Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research


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Dr Steven Roberts

Lecturer in Social Policy and Sociology

School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

G3.10,Gillingham Building
University of Kent,
Medway Campus,
Kent ME4 4AG

I am a Lecturer in Social Policy and Sociology at the University of Kent's School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR). My research interests are quite diverse, but centre around the youth stage of the life-course. Within this, I am interested in how issues of social class and gender shape, influence and constrain young people’s transitions to adulthood independence and their experiences of education, employment, consumption and the domestic sphere.

I joined SSPSSR in August 2012, prior to which I was a lecturer at the University of Southampton for two years. Before becoming an academic I held various management and training roles in the private sector. I'm also the head of an on-going not-for-profit project that enhances oral English and teaching skills among primary and secondary school teachers based in rural parts of Southern China. I also contribute to the politically inspired blog ‘The Ragged Notebook’

Education: I am entirely a product of a University of Kent education, having been awarded a fully funded ESRC 1+3 studentship to complete my MA in Social Research Methods and then a subsequent PhD in Social Policy at SSPSSR. Prior to this, I obtained a First Class (Honours) degree in Industrial Relations and Social Policy, taught jointly at SSPSSR and Kent Business School. My teaching qualifications and status as a fellow of the Higher Education Academy were also obtained at Kent.

Find me:


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Peer reviewed journal articles:

  • Magrath, R., Roberts, S. & Anderson, E. (2013) ‘On the Door-Step of Equality: Attitudes toward Gay Athletes among Academy Level Footballers’, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Online First, July
  • Roberts, S. (2013) Youth studies, housing transitions and the ‘missing middle’: Time for a rethink?, Sociological Research Online, vol. 18, no. 3, August 2013
  • Roberts, S. (2013): 'Boys will be boys... won't they? Change and continuities in contemporary young working-class masculinities', Sociology, vol. 47, no. 4, pp. 671-686
  • Roberts, S. (2013): ‘Gaining skills or just paying the bills?: Workplace learning in the lower reaches of the retail sector’, Journal of Education and Work, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 267-290
  • Roberts, S. (2012): ‘‘Just getting on with it’: The educational experiences of ordinary, yet overlooked, boys’, British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 33 no. 2, pp. 203-221
  • Roberts, S. (2012): ‘One step forward, one step Beck: A contribution to the on-going conceptual debate in youth studies’, Journal of Youth Studies, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 389-401
  • Roberts, S. (2011)*: ‘Beyond ‘Neet’ and tidy pathways: Considering the ‘missing middle’ of youth transition studies’, Journal of Youth Studies, vol. 14, no.1, pp. 21-40 *Selected for re-publication in JYS 15th Anniversary Special Issue (April 2013) featuring 8 of the most significant papers in the journal’s history; ** Most cited and most downloaded paper in 2011.
  • Roberts, S. (2011): ‘Traditional practice for non-traditional students? Examining the role of pedagogy in higher education retention’, Journal of Further and Higher Education, vol. 35 no. 2, pp. 185-199
  • Haverig, A. & Roberts, S. (2011): ‘The New Zealand OE as governance through freedom: Re-thinking the apex of freedom’, Journal of Youth Studies, vol. 14 no. 5, pp. 587-603
  • Roberts, S. (2010): ‘Misrepresenting choice biographies?’ Journal of Youth Studies, vol. 13, no. 1, pp.137-149

Edited books and journal special issues:

  • Hamilton, M., Antonucci, L. & Roberts, S. (Eds.) (2014, forthcoming): Young People and Social Policy in Europe, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Roberts, S. & MacDonald, R. (2013): ‘Marginalising the mainstream? Making sense of the missing middle of youth studies’, Sociological Research Online, (Guest editor, February 2013 special section)
  • Atkinson, W., Roberts, S., & Savage, M. (2012): Class Inequality in Austerity Britain, Palgrave Macmillan.

Contributions to edited collections:

  • Roberts, S. (2014 in progress): ‘Ordinary young people and employment’ in Wyn, J. et al Handbook of Youth, Springer.
  • Roberts, S. (2013): ‘Earning, but what about learning? A critical analysis of lifelong and work-based learning’, in R. Brooks, M. McCormack and K. Bhopal (eds.) Contemporary Debates in the Sociology of Education, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Atkinson, W., Roberts, S. & Savage, M. (2012): 'Three Challenges to the Exportation of Sociological Knowledge', in W. Atkinson, S. Roberts and M. Savage (eds.), Class Inequality in Austerity Britain, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Atkinson, W., Roberts, S. & Savage, M. (2012): 'Introduction: A Critical Sociology of the Age of Austerity', in W. Atkinson, S. Roberts & M. Savage (eds.), Class Inequality in Austerity Britain Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Roberts, S. & Evans, S. (2012): ‘Aspirations and Imagined Futures: The Im/possibilities for Britain’s Young Working Class’, in W. Atkinson, S. Roberts and M. Savage (eds.) Class Inequality in Austerity Britain. Palgrave pp. 70-89.
  • Roberts, S. (2011): ‘‘The Lost Boys’ An Overlooked Detail in Retail?’, in I. Grugulis & O.Bozkurt (eds.) Retail Work, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 128-148.
  • Roberts, S. (2011): ‘Men at Work? Emerging nuances in young masculinities in the UK retail sector’, in B. Pini, P. McDonald, & R. Price (eds.) Young People at Work, Ashgate, pp. 67-84.

Commissioned reports/ articles:

Working papers:

  • Roberts, S., Hine, C. et al (2013): ‘Digital Methods as Mainstream Methodology’, National Centre for Research Methods, Methods Review Series. ESRC.

Book reviews:

  • 2013: Book review – Michaela Brockmann, ‘Learner biographies and learning cultures - identity and apprenticeship in England and Germany,’ Journal of Vocational Education and Training, vol. 65, no. 2.
  • 2012: Extended book review – Mark McCormack, ‘The Declining Significance of Homophobia’, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, vol. 41, no. 9, pp. 1256-1258.
  • 2012: Book review – Will Atkinson, ‘Class, Individualisation and Late Modernity’, Sociology, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 68-70.

Invited conference papers/ presentations:

  • Autumn 2013: ‘Youth research and the missing middle’, 3 day seminar at SFI Denmark (Danish National Centre for Social Research) - 2 Key note lectures and general discussant (invited speaker)
  • September 2013: Employment Invulnerability in an era of employability: the promise and pitfalls of students’ pursuit of ‘earning while learning’, CRESC Annual Conference (invited speaker)
  • April 2013: ‘Reflections: learning from the past’, New agendas on youth and young adulthood, University of Glasgow (invited paper)
  • March 2013: ‘Employability as part of a project of the self or employment as a means to an end?: Understanding students’ pursuit of ‘earning while learning’’, SSPSSR Medway Seminar Series, University of Kent (invited speaker)
  • February 2013: ‘Employability as part of a project of the self or employment as a means to an end?: Understanding students’ pursuit of ‘earning while learning’’, Department of Sociology Seminar Series, University of Surrey (invited speaker)
  • January 2013: ‘Barriers to employment and challenges in employment’. Presented at the Cumberland Lodge Conference ‘A Crisis for Youth’ (invited speaker)
  • July 2012: 'Troublesome boys: Principal problematic or diversionary discourse?' Presented at Centre for Learner Identity Studies Annual Conference, Edgehill University (invited speaker)

Reviewed conference papers/ presentations:

  • August 2013: The Role of Global Recession in Increasing Inequalities in Young Adults’ Ability to Maintain Residential Independence. ESA Annual Conference, Turin (with Ann Berrington and Peter Tammes)
  • August 2013: ‘Employability as part of a project of the self or employment as a means to an end?: Understanding students’ pursuit of ‘earning while learning’’, ESA Annual Conference, Turin
  • April 2013: ‘Challenges and opportunities: Dilemmas and debates in conceptualising ‘the ordinary’’, New agendas on youth and young adulthood, University of Glasgow
  • April 2013: ‘People try to put us down; talking ‘bout our aspiration’, New agendas on youth and young adulthood, University of Glasgow
  • April 2013: ‘Three challenges to the exportation of sociological knowledge’, BSA Annual Conference, London (with Will Atkinson and Mike Savage)
  • September 2012: 'Aspirations' and ordinariness: im/possibilities and working-class futures'. Presented at European Sociological Association Youth and Generation Research Network Mid Term Conference, Barcelona
  • September 2011: ‘Choices, constraints and housing transitions in turbulent times’, European Sociological Association Annual Conference, Geneva
  • September 2011: ‘Precarious in all but name? Young men and low-level retail work’, ESRC Seminar Series on Young People and Precarious Employment, University of Warwick
  • July 2011: ‘Gaining skills or paying the bills? Training provision on the front line in retail’, Journal of Vocational Education and Training Annual Conference, University of Oxford
  • June 2011: ‘‘I just got on with it’: The educational experiences of ordinary, if overlooked, boys’, EDUC-8 Workshop: Why does gender still matter in education?, University of Porto
  • July 2010: ‘Boys will be boys... won’t they?: Young male retail workers, masculine identities, and the transition to adulthood’, presented at Youth 2010, University of Surrey
  • April 2009: ‘‘The Lost Boys’: An overlooked detail in retail?’, presented at International Labour Process Conference, Edinburgh
  • February 2009: ‘The Lost Boys’: Not NEET, Not Tidy, Not of interest?, presented at BSA Youth Study Group, One day seminar, University of Northumbria
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My PhD was an in-depth qualitative analysis of the transition to adulthood of ordinary and often overlooked young men. With the broad notion of youth transitions still serving as a significant influence, my current primary research interests include work-based learning provision and skill development in the service sector and the experience of non-traditional students in HE. These core issues are aligned to a secondary research interest in young people's wider transitions in the realms of housing and family, and specifically the relationship between all of these strands of the transition to adulthood and how they are mediated by the dynamics of social class and gender.

My work to date has included a mixed methods approach, combining secondary analyses of large scale data-sets with qualitative data collection to illuminate how social issues at the micro-level are situated within a broader context at the macro-level. I'm also interested in methodological innovation, especially the development and use of digital technologies and all the debates that follow.

Current projects/funding:

‘Young Adulthood: Aspirations and realities for living and learning in the 21st Century’ – funded by the ESRC for their Secondary Data Analysis Initiative, in co-operation with Ann Berrington, Centre for Population Change, University of Southampton.

'Young people's views on the labour market' (UK arm of a tripartite international comparison of school pupils' perception of the labour market during the recession, run by the University of Ballarat (Aus))

Employability as part of a project of the self or employment as a means to an end?: Understanding students' pursuit of 'earning while learning' (Small scale exploratory project looking at undergraduates' motivations for part-time job hunting during their studies and consequences of not being successful)

'Digital Methods as Mainstream Methodology'- Network for Methodological Innovation (funded by the ESRC's National Centre for Research Methods, aiming to engage with key debates about the use of technology in research and build capacity in using digital methods across the social sciences - in collaboration with University of Manchester, University of Surrey, University of West of England, and Trilateral Research.

I am interested in supervising either PhD or Masters level research in the broad area of youth transitions or issues to do with young adulthood. Please email me for further discussion if you are seeking supervision in these fields.


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At Medway, I convene the stage 2 module 'SA550: Principles and Practice of Social Policy' and contribute lectures to 'SA311: Social Problems & Social Policy', 'SO306: Introduction to Sociology', 'SO647: Sociological Research Methods' and the dissertation module SO551. I also contribute to the Masters level module 'SO886: Worlds of Work' and the first year undergraduate module ‘SO336: Sociology of Everyday Life’ at Canterbury.

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I am co-convenor of the BSA youth study group and a board member of the ESA Youth and Generation Research Network.

Editorial: I am on the editorial boards of the Journal of Youth Studies and Sociological Research Online, and I'm also a peer reviewer for British Journal of Sociology; Sociological Inquiry; Journal of Youth and Adolescence; Educational Review; Education, Knowledge and Economy; Journal of Further and Higher Education; Palgrave Macmillan Book Proposals; Routledge Book Proposals; Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (Portuguese Foundation for Scientific Research) Research Grant Review Panel; ESRC Research Grants

I am also Visiting Fellow at University of Southampton.

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Telephone: +44(0)1227 823072 Fax: +44(0)1227 827005 or email us

SSPSSR, Faculty of Social Sciences, Cornwallis North East, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NF

Last Updated: 18/11/2013