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Missing Children: Social Stratification among children not returning to formal schooling after COVID-19 closures

Project Supervisors

Ross Macmillan
Chair in Sociology
Department of Sociology


Patrick Doyle
Dept of Politics 
and Public Administration

Project Details

Education is widely regarded as a social good and is central to a range of Sustainable Development Goals around the development of human capital, the improvement of population health, the fostering of economic development, and the mitigation of social inequalities.  Still, the meaning of education for social mobility and socioeconomic attainment is the subject of considerable debate, particularly with respect to its role in the life chances of people of different ethnicities, classes, genders, and geographies.  In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, schooling across the country moved online and even when schools re-opened there was evidence of large numbers of children not returning.  This project seeks to understand social stratification in school engagement in Ireland with particular attention to who did or did not engage and what consequences it has, both short- and long-term.  

This project will examine the economic, psychological, and social dynamics around school engagement during the COVID – 19 pandemic.  It will involve multimethod analysis of data from a range of sources to better understand the social patterning of school dis-engagement, particularly with respect to geography, nativity, and socioeconomic status.  Research engagement with educational policy makers, government officials, school administrators, and select families is critical to the research.

The project is part of broader study of the impact on the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying social restrictions on the health and well-being of children and adolescents.


  • Hold a first class honours or 2:1 degree in political science, other social sciences, environmental science, another field related to this project, or have relevant professional experience;
  • A strong interest in public policy, education, and inequality, stratification, and social mobility.
  • Where an applicant's first language is not English or they have not obtained their degree through English, applicants must satisfy the English Language Requirements of the University by completing the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam (with an overall grade level of at least 6.5 and no score below 6 in any individual part).


  • A postgraduate (e.g., Masters) degree and/or experience of conducting research on public policy, education, or related topics using qualitative and/or quantitative methods;
  • Be committed to and have experience in communicating research or policy recommendations;
  • Intend to develop their research in the area of stratification, social mobility, and inequality into a PhD project;
  • Intend to apply for research funding for their PhD project, including by applying for an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship in October 2021.

The student will be enrolled in a Research MA and be housed in the Department of Sociology. S/he will be supervised by Patrick Doyle of the Department of Politics and Public Administration, Ross Macmillan of the Department of Sociology, and a third faculty member to be recruited in the Autumn of 2021. 

Find out more
Applications and Expressions of Interest should be sent to Ross Macmillan: