Dr Rachel Shanks

Dr Rachel Shanks
Dr Rachel Shanks
Dr Rachel Shanks


Senior Lecturer

Accepting PhDs



I research school uniform, dress codes and appearance policies, in particular how school uniform can be made more affordable, comfortable and sustainable.

In 2020 I issued a policy briefing on the affordability of school uniform in secondary schools in Scotland and discussed this with politicians across Scotland. Following these discussions, the manifestos for the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021 of three political parties included a commitment to national guidance on school uniform. Since then introducing national guidance on school uniform has been included in the Scottish Government programme of government and a national consultation on school uniform took place in 2022.

I have worked in higher education, community education, the trade union movement and the voluntary sector. In higher education, I have been a law lecturer, worked in the University of Aberdeen’s former Centre for Lifelong Learning and I am currently a Senior Lecturer in Education.

In the late 1990s, I led the Trade Union Congress partnership project Bargaining for Skills, in the East and West Midlands regions in England, working with trade unions, employers, colleges and Training and Enterprise Councils. I have also been an adult education tutor and worked for the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (NACAB) and a local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships
External Memberships

Prizes and Awards

Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (Advance HE)

Teaching Qualification Further Education/ BA Professional Development Team, 2021


Research Overview

My research is currently focused on school uniform. I have produced briefings on the affordability of school uniforms and the school clothing grant in Scotland.

I also research professional learning and mentoring covering both formal and informal learning, in particular during teacher induction.

Children and young people's rights combine my legal and community work background and my interest in social justice.

Research Areas

Accepting PhDs

I am currently accepting PhDs in Education.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your research ideas further.

Email Me


Accepting PhDs

Research Specialisms

  • Work-Based Learning
  • Social Policy
  • 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

Professional learning

Co-Investigator of Measuring Quality in Initial Teacher Education (MQuITE)


University students mentoring school students

Children's Human Rights in Education

This includes Human Rights Education and young people and participation in decision-making.

School uniform, dress code and appearance policies. 


I am a member of an international research network Children’s Human Rights Education which is being funded by the Swedish Research Council between 2021 and 2025. Thirteen members of the European Educational Research Association Network 25 aim to strengthen international collaboration in research into human rights education for children. Theory development, joint publications and funding applications are planned. The network also aims to find and invite researchers from regions that are underrepresented in children’s rights research. 


My current supervision areas are: Education.

Current PhD Students

  • Elise Boyle Espinosa - Education in the Islamic State, as part of the Politicoproject, lead supervisor with Prof Pamela Abbott and Dr Hanifi Baris
  • Tracy Edwards - The Translation and Enactment of the Principle of Inclusive Pedagogy by Experienced Teachers, supervise with Dr Kirsten Darling McQuistanand Prof Mhairi Beaton
  • Tomisin Fadamoro - Integration of Blended Learning into the Nigerian Education Curriculum: STEM Teachers’ Perception of the Learning Management System (LMS) Technology, lead supervisor with Dr John Mynott and Dr Martin Barker
  • Touria Jouilla - Exploring student services in Further Education access programmes, lead supervisor with Dr Steph Thomson
  • Tracy Robbie - Teachers and local authority youth workers:  a new collaborative model for supporting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds?, lead supervisor with Dr Steph Thomson

Completed PhDs

2021 Annette Moir - Exploration of children’s awareness of their coping strategies and enhancement of their resilience skills

2020 David Di Domenico - Educators' views, experiences and approaches to cultural diversity: understanding pre-registration adult nursing education at a Scottish university 

2020 Maryam Alnoaimi - Citizenship Education in the Kingdom of Bahrain: A case study exploring perceptions of school principals, senior teachers, teachers and students

2019 Ramona Statache - Business Social Media Use by Remote Rural Micro Tourism Enterprises in the Scottish Highlands

2019 Madhawi Alharbi - Using Mobile Games in Teaching English as a Foreign Language Vocabulary at a Saudi Female High School

2019 Khanchai Wongchana - Thai University Student and Teacher Perceptions of Studying Tourism through English Using a CLIL Approach

2017 David Johnston - A Socio-Cultural Perspective on 'Belonging'

2017 Geraldine Prince - Art-Making and the Interpretation of Cultures: Cross-cultural teaching and learning in Edinburgh and Dubai

Funding and Grants

In 2021 I received pump-prime funding for interdisciplinary research from the University of Aberdeen for work on the Affordability and Sustainability of School Uniform. This pilot study has investigated the impact of school uniform banks on the affordability and sustainability of school uniforms in Scotland.

Principal Investigator of BERA COVID-19 research: New teachers’ responses to COVID-19: building on Initial Teacher Education for their professional learning.

Co-Investigator of Measuring Quality of Initial Teacher Education (MQuITE) in Scotland funded by the Scottish Government 2017- A longitudinal study involving all higher education institutions that provide initial teacher education in Scotland.

Co-Investigator of EU Marie Curie COFUND grant (2018-22) Political Concepts in the World (POLITICO). The POLITICO PhD programme builds on the success of the interdisciplinary training provided by the University of Aberdeen’s Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and the Rule of Law (CISRUL), which specializes in the global application of political ideas. 


Teaching Responsibilities

Course Co-ordinator for:

SX1011 Sustainability: Challenges and Opportunities

ED505P Using NVivo for Qualitative Data Analysis

Non-course Teaching Responsibilities

NVivo training for staff and postgraduate students

Personal tutor


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Books and Reports

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