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Personal profile

Area of academic expertise - outline

My academic life has grown from several foundations: I attended a Junior Secondary School in Edinburgh leaving at 15 without any qualifications or having read a book, then was a trade apprentice car mechanic, and electrician with British Rail. I left both jobs and then moved into instructing snow sport in the Alps, Swiss, Italian and French. I instructed for outdoor education centres as a BASI qualified instructor in Glencoe and the Cairngorms. 

Out of winter seasons I was a general labourer on building sites,, including the icon Battersea Power Station, London. In Scotland i helped build the Hydro-Electric power station on the banks of Loch Ness. An accident in the French Alps literally brought me down to earth although without mobility! I then took Highers at the local FE college PT, and two A-levels at the National Extension College, Cambridge for which I paid £35 pounds for each, Economics and Sociology.

My subsequent university cultivation took place through York, Edinburgh, St. Andrews (MRC Studentship), Cambridge, Open and Aberdeen (SSRC Studentship). As a GTCS registered English teacher I taught in schools in and around Edinburgh and St. Andrews for several years. I have taught in Fife 'List D' schools, fomer Borstals, and in Secure Units for teenagers. I was an adult Community Education Tutor in Fife and Lothian Regions for 6 years. Throughout 1984-87 in tandem with my doctoral research I was a Tutor/Demonstrator in St. Andrews University, School of Psychology.  I was on working parties led by Dr. Bill Gatherer, Senior Adviser (English) of Lothian Region to develop the English curriculum. Based on my RSA TEFL qualification I taught post-graduate students at St. Andrews, and also taught for independent language summer schools in St.Andrews, Edinburgh and Cambridge. Immediately following the completion of my doctorate I became a Research Officer at the Scottish Council for Research in Education (SCRE) in Edinburgh dedicated to a national project funded by the Government about discipline in schools. I learned an immense amount about research from colleagues during my year at SCRE.  I have tutored for the WEA and the Open University, at undergraduate and post-graduate levels.

My doctorate was in Developmental Dyslexia at St. Andrews University, supervised by Professor Rhona Johnston, MBE. The field work took place in Edinburgh primary schools, and Reading Units. Academic teaching posts in Jordan, Hong Kong, and Beijing also shaped my outlook, not to mention lectures by Ludwig Wittgenstein's pupil Casimir Lewy, philosophical logician at Cambridge, and Bernard Williams's King's College, seminars on paradoxes.  My subsequent life history as a research academic connects with studies in Education, Sociology, Psychology, History and Criminology. I have had the pleasure of publishing jointly and with Professor Pamela Munn (Edinburgh), Professor Ian Mentor  (Oxford) and Professor Walter Humes (Stirling). My most recent collaboration is with a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge. I have developed my expertise in each of the areas where I have published through formal qualifications, personal studies and immersion.  My intellectual history and my outputs have been supported by external grants from research councils and from governmental contracts. Based on my research available in the journal Visual Studies I was invited in 2017 by Professor Elijah Anderson, author of the renowned 'Code of the Street', and based at Yale, which funded me, to give an invited lecture on criminal histories.

My publications are in peer reviewed international journals. The themes that I have engaged with include: teenagers experience of incarceration, prison visiting, youth violence, prisoners' correspondence, masculinity, drug dealing, organised crime, youth gangs and territoriality; within education I have published on learning values, leadership, head teacher training, offending by teachers and studies of higher education. I have undertaken two studies of British suffraggette prisoners through archival sources and based upon Hansard. I am currently collaborating with colleagues at UCL, Cambridge, Northumbria and Leeds on the following topics: assault of disabled girls, the attainment gap and private grammar schools in England. My outputs have embraced quantitative statistical methods and in the main qualitative approaches to the social world. My paradigm is typically interpretative. In summary my approach to research has become increasingly multi-disciplinary over recent years.

Current research activities

I'm engaged with the University of Leeds in collaborative work about the nature and origins of the attainment gap in education, and a statistical analysis of the census data over a twenty year period to determine whether or not Scotland is a meritocratic society or if class mobility is static over the generations. In addition I'm using achival historical data to examine the moral formation of working-class incarcerated persons during the early part of the twentieth century in Scotland. An aspect of this work is a visual sociology of photographic data. In that context I'm completing a study of militant suffraggete women in Scotland prior to the First World War through a gender analysis. My recent three PhD students from outside the EU are Nassima, Kazi, Houda. They are respectively investigating the impact on language learning in Algeria of lessons based upon primary historical sources, a quasi-experimental study; the integration of emigrants from Bengal into Scotland and their biographical experiences, and the effects on the identity of Algerian research students who undertake their higher degrees in the UK. These studies run from 2018-2021.

Desired research direction

To pursue futher collaborative research partnerships within the UK and overseas. I'm currently investigating collaboration with the education department, Charles University, Prague and pursuing other funded opportunities for comparative educational and sociological studies. 

Target collaborative organisations

education department, Charles University, Prague; University of Cambridge, Bath, UCL, and Leeds.

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Research Output 1988 2019

61 Downloads (Pure)

A Durkheimian theorization of Scottish suicide rates, 2011-2017

Holligan, C. & McLean, R., 29 Sep 2019, In : Social Sciences. 8, 10, 12 p., 274.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
suicide rate
marital status
1 Citation (Scopus)

Alien conspiracy theory? exploring ethnicity and drug supply in Scotland

McLean, R., Holligan, C. & Riaz, N., 20 Apr 2019, In : Deviant Behavior.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

place of residence
98 Downloads (Pure)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: the strange case of the two selves of clandestine drug users in Scotland

McPhee, I., Holligan, C., McLean, R. & Deuchar, R., 3 Jun 2019, In : Drugs and Alcohol Today. 19, 2, p. 133-146 14 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Drug Users
drug use

Elie of the mind: private schools and social closure

Holligan, C., 16 Sep 2019, Scottish Left Review, 113, p. 25-26 2 p.

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle

Open Access
85 Downloads (Pure)

Keeping it in the family: intersectionality and 'class A' drug dealing by females in the West of Scotland

Holligan, C., McLean, R., Irvine, A. & Brick, C., 19 Mar 2019, In : Societies. 9, 1, 13 p., 22.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
place of residence

Activities 2016 2019

  • 2 Participation in conference
  • 1 Visiting an external academic institution

Coimbra University

Christopher Holligan (Visiting researcher)
22 May 201929 May 2019

Activity: Visiting an external institutionVisiting an external academic institution

CiCe Association Conference

Christopher Holligan (Speaker)
8 Jun 2017

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

16th Annual Conference of the European Society of Criminology

Christopher Holligan (Invited speaker)
21 Sep 201624 Sep 2016

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

Press / Media

Caring for the Children of Prisoners in Scotland

Christopher Holligan


1 Media contribution

Press/Media: Expert Comment

Prisonfare': Its effects on the Children of Prisoners

Christopher Holligan


1 Media contribution

Press/Media: Expert Comment

Noise: The Loud Curriculum for Excellence

Christopher Holligan


1 Media contribution

Press/Media: Expert Comment

The Deceptions of Aspiration as an Education Policy

Christopher Holligan & Walter Humes


1 Media contribution

Press/Media: Expert Comment