Professor Lorna Unwin

    • Chair in Vocational Education
  • Faculty:
  • Department:
  • Centre:
  • Summary:
    • My research interests focus on the changing nature and development of vocational expertise and on work as a site for learning and the improvement of life chances. I have a particular interest in apprenticeship as a model of learning and also in the historical development of further and technical education in Britain. I draw on a range of disciplinary perspectives, including in particular, social theories of learning, sociology of work, and political economy.

      My first career was in journalism and then I taught in further and adult education. From 2008 to 2012, I was Deputy Director of the ESRC-funded Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES) and managed the Centre's strand of research on learning environments, knowledge transfer and innovative pedagogy in the context of the regeneration of city-regions. I was Chair of the Commission of Inquiry into the Role of Group Training Associations from 2011-2012

  • Teaching:
    • EdD Specialist Module - Post-Compulsory Education and Training and Lifelong Learning
      MA in Lifelong Learning - core modules, Theories and Perspectives, and option modules, Education for the Professions, and Vocational Learning: policy and practice
  • Research:
    • Does Apprenticeship Work for Adults? The experiences of adult apprentices in England, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, 2013-2014 (with Professor Alison Fuller and Professor Pauline Leonard, University of Southampton)

      Technician and Intermediate Roles in the Healthcare Sector, funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, 2011-2013 (with Professor David Guile, IOE, and Professor Alison Fuller, University of Southampton)

      History of Further, Technical and Vocational Education in England (with Bill Bailey, University of Greenwich)

      Academic Adviser to the Commission on Adult Vocational Teaching and Learning, 2012-2013

  • Professional Activities:
    • Visiting Professor, University of Southampton

      Editor of the Journal of Vocational Education and Training

      Member of the all-parliamentary Skills Commission
      International expert adviser for OECD and the European Training Foundation Member of the Board of Governors of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR)

      Associate Member of the ESRC-funded SKOPE Research Centre
      Member of the editorial boards of: Journal of Education and Work; and Vocations and Learning

  • Conferences/presentations:
    • 'Researching Vocational Learning: building the evidence base to enhance practice and theory', Keynote address, LSIS National Research Conference, 19 June 2012

      'Maximising the impact of vocational learning on the economy', keynote address, Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) Annual Conference, June 2012, London.

      'Reclaiming Vocational Education', keynote address, Liverpool John Moores University conference, June 2012.

  • Personal Country Knowledge:
    • Vocational Education and Training policy and practice (particularly apprenticeship) in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Italy, Malta, Canada, Australia, and the USA.
  • Languages Spoken:
    • Basic French
  • Research Students:
    • Areas of research interest include vocational education and training policy and practice, apprenticeships (contemporary and historical), workplace learning, professional development of vocational educators.

      MPhil/PhD students
      Hilary Chadwick – 'Employer Investment in Skills in Britain'
      Niamh Collard – 'Weaving apprenticeship in Ghana' (Bloomsbury Scholarship with SOAS)
      Robert Galvani – 'Masculinity and Apprenticeship: a life history study of London apprentices'
      Stephen Halsall – 'Learning to be a barrister'
      Ann Lahiff - 'The use and value of teaching observations in the professional development of vocational teachers'
      John West - 'The development of European Union VET Policy'

      Ed.D Thesis students
      Janet Broad – 'How vocational teachers continue to develop their specialist area of expertise'
      Gog Soon Joo – ' Educational, Social and Economic (Im)mobility of Low-Wage Workers in Singapore'
      Anna Mazenod – 'A comparative study of apprenticeship policy in England, Finland and France'

Professor Lorna Unwin

Staff profile

Contact details


  • Fuller, A., Turbin, J., Unwin, L., Guile, D. and Winthrup, J. (2013) Technician and Intermediate Roles in the Healthcare Sector, London: Gatsby Foundation. Online <> (accessed 23 April 2013).
  • Fuller, A. and Unwin, L. (eds) (2013) Contemporary Apprenticeship: International Perspectives on an Evolving Model of Learning. Abindgon: Routledge.
  • Huddleston, P. and Unwin, L. (2013) Teaching and Learning in Further Education. 4th edition, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Fuller, A. and Unwin, L. (2012) ''Banging on the Door of the University: the Complexities of Progression from Apprenticeship and other Vocational Programmes in England'', SKOPE Monograph nr 14, Oxford: University of Oxford,
  • Unwin, L. (2011) 'Vocational Training' in B. Brown and M.J. Prinstein (eds) , Encyclopedia of Adolescence, Vol.2. San Diego: Academic Press.
  • Fuller, A. and Unwin, L. (2011) 'Vocational education and training in the spotlight: back to the future for the UK's Coalition Government?', London Review of Education 9 (2), 191–204.
  • Unwin, L. (2010) ''Learning and working from the MSC to New Labour: young people, skills and employment'', National Institute Economic Review 212 (April 2010),
  • Fuller, A. and Unwin, L. (2010) ''Change and continuity in apprenticeship: the resilience of a model of learning'', Journal of Education and Work 25(5), 405-416.
  • Fuller, A. and Unwin, L. (2010) 'Knowledge Workers' as the New Apprentices: The Influence of Organisational Autonomy, Goals and Values on the Nurturing of Expertise', Vocations and Learning 3(3), 201-222.
  • Lucas, N. and Unwin, L. (2009) 'Developing teacher expertise at work: in-service trainee teachers in colleges of further education in England', Journal of Further and Higher Education 33(4), 423-433.