Sarah Aiston

Sarah Aiston

Professor , Professor

Accepting PhD Students

Personal profile

Academic Biography

I am currently a Professor of Public Policy in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, and a member of the newly-formed Centre for Social Innovation. Prior to joining Teesside University, I was a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education and Social Justice, University of Birmingham. Before this, I was in the Faculty of Education at the University of Hong Kong, where I was also Convenor of the Women’s Studies Research Centre. Prior to working in Asia for several years, I was a lecturer at Durham University and began my career as a Senior Researcher at the National Foundation for Educational Research. 


Summary of Research Interests

I have a long-standing commitment to researching the position, status and experience of women in higher education, as staff and students, and from both a historical and contemporary perspective. I am particularly keen to challenge commonly-held assumptions, which I refer to as dangerous discourses. Such discourses include: the feminisation thesis – the idea that women are somehow ‘taking over’ higher education; and pipeline theory – the idea that the more women become suitably qualified, the more women will move through organizational hierarchies. 

Recently, my research has focused on: the underrepresentation of women as academic leaders, particularly in Hong Kong; the positioning of women with PhDs in Mainland China as a ‘third sex’; and the gendered research productivity gap. My work on the underrepresentation of women academics as leaders (Aiston, 2017) led to the University of Hong Kong becoming the first impact champion for the United Nations HeForShe campaign (as documented in UN Women, 2016). 

Research Projects & External Funding

I have received funding from a range of sources, including research councils (Hong Kong Research Grant Council, ESRC); government (e.g. Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, Department for Education and Skills); universities (e.g. research seed-corn funding) and fellowships (Doris Zimmern HKU -Cambridge University).


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