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Dr Sue Timmis

My research is about students’ lived experience of higher education which is critical to understanding and addressing the challenges facing higher education in a changing world where access, success and participation are increasingly being undermined.  Over the last ten years I have focused on the use of digital technologies, social practices and learning in HE and more recently on widening participation, diversity and social justice in the UK and now expanding into Global South, post-colonial contexts.

I am currently Principal Investigator on a 30 month ESRC/NRF/Newton funded project based in South Africa called SARiHE (Southern African Rurality in Higher Education – see with partners in the Universities of Johannesburg, Rhodes and Fort Hare and in the UK, University of Brighton. The research is about inequalities in access and participation in higher education. We are investigating how students from rural areas in South Africa negotiate the transition to higher education foregrounding the social and cultural capital they bring and how they are shaped by their home, school and community.

I am also working on an EU funded widening participation project called Access4All (see on access and inclusion and  which acts as a laboratory for the creation of innovative and flexible strategies to support universities across Europe. From 2013 – 2016, I led a study funded by the University of Bristol’s Widening Participation Research Fund called ‘DD-lab’ or Digital Diversity, learning and belonging, investigating the role of digital media in fostering a culture of belonging amongst undergraduate students from non-traditional backgrounds. 

I am interested in supervising PhD students in areas related to the above interests - in particular widening participation, social justice, students’ lived experiences and identities, digital cultures and practices in higher education.

Research keywords

technology enhanced learning, higher education, young people and ICT, formal and informal learning, Cultural Historical Activity Theory, sociocultural perspectives on literacy and interaction, identity, ICT and learning, computer supported collaborative learning


  • Centre for Medical Education University of Bristol At-Bristol Hands On Science Museum

Learned societies &
professional bodies

  • Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) International Society for Cultural and Activity Research (ISCAR)