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Emeritus Professor, Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick

Kate Purcell returned to the IER on 1st September 2006, having spent seven years as Professor of Employment Studies and Director of the Employment Studies Research Unit at Bristol Business School, the University of the West of England. She has spent two previous periods as a researcher at the Institute, from 1986-89 and 1996-99, and remained an Associate Fellow for most of the intervening periods. She retired at the end of December 2012 but continues to work part-time at the Institute.

With a background in sociology, she specialises in investigating the interface between labour markets and organisations, with a focus on changing employment boundaries.

At the core of her work is an interest in gender segmentation in employment and gender differences in career development, but increasingly, her research interests have been focused on change in occupational structure and in particular, the impact of higher education expansion on the labour market. Kate directed Futuretrack the most ambitious investigation of the relationship between higher education and employment ever undertaken, the core of a major initiative on career-making sponsored by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU). The Futuretrack longitudinal study tracked 2005 and 2006 UK higher education applicants from the point of applying for full-time courses, through their higher education experience and into employment: see Her comparative international research work includes the current Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded 'Pathfinder' project which will assess the impact of higher education expansion on economic restructuring, occupational change and access to opportunities in Brazil and India.

Kate has conducted a series of longitudinal studies of graduate transitions from higher education to employment and case study investigations of both graduates and employers, funded by a range of sponsors including HECSU, the ESRC, the Council for Industry and Higher Education and successive UK government departments responsible for employment, higher education and skills. She has published and lectured widely on her research, both nationally and internationally and served in a consultancy or advisory capacity to a range of labour market, research and higher educational stakeholder organisations.

Her main research interests are the impact of higher education expansion on the labour market in the UK, change in the occupational structure; gender segmentation in employment; gender differences in career development; employment flexibility and non standard work and development of more effective mixed-methods research. Consequently, her current ESRC-funded research, Precarious Pathways into Employment for Young People ( is an appropriate final project, since it includes consideration of all these areas.


  • 2006–present
    Professor of Employment Research, University of Warwick