schooling are both empirical and theoretical. She was Director of Research and member of the School Executive between 2006 and 2009, Director of the Centre for Children’s Services Research and Policy Study from 2008 until 2012, and held a Fellowship of the Scottish Educational Research Scheme (AERS) within its Schools and Social Capital Network between 2005 and 2008. She was Principal Investigator and grantholder for two Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded seminar series on inter/professional practice in children's public services (2006-07 and 2008-09).

Professor Forbes has been a member of the UK ESRC Peer Review College since its inception in 2010. She is on the editorial board of the British Educational Research Journal  (BERJ) and Child Language Teaching and Therapy (CLTT); and until recently served on other journal boards: Scottish Educational Review; Education in the North; British Journal of Special Education; Journal of Research in Special Education; and Support for Learning. Professor Forbes has been a member of ProPEL: Professional Practice, Education and Learning, University of Stirling, a collaborative, multi-professional international network to promote research and knowledge exchange in leading issues of professional education, practice, and learning, since its foundation in 2010. 

Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships



External Memberships


Honorary Professor in Education, Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection, University of Stirling (from 2016)

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Peer Review College (from 2010).

Applied Educational Research Scheme (AERS) Fellowship (2005-08).

proPEL international research network: Professional Practice, Education and Learning at the University of Stirling.

Co-Investigator, Scottish Independent Schools Project (SISP), Leading Women study (2017-2019).

Editorial Board member, British Educational Research Journal (BERJ).

Editorial Board member, Child Language Teaching and Therapy (CLTT).


Editorial Advisory Board member, NASEN academic journals: the British Journal of Special Education (BJSE); Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs (JORSEN); and Support for Learning (SfL).

Editorial Board member, Scottish Educational Review (SER). 

Advisory Board member, Education in The North (EiTN).

External Examiner

External Examiner PhD/EdD theses: University of Cambridge; University of Stirling; University of Western Australia; Murdoch University, Western Australia; Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.


Research Overview

Joan Forbes' research engages with social theory to understand the interconnections between education and society related to a social justice and equalities agenda. Her research is located at the intersections of children's sector transformations; schools, social and multiple capitals; inter/professional knowledge and practice relations; independent schooling and privilege; spatio-temporalities of schooling; and gender, education and social policy.

Research Areas

Research Specialisms

  • Sociology
  • Education Policy

Our research specialisms are based on the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) which is HESA open data, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Current Research

Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection - University of Stirlng research collaborations. 

Forbes, J. (2018) Multi-agency working. Scottish Education. The Fifth Edition 2018. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Pp748-758. 

Leading Women Study A Scottish Independent Schools Project (SISP) study on elite schooling, agency and affect. 

Forbes, J., Maxwell, C., McCartney, E. (2021) Elite Girls' 21st Century Schooling in Scotland: Habitus Clive in a Shifting Landscape. British Journal of Educational Studies, 69.3, 287-306. DOI:10.1080/00071005.2020.1812509

Forbes, J. & Maxwell, C (2018) ‘Bourdieu Plus: Understanding the Creation of the Agentic, Aspirational Girl Subject in Elite Schools’ in Stahl, G., Wallace, D., Burke, C & Threadgold, S. (2018) International Perspectives on Theorizing Aspiration: Applying Bourdieu’s Tools. Bloomsbury, London.

Forbes, J. & Lingard, B. (2017) Assured optimism in a Scottish girls' school: Habitus and the (re)production of global privilege. In Kenway, J. & Koh, A. (Eds.) New Sociologies of Elite Schooling. Pp116-136. London & New York: Routledge.

Forbes, J. & Weiner, G. (2016) 'Independent' in Scotland: Elite by Education? In C. Maxell & P. Aggleton (Eds.) Elite Education: International Perspectives. Understanding the implications of educating elites on schooling systems. Pp29-41. London & New York: Routledge.

The Language for All study. Understanding child sector practitioners' knowledge, skills and social and multiple capitals across multiagency pathways for children with speech, language and communication needs (a research collaboration with the University of Newcastle and University of Strathclyde). New papers:

McKean, C., Law, J., Laing, K., Cockerill, M., Allon-Smith, J., McCartney, E., Forbes, J. (2017) A qualitative case study in the social capital of co-professional collaborative co-practice for children with speech language and communication needs. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders.

Forbes, J., McCartney, E., McKean, C., Laing, K., Cockerill, M., Law, J. (2019) Co/productive practitioner relations for children with SLCN: an affect inflected agentic frame. Discourse: Studies in the cultural politics of education.

Children and young people's experiences and views of poverty and inequalities: policy and practice implications. Scottish Universities Insight Institute funded research with the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow School of Art, Child Poverty Action Group, and Glasgow City Council.

Four related policy briefings publications and seminar series information available at: 

Forbes, J. & Syme, D. (2016) Relations between child poverty and new migrant child status, academic attainment and social participation: Insights using social capital theory. Education Sciences, 6, 24. doi: 10.3390/edusci6030024.



Scotland, University of Edinburgh; Scotland, University of Strathclyde; Scotland, University of Stirling; Scotland, Robert Gordon University.Scottish Universities Insight Institute (SUII). Project title: Children's rights and social identities in Scotland: intersections. 2013-14 seminars series award: (

Scotland, University of Strathclyde; Scotland, University of Aberdeen; Scotland, Glasgow School of Art. Scottish Universities Insight Institute (SUII). Project title: Children and young people's experiences and views of poverty and inequalities: policy and practice implications. 2014-15 seminars series. Project PIs: Dr Daniela Sime, University of Strathclyde; and Dr Joan Forbes, University of Aberdeen. Seminar 2: Poverty as a human rights issue: Rights, social participation and ways of increasing children's voice in the debate. 26 June 2015, University of Aberdeen. Belgium, University of Antwerp; Northern Ireland, University of Ulster; Scotland, University of Glasgow. Keynote 1: Child poverty and children's rights: an uneasy fit? Professor Wouter Vandenhole, UNICEF Chair in Children's Rights, University of Antwerp, Belgium; Keynote 2: Poverty and young people: Foregrounding young people's perspectives. Goretti Horgan, Institute for Research in Social Science, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland; Keynote 3: The Relationship of poverty and deprivation to school education. Professor Stephen McKinney, Professor of Education, University of Glasgow, Scotland. Scottish Universities Insight Institute seminar series papers, policy briefings, virtual children's art exhibition video, and other materials available at:

England, University of Newcastle; Australia, Murdoch University; Scotland, University of Strathclyde. Co-constructing an intervention to promote 'Language for All': Understanding the multiagency pathway for children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN). PIs: Dr Cristina McKean, Newcastle University, UK, and Murdoch University, Australia: Centre for Research Excellence in Child Language (CRE-CL) Research Fellow; and Professor James Law, Newcastle University, UK.

Australia, University of Queensland; Sweden, Umea University; England, University of Sussex; England, University of Central Lancashire.Scottish Independent School Project (SISP), Applied Educational Research Scheme (AERS) & University of Edinburgh Godfrey Thomson Trust funded independent schooling project (2006-09) and subsequent research collaborations, publications and other outputs. SISP2 (2009-continuing). Co-Is: Professor Joan Forbes, University of Stirling, Scotland; Professor John Horne, UCLAN, England; Professor Bob Lingard, University of Queensland, Australia; Professor Gaby Weiner, Umea University Sweden/Sussex University, England ( 

Scotland, University of Stirling; Denmark, University of Copenhagen. Leading Women study of SISP (2017-2021). Co-PIs: Professor Joan Forbes, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stirling, Scotland; Professor Elspeth McCartney, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Stirling, Scotland; Professor Claire Maxwell, Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. 

Funding and Grants

Indicative major awards:

Scottish Universities Insight Institute, Programmes of Knowledge Exchange Seminar Series award. Equality 2015 Programme on: Children and young people's experiences and views of poverty and inequalities: policy and practice implications. Equality 2015 programme PI, with Sime, University of Strathclyde, School of Social Work and Social Policy.

CASS Research Project Award Scheme (RPAS) Scholarship Package, PI: Professor John Brewer.Transitional justice, peace and reconciliation. RPAS Award to support four PhD students in each of two intake years 2013/14 and 2014/15.

PI/Grantholder: ESRC research seminar series: The effects of professionals' human and cultural capital for interprofessional social capital: exploring professional identities, knowledges and learning for inter-practitioner relationships and interprofessional practice in schools and children's services. RES-451-26-0339.

PI/Grantholder: ESRC research seminar series: Service integration in schools: research and policy discourses, practices and future prospects. RES-451-25-4179.

Fellowship in Schools and Social Capital (2005-2007): Scottish Funding Council funded Applied Educational Research Scheme (AERS). AERS award to support Principal Investigator development. 


Teaching Responsibilities

PhD thesis supervision:

Completed (lead supervisor):

Graham, A.  (2011) School ethos: an analysis of teacher pupil relations in a Scottish primary school. PhD Thesis, University of Aberdeen.

Watson, C.J. (2007) Language to the second degree: narratives of self and identification in the academy. PhD thesis, University of Aberdeen.


Master of Science (MSc) (Educational and Social Research) (91X3SEH9) / PhD cohorts teaching:

Advanced Quantitative and Qualitative Data Analysis and interpretation (ED503T) - Discourse Analysis; Social Capital: Research methods and applications.

Research Dissemination (ED54G1).

Educational Research: Policy and Practice (ED503S).

Introduction to Educational Research Design (ED53G1).

Dissertation (ED50G1).