University of St Andrews


Helen Packwood

Photo of Helen Packwood


Supervisors: Dr Nissa Finney, Dr David McCollum and Dr Katy Keenan


Research Title

The construction of success and negotiation of minority identities: a mixed methods study of the experiences and outcomes of school leavers in Scotland


My research and teaching interests have been nurtured by experience in a wide variety of settings. I have pursued interests in international migration, secondary and higher education and social policy. My PhD thesis combines these long-standing interests by exploring how young migrants to Scotland make the transition from compulsory education. Youth transition is an established field, but very little work has been undertaken to understand the current experiences and outcomes of school-aged migrants in Scotland.  The research used innovative longitudinal methods to shed light on how poverty, ethnicity and geography intersect creating distinct pathways for young people with migrant and minority backgrounds.  The study adopts both qualitative and quantitative tools to better understand how young people form (and re-form) their ethnic identities as they transition to adulthood.


Following undergraduate studies at the University of St Andrews (BSc Geography) I moved to Edinburgh for work and further study (MSc Urban and Regional Planning and later, PGDE Secondary Education). A range of scholarships, internships and fellowships have given me an insight in to the connections between theory, policy and practice. I am passionate about bringing these closer together. Working as a researcher within Local and National Government as well as academia has helped me appreciate the role of independent, academic enquiry and its value in creating evidence-based policy. In addition, experience of frontline teaching and working within communities brings my research to life and keeps me grounded. I am due to complete my PhD in Autumn 2018 and plan to continue working to make the links between theory, policy and practice.

Recent publications

Findlay, A., Packwood, H., McCollum, D., Nightingale, G., & Tindal, S. (2017). Fees, flows and imaginaries: exploring the destination choices arising from intra-national student mobility. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 1-14. Link here

McCollum, D., & Packwood, H. (2017). Rescaling Migration Studies: Migration Policy-Making and Implementation at the Local Government Level. Scottish Geographical Journal, 1-17. Link here

Findlay, A. M., McCollum, D., & Packwood, H. (2017). Marketization, marketing and the production of international student migration. International Migration55(3), 139-155. Link here

Findlay, A., Prazeres, L., McCollum, D., & Packwood, H. (2016). It was always the plan’: international study as ‘learning to migrate.  AreaLink here

Packwood H, Findlay A, McCollum D, McGowan, T (eds.) (2015) International study for an international career: a survey of the motivations and aspirations of international students in the UK. Centre for Population Change Briefing Paper SeriesPDF here

Tindal, S., Packwood, H., Findlay, A., Leahy, S., & McCollum, D. (2015). In what sense ‘distinctive’? The search for distinction amongst cross-border student migrants in the UK. Geoforum64, 90-99.  Link here

Packwood, H. (2015). Book Review: The Price of Rights: Regulating International Labour Migration by Martin Ruhs. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2013. No. of pages: 272. Link here

Packwood, H., Findlay, A., & McCollum, D. (2014). Engaging with immigration policy on the ground: a study of Local Authorities in Scotland.  PDF here

Packwood, H., & Findlay, A. (2014). Immigration to Scotland and the constitutional change debate: Geography, difference and the question of scale.  PDF here