Fiona Devine

Fiona Devine


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Personal profile


Fiona Devine is Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Professor of Sociology at The University of Manchester. She was previously Head of Sociology (2004-7), Head of the School of Social Sciences (2009-13) and Head of Alliance Manchester Business School (2013-23) at the University which she first joined in 1994. Prior to Manchester she worked at the University of Liverpool, the Policy Studies Institute, and the former Department of Employment in London. She studied Sociology and Government as an undergraduate at the University of Essex where she also completed an MA and PhD.

Fiona's research interests are in the related fields of social stratification and mobility (with a comparative focus including the US), work and employment, and politics and participation. Much of her research has been funded by grants from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Leverhulme Trust. With a team of colleagues, she was involved in the BBC’s Great British Class Survey, an online survey completed by over 300,000 thousand people, and a class calculator completed by 9 million people.  The results appeared in the book, Social Class in the 21st Century, published by Penguin in 2015.

Fiona was a member of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Chair of its International Advisory Committee (2003-7), a member of the Governing Council of the European Science Foundation (ESF) and the UK representative on the New Opportunities for Research Funding Co-operation Agency in Europe (NORFACE) Network Board. She has held visiting positions at the Department of Sociology, University at Chicago, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and the Institute for Social Science Research, University of Queensland, and was a member of the Research Evaluation Committee for Education and Human Society for Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA). 

Fiona was a member of the Assembly of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce (2015-2023). She was a Chair of the North West Citizen’s Panels for the Bank of England (2018-2023). She was awarded an OBE in 2010 and a CBE in 2019 for services to social sciences, elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS) in 2011 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (FRSA) in 2014.  Fiona is a companion of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).  

Research interests

These include social stratification and mobility, politics and participation, space mobility and lifestyles and gender, work and family.

Current Projects

The Great British Class Survey
Fiona, together with Mike Savage from the London School of Economics and BBC Lab UK, was behind the BBC’s Great British Class Survey. More than 360,000 people completed a survey on different dimensions of class, making it one of the largest ever studies of class in Great Britain. The results identified a new model of class with seven classes ranging from the Elite at the top to a 'Precariat' at the bottom. Over 6.9 million people have since used the BBC’s class calculator to identify their own class. Work on the Great British Class Survey is ongoing. The data is being prepared for the UK Data Archive so it can be used by other researchers, and a number of publications are in progress, including a special issue of The Sociological Review and a popular book provisionally entitled Social Class in the 21st Century published by Penguin in 2015
A Study of Mobility and Immobility
This project, undertaken with Yaojun Li from the institute of Social Change at the University of Manchester, addresses the recent academic, public and political debate about whether social mobility is declining and the considerable anxieties around the issue.  The research involves a quantitative analysis of patterns and trends in social mobility in the 1980s and 1990s using the General Household Survey and the British Household Panel Survey. Yaojun and Fiona have found that men’s absolute upward mobility is on the decline although long-range mobility from working-class to middle-class positions is still evident.  In contrast, women’s absolute upward mobility has increased considerably.  In terms of relative mobility, Yaojun and Fiona concur with others that there has been a very slow move towards increased fluidity in the system.
Working Class Stability and Change
This is a qualitative project following on Fiona’s work on middle-class reproduction, working with Helene Snee (Sociology, University of Manchester). In 2010, in-depth interviews were conducted with thirty young women and men in Year 11 of a PFI school in a working-class area of Greater Manchester.  In their final year of compulsory schooling, they were asked about their educational and occupational aspirations.  In 2011, these young people were re-interviewed as they pursue a range of vocational and academic courses through FE. Their experiences of mobility or not will be especially interesting as a generation of young people either entering a severely depressed economy following the financial crisis in 2008 or moving into higher education at a time of consideration change with the introduction of student fees in 2012/3.

Further information

Fiona is one of the country's leading experts on social stratification and mobility with related interests in work and employment and politics and participation. She has discussed the results of the Great British Class Survey on national and international broadcast media, including BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio 4 and NPR Public Radio. Fiona recently appeared on BBC Breakfast to comment on the experiences of low income families in the housing market, and commented on class and gender diversity on company boards for The Sunday Times.

Fiona has also contributed to Radio 4’s Science Now (on women scientists and engineers), written commissioned pieces for the Times Higher (including class differentials in access to higher education with regard to the debate on tuition fees) and The Sunday Times Supplement (on downward social mobility revealed on the Genes Reunited website).

Fiona is happy to be contacted by the media for comment on her areas of research expertise as outlined above.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Digital Futures
  • Work and Equalities Institute


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