Professor Simon McGrath

  • Professor of Education (School of Education)


I hold the established Chair in Education. Before moving to this role in 2022, I was UNESCO Chair in International Education and Development at the University of Nottingham. I am also visiting professor at Nelson Mandela University, South Africa.

I work on a range of aspects of the education-development relationship, particularly on vocational learning and diverse forms of work, and on integral human development. Most of my work has been in Africa though I have done some work in Europe, Asia and the Pacific.

I have been a government scientific advisor in both UK and South Africa, and have done extensive international policy work, most especially for UNESCO, the Commonwealth and SADC.

Research interests

I have worked extensively on education-work issues, incuding on the relationships between informal, nonformal and formal learning and various forms of work, formal, informal, provisioning, etc. 

My current research projects are on rural and urban informal skills and development, education for sustainable futures, work and just transitions, agricultural education, access to vocational education and training.


I have been PI or Co-I on projects worth c>£26m.

I am currently Co-I on a multi-million pound GCRF Network Plus Programme - Transforming Education for Sustianable Futures, where I lead the sustinable livelihoods dimension.

I am also a Co-I on a South African Department of Higher Education and Training reserach programme on vocational education and training.


I am interested in supervising in the following areas:

  • skills for just transitions
  • education policies and human development
  • educational policies and sustainable development
  • learning for transformed professions
  • inclusive vocational education and training 
  • skills for rural development
  • learning in urban informal economies

I have supervised 64 doctoral students to successful completion.

Main topic areas include:

  • skills for human development
  • African higher education
  • research cultures and systems
  • health professions education (esp. pharmacy, nursing, occupational therapy)
  • comparative education policies
  • political economy of skills


I have taught at UG, PGT and PGR levels on lifelong learning, international education and development, and research methodologies.

In 2022/3 I will be leading the following Masters' modules:

  • International Issues in Adult Education (IMAESC)
  • Recognising Built Capacity and Impact Pathways (IMAESC)
  • Vocational Education and Training for Development (Ed Studies)