Dr Ian Fyfe

Senior Lecturer


Prior to my career in academia, I worked extensively as a professional practitioner in local government and third sector organisations across a variety of community settings in Scotland, USA and Australia. I completed my PhD study at the University of Melbourne undertaking an investigation of how young activists develop political literacy. I joined the University of Edinburgh in 2008. My academic work is shaped by a passion for youth work education and the goal of improving the lives of young people and their families.

I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and teach across postgraduate and undergraduate courses. My teaching interests include youth work theory and practice, youth political participation, youth transitions, youth policy, youth subcultures and participative approaches to qualitative research. I am committed to research-informed teaching.

I am currently working on a collection of research projects focused on the impact of community-based youth work and broader aspects of youth studies.  The range of recent themes include; the effects of the covid-19 pandemic on young people’s relationships and their engagement with community services, examining how young people learn about politics outside of school, and the impact of community-based universal youth work. I am also working with colleagues on a study of the learning experiences of undergraduate widening participation students at the University of Edinburgh. Across several of my research projects, I have utilised participative methods to support models of practitioner and peer research with young people.

At present, I am Principal Investigator on 3 ongoing research projects with common investigative themes including; young people’s community-based learning, relationships, community and political engagement, educational pathways, social justice, and inclusion.

My research activity over the past few years has directly influenced the policy and practice landscape of youth work in Scotland. I am a founding member and currently Chair of the Scottish Steering Group for youth work research which has brought together stakeholders from the youth work practice sector, Scottish Government, Scottish Universities and NHS Scotland. Our collective programme of research has developed an evidence base that demonstrates the impact of youth work practice. This important work has been recognised across the UK and other countries.

The growing impact of my research has generated reflection and debate with youth work practitioners, local authority and third sector service managers, policy makers, academic colleagues, and students.


University of Edinburgh – PG Cert. University Teaching

University of Melbourne – PhD

University of Edinburgh - MEd.

Heriot Watt University - BA (Community Education)

Responsibilities & affiliations

Senior Fellow of Higher Education Academy

Member of Standards Council for Community Learning and Development Scotland

Member of the International Sociology Association (Research Committee 34 –Youth)

Member of Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and Diversity (CREID)

Undergraduate teaching

Course Organiser & Lecturer:

Domains of Practice 2 (MA Learning in Communities)

Domains of Practice 3 (MA Learning in Communities)

Honours Seminar (MA Learning in Communities)


Professional Practice 2 (MA Learning in Communities)

Postgraduate teaching

Course Organiser & Lecturer:

Youth Studies (MSc Education)


Children & Young People 1 (MSc Transformative Learning & Teaching)

Children & Young People 2 (MSc Transformative Learning & Teaching)

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

I am keen to supervise research in the areas listed in the research section of this page.

Current PhD students supervised

Laura Weiner. Youth Constructions of Activist Competency: A Discourse Analysis Case Study in A Philadelphia Youth Activist Group (co-supervising with Prof. Kay Tisdall)

Past PhD students supervised

Anthea Lei Yuen Coleman-Chan (2023). Making the Third Mission possible: Investigating academic staff experiences of Community-engaged Learning (co-supervised with Dr James Macallister

Alan Mackie (2019). Young People, Youth Work and Social Justice: A Participatory Parity Perspective (co-supervised with Dr Jim Crowther)

Patricio Cuevas-Parra (2018). Exploring child-led research: Case studies from Bangladesh, Lebanon and Jordan (co-supervised with Prof. Kay Tisdall)

Byulrim Pyollim Hong (2015). Young people’s experience of a democratic deficit in citizenship education in formal and informal settings in Scotland (co-supervised with Dr Jim Crowther)

Research summary

  • Youth studies
  • Community-based youth work
  • Youth political participation
  • Youth culture and subculture
  • Learning in communities
  • Education for citizenship
  • Widening access and participation in Higher Education
  • Qualitative research methodology

View all 16 publications on Research Explorer