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Researcher at Research on Socio-Economic Policy, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch University

Gabrielle Wills is an education economist affiliated with Stellenbosch University in South Africa, and specifically Research on Socio-Economic Policy, (ReSEP, in the Department of Economics. She holds a PhD in Economics (graduated 2016), where her dissertation focused on school leadership and teacher union effects on learning outcomes. Dr Wills has been involved in various research projects and capacity development initiatives for local and international organisations, including the South African Presidency, the South African Department of Basic Education, the Ministry of Education in Namibia, UNICEF and local philanthropy organisations. She supported the Department of Basic Education with an analysis of a sustainability follow-up study of a teacher coaching impact evaluation study called the “Early Grade Reading Study”. She was also involved in the monitoring and evaluation at baseline of the DFID funded EQUIP-Tanzania project. Locally she co-authored the "Binding Constraints in Education" project for the South African Presidency and the European Union where a key recommendation of the report that “all children should be able to read for meaning by the end of grade 10” has recently been adopted by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa as a top five national priority. Over the past 2 years, she has been the lead researcher on an ESRC/DFID funded project titled “Succeeding Against the Odds: Understanding resilience and exceptionalism in high-functioning township and rural primary schools in South Africa”. She is leading a follow-up ESRC/DFID funded study titled “Reading and socio-emotional skills in challenging school contexts: Evidence from South African primary schools” and is a co-principal investigator in the “Early Learning Project” funded by Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment. She is also a team lead of the National Income Dynamics Study Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey.

Dr Wills’ current areas of research interest include education systems reform, child development, early learning outcomes, the early child education sector and school leadership and management. She regularly speaks in civil society, academic and government forums on the state of education service delivery in South Africa. She also has a labour economics background focusing on informal economy dynamics and issues of women’s labour force participation.


  • –present
    Researcher at Research on Socio-Economic Policy, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch University


  • 2016 
    Stellenbosch University, PhD Economics