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Yaojun Li


  • Professor of Social Change (Sociology), Sociology
  • Room 2.13f Bridgeford Street Building, Manchester University

    M13 9PL Manchester

    United Kingdom

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Personal profile

Further information

Additional Information

Supervision areas:
I supervise PhD theses on social mobility and social stratification, social capital, education, labour market positions, ethnic integration and comparative studies, especially between Britain and China.
Current PhD Students:

  • Lin Ding, 2020-2023, ‘Gender and Class Differences in Creative Development —A Study of Social Reproduction of Creativity in England’, main supervisor, with Andy Miles as co-supervisor, self-funding.
  • Xiyuan Liu, 2020-2023, ‘Education Subsidy, Urban-rural Division, and Migrant Students in China’, main supervisor, with Andy Miles as co-supervisor, funded by the China Scholarship Council and the University of Manchester.
  • Zhuofei Lu, 2021-2024, 'Flexible work arrangements and mental health in the UK', co-supervisor with Professor Wendy Olsen, self-funded.
  • Wenxi Tang 2022-2025, 'Meritocracy in China: theory and evidence’, main supervisor, with Arkadiusz Wisniowski as co-supervisor, self-funded.

  • Yu Feng, 2022-2025, ‘The Insecurity and Anxiety of the New Middle Class in China’, co-supervisor, with Hilary Pilkington as main supervisor, self-funded.

Current teaching:
I teach a PGT course in Sociology on Social Capital and Social Change, and a undergraduate course in Sociology on Social Change in China
Former PhD students:

  • Yunghan Chang, 'Family Transformation and Women's Labour Market Participation in Taiwan', self funded. Main supervisor with Angela Dale as co-supervisor (2010).
  • Jianxun Kong, 'Social capital and social distance in China', funded by the Ford Foundation. Main supervisor with Fiona Devine as co-supervisor (2011).
  • Meng Chen, 'Social mobility in China', funded by Manchester University, Main supervisor, with Laural Morales as co-supervisor (2012).
  • Kyung-A Kim, 'Family origin, educational attainment and class destination of men and women in Korea', self funded. Main supervisor with David Cutts and Anna Zimdars as co-supervisors (2013).
  • Steffanie Dobler, 'Religion and Civic Values in Europe. A Multilevel Analysis of 48 countries', funded by the North American Foundation for the University of Manchester (NAFUM). Co-supervisor, with Ed Fieldhous as main supervisor (2013).
  • Mary Mollie Bourne, 'Class, culture and ethnicity: educational attainment in England', funded by the ESRC, Main supervisor, with Ian Plewis as co-supervisor. (2015)
  • Yinxuan Huang, 'Rebuilding the egalitarian society: development and lessons in the third sector in China', funded by ORS/School. Main supervisor, with Anthony Heath as co-supervisor. (2016)
  • Min Zhang. 'Ethnic social mobility in Britain', ISC studentship. Main supervisor with Anthony Heath as co-supervisor. (2018)
  • Alejandro Seville. 'Class and educational transition in Chile'. Chilean Government Scholarship. Main supervisor, with Anthony Heath and Tarani Chandola as co-supervisors. (2018)
  • Yizhang Zhao. 'Happiness in China'. The Samuel Chan scholarship (1+3). Main supervisor, with Anthony Heath and Nick Shryane as co-supervisors. (2018)
  • Javier Castillo, 'Ethinity, skin colour and social stratification in Latin America', funded by Chillian Government, main supervisor, with Professor Anthony Heath as co-supervisor till 2019 and then from 2019 with Dr Nick Shryane as co-supervisor (2022).
  • Aaron Hsu. 'The Social Integration of Migrant Peasant Workers in Mainland China', funded by Ministry of Education, Taiwan. Main supervisor, with Anthony Heath and Nan Zhang as co-supervisors (2022). 
  • Sijia Du, 'Social capital and labour market position in China', main supervisor, with Dr Nan Zhang and Professor Wendy Olsen as co-supervisors, funded by University of Manchester (2022). 

Visiting PhD students:

  • Yufei Hao, from Xi'an Jiaotong University, China. Main supervisor (2012-2013), supervisor.
  • Ana Safranoff, from Pompeu Fabra University of Spain (2013), supervisor.
  • Zhuqing Duan, from Xi'an Jiaotong University, China (Sept 2019 - August 2020)

Visiting scholars:

  • Professor Shun Zhang, from Xi'an Jiaotong University, China. Mentor (2012-2013), mentor.
  • Professor Fang Li, from Zhejiang University of Science and Technolodgy, China (2014-2015), mentor.
  • Professor Yali Xue, from Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, China (2017-2018), mentor.
  • Professor Mei Tong, from Xi'an Jiaotong University, (2019-2020).

Memberships of committees and professional bodies

I started work in this University in 2000 at the Centre for Census and Survey Research (CCSR). In 2003, I went to Birmingham University but came back again in 2007 to join the Institute for Social Change (ISC). With the merger of CCSR and ISC into the Cathie Marsh Institute of Social Research (CMI) in August 2014, I have been working in both Department of Sociology and CMI.

I worked at Fudan University in China before coming to study at Oxford University on a Swires Scholarship (funded by John Swires and Sons) for which I am eternally grateful. I did an MPhil at St Antony's College, and a DPhil at Nuffield College, both in Sociology. My research focuses on social mobility and social stratification, with particular regard to class, education, labour market position, social capital and ethnic integration in Britain and China. I welcome PhD students in these areas. I have conducted many projects funded by research councils in Britain and other countries. My publications have appeared as journal articles, book chapters and official reports. 

I am on the Editorial Boards of Social Inclusion, Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, and Chinese Sociological Review and I serve on the ESRC Peer Review College. I was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) in 2016.

Research interests

Research areas

• Social mobility and social stratification

• Social capital, generosity and wellbeing

• Immigrant integration

  • International comparison



Research projects

• From Fareej to Metropolis: social capital in Qatar,QNRF (NPRP7-186-5-021), CI, 2014-16.

• Social cohesion for the elderly migrant workers in China, China Social Science Foundation (14BRK008), CI, 2014-17.

• Religion and poverty, JRF (120901AN), CI, 2014.

• Unity out of diversity? Immigrant adaptations in Britain, ESRC (ES/K009206/1), Mentor for Laurence Lessard-Phillips (PI), 2013-16.

• Happiness in China, the Samuel Chan alumni project, 2013-17.

• Understanding changes in ethnic relations, ESRC Research Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE) (ES/J020036/1), Co-PI with Nazroo et al. 2013-17.

• Social network and subjective wellbeing in comparative context, Australian Research Council (DP 130100690), Partner Investigator, with Western, Huang and Bian, 2013-16.

• The Flow of Soul: the socio-economic foundations of generosity in Britain, The University of Notre Dame and the John Templeton Foundations of the USA, The Science of Generosity Programme (Prime Grant No. 14229), PI, 2010-12.

• Social mobility and social capital in China and Britain, ESRC (ES/I035168/1) and NSFC (71010090), PI, 2011-13.

• Social stratification and social harmony, NSFC, Co-PI with Bian et al, 2012-16.

• The Social Complexity of Immigration and Diversity (SCID), EPSRC large grant (EP/H02171X/1), Co-PI with Fieldhouse et al, 2010-15.

• Constructing a measure of race equality, DWP, Co-PI with Heath, 2010.

• Civic life in Britain, EHRC, Co-PI with E Fieldhouse et al, 2010.

• Inequalities in education, employment and earnings, EHRC, PI, with Devine and Heath, 2008.

• Measuring the size of employer contribution to ethnic minority employment gap, NEP, Co-PI with Heath, 2007.

• Researching ethnic minority entrepreneurship, ESRC/DTI/CRE/EMD, PI, 2006.

• The socio-economic position of the minority ethnic groups in Britain (1971-2004), ESRC (RES-163-25-0003), PI, with Heath, 2006.

• The unorganised worker, DTI, Co-PI with Pollert, 2004.

• Developing census data for academic and policy research, BA, Co-PI with Fieldhouse, 2004.

• Social capital: developing a measure and assessing its value in social research, ESRC (R000223671), PI, with Savage and Pickles, 2003.

• The housing and socio-economic circumstances of minority ethnic people in Wales, PI, with Purdam, NAW, 2002.

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 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities

Education/Academic qualification

The service class: conceptual vigour and empirical value, Oxford University

Award Date: 10 Feb 1998

Areas of expertise

  • HM Sociology
  • Socal mobility, social stratification, social capital, ethnic integration

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Digital Futures
  • Manchester China Institute
  • Cathie Marsh Institute


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