Dr Neil M Speirs

Widening Participation Manager


My role involves working as a manager, practitioner and researcher in a number of areas concerning widening participation & access and related policy. My community based projects along with my teaching and research are centered around a number of areas of interest that span from primary education through secondary, further and higher education.  A few of these areas of interest and specialisms are; the transition from primary to secondary education, the sociology of sport, undergraduate student transitions, the equity of student experience, social reproduction & critical pedagogy, the working class mature student, student parents, the hidden curriculum, classism on campus, peer-related pedagogies and autoethnography.

Responsibilities & affiliations

I sit on a number of groups including;

  • College of Science and Engineering Equality & Diversity Committee
  • Chair Scottish Wider Access Programme (East) Executive Group
  • Board member, Academy of Sport, Moray House School of Education.
  • Higher Education Research Group, Moray House School of Education.
  • College of Science and Engineering Decolonising the Curriculum Working Group
  • Student Recruitment & Admission General Data Protection Regulation Group
  • Educated Pass Project Steering Group
  • Refugee and At-Risk Scholar Advisory Group
  • Equality Challenge Unit – National Equality Impact Assessment Group
  • Scottish Funding Council Male Engagement Strategy Working Group
  • External examiner of the AHEAD Programme at Abertay University from 2012-2016.
  • University Secretary's Group Equality & Diversity Committee

Undergraduate teaching

Tutor/supervisor to;

SSC2b, Medical School.


Outreach and Engagement, School of Geoscience.


Languages Beyond University, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures


Pre-Access Course for Adult Learners (SCQF 7), Tutor & joint Course Organiser

Football - More Than A Game.

Massive Open Online Course, Tutor

Football - More Than A Game.


Postgraduate teaching

Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (Secondary)

MSc Transformative Learning and Teaching

MSc Social Justice and Community

The Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice

Conference details

I have presented papers at a number of conferences including;

  • Digital Triumphalism – a cautionary tale, IT Futures Conference, University of Edinburgh, Online, 2021.

  • The hidden curriculum as doxa: experiences of the working class, Advance HE Learning and Teaching Conference, Online, 2021.

  • The hidden curriculum as doxa: experiences of the working class, University of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching Conference, Online, 2021.

  • The Modern Academic and the Graduates of the Future, Canadian Knowledge Mobilisation Forum, Online, 2020 (with A. Cross & C. Graham).

  • The Indescribability of Artistry in a Neoliberal World, QAA Enhancement Themes International Conference, Online, 2020. 

  • The Modern Academic and the Graduates of the Future,  Advance HE STEM Conference, Manchester, 2020 (with A. Cross & C. Graham).

  • Social Class - Pedagogy, Curriculum and Inter-Disciplinary Learning,  Advance HE Teaching & Learning Conference, Northumbria University, 2019.

  • An Introduction to the Insights Programme, Learning & Teaching Conference, University of Edinburgh, 2019 (with E. Mortimer & C.J. Cochran).

  • 'Interdisciplinary Learning & National Improvement: Engaging Disengaged Learners, Widening Access and Outdoor Learning' at Interdisciplinary Learning: Creative Thinking for a Complex World, The Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2019. (with M. Pendry).

  • 'Footballers Have Feelings Too' at The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas - Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Edinburgh, 2018.
  •  'Solidarity and subsidiarity – how to widen access to higher education?' at World Symposium on Social Responsibility and Sustainability, University of Edinburgh, 2018. WINNER OF THE BEST PAPER AWARD
  • 'Reflecting On The Multiple Barriers to Accessing Higher Education' at QAA International Enhamcement Conference, Glasgow,  2017.
  • 'SLICCs: enabling widening participation student agency during summer experiences, or An Uncomfortable Train Journey' at Gearing Up Conference, University of Edinburgh, 2017. (with S C Riley & G McCabe)
  • 'Early years engagement: Supporting primary to secondary transitions through personalised pedagogies' at The 24th FACE Annual Conference, Glasgow, 2017.
  • 'SLICCs: enabling widening participation student agency during summer experiences' at QAA International Enhamcement Conference, Glasgow, 2017. (with S C Riley & G McCabe)
  • 'Philosophy, Practice & Policy' at Scottish Consortium for Rural Research Meeting, Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh, 2017.
  • 'Reflections on HE Retention' at AQMeN - Beyond access to HE: widening access initiatives and student retention in Scotland, Edinburgh, 2016.
  • 'Reflecting on the multiple transitions of a widening participation student' at QAA - Enhancment Themes Conference, Univeristy of Edinburgh, 2016.
  • 'Reflecting on the massification of higher education, neoliberalism & widening access' at AQMeN - Rediscovering Inequalities, University of Edinburgh,  2016.
  • 'Male participation in the classroom and implications for progression' at UCAS - Education and Progression Scotland, The Caledonian Hotel, Edinburgh, 2015.
  • 'Increased male participation in the classroom through Olympism' at SFC - Gender, actions to achieve positive change, University of Stirling, 2015.
  • 'The Silent and Unseen Helper Have Carers been Forgotten?' at Social Mobility and Widening Access to Higher Education in Scotland: Policy, Practice and Research, University of Strathclyde, 2015.
  • 'The inequality of transition' at QAA - Enhancement and innovation in higher education, Glasgow, 2015
  • 'Re-addressing transitions to inequality' at Gearing up for Transitions, University of Edinburgh, 2015.
  • 'Increased male participation in the classroom through Olympism' at Voyage of Discovery - Celebrating, Inspiring and Exploring Community University Engagement in Edinburgh, 2015.
  • 'Computer anxiety, digital literacy, and widening participation' at The 23rd EAN Annual Conference - Hidden Potential or Hollow Promise?  Can Technologies Deliver Wider Access and Success in Higher Education?, University of Edinburgh, 2014.
  • 'The inequity of the student experience' at HEA STEM Annual Learning and Teaching Conference - Enhancing the STEM Student Journey, University of Edinburgh, 2014.
  • 'Peer Mentoring' at Gearing up for Induction, University of Edinburgh, 2014.
  • 'The Role of The Peer' at HEA STEM: Annual Learning and Teaching Conference - Where practice and pedagogy meet, University of Birmingham, 2013.
  • 'Approaches to enhancing the student experience' at IAD - Approaches to enhancing the Student Experience at Edinburgh, University of Edinburgh, 2013.
  • 'I wandered lonely as a cloud' at Holyrood Magazine The Learner Journey, Edinburgh, 2012.
  • 'Apposite Routes for College based Learners to Degree Level' at SFC - Articulation for All, 2011.
  • 'Males and Higher Education; Can the Olympic Charter help?' at The 18th EAN Annual Conference - Changing the Culture of the Campus: Towards an Inclusive Higher Education, York St John University, 2009.
  • 'Undergraduate Mentoring' at Learning & Teaching Network, London, 2003
  • 'Student Mentoring' at Scottish HE Retention Forum, University of Paisley, 2003.

Speirs, N.M (2022). Twenty years of peer support: The fellowship and solidarity of community.  Teaching Matters Blog, University of Edinburgh.

Speirs, N. M. (2022). Let’s talk about the hidden curriculum and classism on campus. Higher Education Research Group (HERG) Blog, University of Edinburgh. 

Speirs, N.M. (2021). Storm on the Island – The Lived Experience of Working Class Adult Learners in Higher Education.  Adult Learner: The Irish Journal of Adult and Community Education, 22, pp 107-131

Parkes, S., Beniston, J. & Speirs, N.M. (2021). The Policy Context of Higher Education: Resistance is Possible. In Seal, M., & Mayo, P. (Eds.). Hopeful Pedagogies in Higher Education. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Speirs, N.M. (2021). The Hidden Curriculum and its impact on working-class students, Teaching Matters Blog, University of Edinburgh.

Speirs, N. M. (2020) The Hidden Curriculum as Doxa: Experiences of the Working Class. In Hinchcliffe, T. (Ed) The Hidden Curriculum of Higher Education. Advance HE, London.

Speirs, N.M. (2019) Solidarity and subsidiarity – how to widen access to higher education? In Leal Filho, W. (Ed) Social Responsibility and Sustainability: how businesses and organizations can operate in a sustainable and socially responsible way. Springer, Berlin.

Speirs, N.M. (2018). Educated Pass: Engaging young males from low socio-economic status backgrounds with learning.  In Robertson, J., Williams, S., Jones, D., Isbel, L.and Loads, D. (eds.), EqualBITE: Gender equality in higher education, Sense Publishers, Rotterdam.

Speirs, N. M, Riley, S.C. and McCabe, G. (2017) Student-Led, Individually-Created Courses: Using Structured Reflection within Experiential Learning to Enable Widening Participation Students’ Transitions Through and Beyond Higher Education, Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 5, 2, pp51–57.

Speirs, N.M. (2017). Reflections of an Edinburgh Award tutor, Teaching Matters Blog, University of Edinburgh.

Speirs, N.M. & McCabe, G. (2016).  Using graduate attributes to engage WP students, AGCAS - Phoenix, 148,  pp14-15.

Speirs, N.M. (2010).  Males and Higher Education: Can the Olympic Charter help? in Cooper, M. (ed), Changing the Culture of the Campus: Towards an Inclusive Higher Education – Ten Years on. pp17-34.  European Access Network, London, U.K.

Speirs, N.M. (2008). Case Study 3, in Black, F.M. & McKenzie, J. (eds), Quality Enhancement Themes: The First Years Experience - Peer support in the first year. pp26-27, QAA Scotland.

Speirs, N.M., Unsworth, L. & Pass, J. (2006).  Scottish Funding Council - National Bridging Project - Science.

Speirs, N.M. (2004).  Raising Aspirations, Edit Alumni Magazine, 4(2), 18-19.

Speirs, N. M., Ebenezer, W. J., & Jones, A. C. (2002). Observation of a fluorescent dimer of a sulfonated phthalocyanine. Photochemistry and photobiology, 76(3), 247-251.

Camp, P. J., Jones, A. C., Neely, R. K., & Speirs, N. M. (2002). Aggregation of copper (II) tetrasulfonated phthalocyanine in aqueous salt solutions. The Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 106(44), 10725-10732.

A short film about my project with local primary schools (Early Years Project);


A short film about my project with local S1 pupils (Early Years Project);


A short film about my project Educated Pass;


A short film about the pre-access course I teach on called Football More Than A Game;