Dr Fiona O'Hanlon

Chancellor's Fellow


My current role – as a Chancellor’s Fellow in Languages Education – builds on my long-standing interest in language, an interest which began with being introduced to Spanish in primary school.  Since then, I have always been studying a language – whether Spanish, French, English, Gaelic or Welsh.

My undergraduate degree was in English Language and Literature, and was followed by an MSc (by research) in Education, in which I explored policy and practice in languages education in Scotland.  My PhD was a comparative study of Gaelic-medium and Welsh-medium pupils which explored the effect of the move from primary to secondary school on pupils’ experiences, language use and language attitudes.  Between 2010 and 2014 I was a research fellow for Soillse, an inter-university research network that aims to provide research to inform policy for Scottish Gaelic, with my work focusing on Gaelic education and on public attitudes to Gaelic.  

In 2014, I moved to the Moray House School of Education, and am involved in research and teaching on modern languages education (particularly surrounding the new 1+2 languages policy in Scotland), on Gaelic-medium education, and on English as an Additional Language.    

I am a Board member of Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the executive non-departmental public body which works to promote the use and understanding of Gaelic language, education and culture, and I am a co-director of the Centre for Racial Equality in Scotland (CERES). 


  • MA (Hons) in English Language and English Literature (University of Edinburgh)
  • MSc in Education (by Research) (University of Edinburgh)
  • PhD in Education (University of Edinburgh)
  • HNC, Welsh Studies, (University of Wales Trinity Saint David)
  • HND, Gàidhlig agus Leasachadh (Gaelic and Development), (University of the Highlands and Islands)

I am currently undertaking the Post-graduate Certificate in Academic Practice.

Undergraduate teaching

I teach on undergraduate and postgraduate courses – mainly on languages education, and on research methods.


Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I would welcome applications to supervise PhD projects in the research areas below:

  • Bilingual education
  • Languages education
  • Attitudes to language
  • Language policy
  • Language planning
  • Mixed methods research

  Please see http://www.ed.ac.uk/education/graduate-school/studentships for information about the application process.

Current PhD students supervised

  • I currently supervise research projects on professional learning for Gaelic-medium teachers, and for college lecturers. 

Research summary

I am interested in language and equity issues and how these are taken forward in education and in educational policy.  Specific areas of interest include:

  • Bilingual education
  • Languages education
  • Attitudes to language
  • Language policy
  • Language planning
  • Mixed methods research

Current projects include an investigation of Gaelic-medium teachers’ views of the pedagogical practice of translanguaging (together with colleagues from the University of Strathclyde), and a comparative study of the language use, identities, and patterns of civic participation of young people who are in Gaelic-medium or Welsh-medium education or are learning Gaelic or Welsh in secondary school (together with colleagues from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Aberystwyth).


Project activity

Current and recent projects:

  • Eadar-chànanachadh: perspectives on translanguaging in Gaelic-medium education (2016). Funded by Soillse. In partnership with Joanna McPake (PI), Ann MacDonald and Mona Wilson, University of Strathclyde & Mary Andrew (University of Edinburgh)
  • Language, identity and civic participation: the role of the school and voluntary organisations in Scotland and Wales (2015-2017).  Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. In partnership with Lindsay Paterson and Kirstie MacLeod (University of Edinburgh), and Rhys Jones, Elin Royles, and Dyfan Powel (University of Aberystwyth). This project is part of the suite of research conducted by the ESRC-funded WISERD (Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods) Civil Society Research Centre. Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods
  • The implementation of the 1+2 Languages Strategy (2016). In partnership with Bruce Robertson, John Christie and John Stodter (Association of Directors of Education in Scotland). Funded by the Scottish Government.
  • Gaelic in the 2011 Census (2015).  In partnership with Stephen Sharp (National Records of Scotland) and Lindsay Paterson (University of Edinburgh). Funded by Soillse.
  • Professional development programmes for teachers moving from majority to minoritised language medium education: a comparative study. (2013). Funded by Bòrd na Gàidhlig.  In partnership with Joanna McPake (PI), Mona Wilson, Giovanna Fassetta (University of Strathclyde) and Wilson McLeod (University of Edinburgh).
  • Public Attitudes to Gaelic in Scotland (2012-2014).  In partnership with Lindsay Paterson (PI, University of Edinburgh) and ScotCen Social Research.  Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.