Case studies

Our researchers are internationally recognised leaders in their fields producing world-class research across the social sciences and law. The faculty’s innovative and collaborative research addresses the most pressing social concerns of our globalised society, contributing to significant policy change in many areas.

World class research

Case study: Blazing a statistical trail

Bristol’s Centre for Multilevel Modelling produces a statistical modelling program known as MLwiN which is used by more than 18,000 colleagues throughout the international research community. Routinely used by bodies such as the Department for Education and the Office for National Statistics, the centre also provides training workshops for MLwiN and makes it accessible to more than 6,000 users worldwide through its online learning resources.

Case study: Human rights expertise

Experts at the Human Rights Implementation Centre work with organisations such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Council of Europe, and the United Nations to consider the roles they play in monitoring and implementing human rights.

Case study: Getting young people moving

With increasing concern over the long term health issues associated with growing levels of inactivity and obesity in children and young people, our experts in exercise, nutrition and health are researching the effect that the environment has on activity levels in 13- to 15-year-olds. Funded by the Medical Research Council, the PEAR study (Physical Environment and Activity Relationships), uses geographical information systems to plot the physical environments of young people in both urban and rural settings. By using GPS and accelerometers, the participants also provide the researchers with information about where they go and what they do. Bristol academics are collaborating with the University of East Anglia, Queen Mary’s London and Cardiff University on the project.

Case study: The Leverhulme Programme on Migration and Citizenship

A million-pound grant from the Leverhulme Trust is funding this substantial research programme between Bristol’s Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, and University College London. The programme is studying three interlinking elements of human mobility and its consequences: the diversity of people’s movements; settlement issues of previous generations of migrants; and descendants and the impact of migration on and interaction with the ‘receiving’ societies. Within these broad themes, eight linked projects examine issues such as smuggling and trafficking networks between Pakistan and Britain, the new elite of highly skilled internationalised workers emerging through large transnational corporations, and how white English views of national identity vary by class.

Case study: Risk management and aid culture in Sudan and Afghanistan

Jointly funded by the Department for International Development and the Economic and Social Research Council, this project is investigating how risk management and enhanced threat awareness among UN agencies and international NGOs is challenging their ability to achieve their humanitarian goals in states affected by conflict and violence. Bristol’s Global Insecurities Centre is working with the Overseas Development Institute in London to look at how risk management affects the prioritisation, coverage and effectiveness of agency’s programmes on the ground as well as at how risk is understood and managed between international agencies and national actors, private security companies, and the military.


Case study: Sociology and social policy combine forces to tackle UK poverty

Drawing together leading Bristol academics from the fields of sociology and social policy, Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK 2011 is a £4.3 million award from the ESRC, the largest grant ever awarded for poverty research in the UK. Building on earlier research for the Joseph Rowntree funded Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey in 1999, Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK 2011 utilises a wealth of established expertise in defining and measuring social exclusion from across the faculty. This project also marks a major collaboration with Herriot- Watt University, the Nations Centre for Social Research, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, the Open University, Queen’s University Belfast and the Universities of Glasgow and York.

Case study: Effective economics for delivering public services

Combining expertise in economics, geography and law, Bristol’s Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO) is a leading ESRC funded research centre recognised for making significant contributions to the policy-making process and debate surrounding the economic delivery of public services. The ESRC’s annual newsstand magazine Britain in 2011, highlighted the impact of recent CMPO research including work which found that the publication of school league tables raised average school performance and reduced educational inequalities as well as findings from a collaboration with Imperial College London and Carnegie Mellon University in the US that showed that competition in healthcare services saved lives and reduced hospital stays.

Case study: Confronting the global challenge of environmental change

The faculty is playing a key role in the new Cabot Institute at Bristol where our academics are sharing their social science expertise with colleagues across the University to tackle the challenges of uncertain global environmental change. The Cabot Institute is a world-class multidisciplinary institute for research on all aspects of global environmental change, from basic science and social science to technological and policy solutions. It brings together some of Bristol’s most outstanding research in natural hazards and risk.

Connecting with society

Case study: Better education for primary school students in Ghana

Our education experts are facilitating and advising on leadership training programmes for headteachers in Ghana. With colleagues from Cape Coast University in Ghana, our academics are empowering heads to devise, implement and measure educational interventions to drive up standards in primary schools. The success of these initiatives has prompted the Ghanaian government to provide support and funding for this training to be rolled out nationally improving education quality for children across the country.

Case study: Changing family law

Faculty expertise in family law is having a profound impact on the thinking of the senior judiciary. The Judicial Studies Board is using the findings of a recent ESRC funded study, ‘Parent’s Representation’, to train judges and the study has also resulted in advisory appointments from the President of the Family Division on judicial case management in care proceedings, the Family Justice Review and the Justice Committee’s report on family courts.

Case study: Realising potential: the importance of employment to wellbeing

Successive governments have reviewed the welfare system to find ways of moving people off benefits and into work. The 2008 Department for Work and Pensions White Paper drew heavily on this influential report which made recommendations for more flexible advisors and for more targeted support for job-seekers based on their personal circumstance.

Case study: Measuring the effectiveness of teaching in schools

Statisticians in the faculty have guided the development of the ‘contextualized value added system’ which is now included in school league tables. This was published for the first time in 2008 after criticism that the tables only measured the characteristics of pupils rather than effectiveness of teaching in schools.

Case study: Gender and violence

Our academics have effected policy change through their research in this area both in this country and internationally. Here in the UK, a Bristol-based women’s night shelter remained open during one of the coldest winters on record as a result of our research recommendations. Internationally, research into honour-based violence and killings in Iraqi Kurdistan have contributed to several legal amendments aimed at reducing violent crimes in the name of honour.

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