Professor Rowena Arshad CBE, FEIS

Professor Emerita


I started my professional life in the private sector in business and banking. I had a major career change and took a course in youth and community work course in Reading.

I came to Edinburgh in 1985 and started work with Scottish Education and Action for Development(SEAD) as an Education and Campaigns Organiser. I worked with community groups and organisations looking at issues linking Scotland and the developing world.

In 1988, I became  Director of the Multicultural Education Centre in Edinburgh and from there moved into Moray House.  My EdD was an interpretive study of teacher activism in equity and anti-discrimination in Scotland. My thesis explored the factors that contribute to developing Scottish teachers' interest in issues of equity and anti-discrimination by examining relevant literature on professionalism and activism and through empirical investigation, using a life history approach. I have taught on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

I became the Head of the Institute of Education, Community and Society in 2010 and from there moved into becoming Head of School in 2013. I stepped down from that role in September 2019. I was also Associate Dean for Student Academic Misconduct for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences from 2008 - 2013. Currently, I convene the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. I also lead on the University of Edinburgh's Race Equality and Anti-Racist Action Plan.

I am an assoicate with the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland (CERES) and a member of the RACE.ED network in the University. I was awarded an OBE in 2001 for services to race equality in Scotland  and a CBE for services to equality and education in 2019.  I was honoured to be conferred a special Fellowship from the Educational Institute of Scotland in 2019 and the received the first GTCS Convenor's Award in 2017. I also have an honorary doctorate from Edinburgh Napier University in 2010 for services to gender equality.


  • 1985: Certificate in Youth and Community Work (Bulmershe College of Higher Education, Reading)
  • 1995: MEd (Community Education) (Moray House College, Heriot-Watt University)
  • 2008: Doctorate in Education, University of Edinburgh
  • 2010: Awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Education, Edinburgh's Napier University
  • 2015: PG Cert in Digital Education

Responsibilities & affiliations

I have held several public appointments. I was Equal Opportunities Commisisoner for Scotland from 2001-2008. I sat on the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council from 1999 -2009. I have also sat on other Boards including Her Majesty's Inspectorate for Education, Scottish Committee of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the  Scottish Government Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime, Prejudice and Community Cohesion. I currently co-convene the University's Race Equality and Anti-Racist Sub-Committee. I convened a committee looking at diversifying the teaching profession in Scotland (2018-2021) for the Scottish Government.  I am currently a member of the Programme Review Board of the Careers Service.

Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland (CERES)


Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Current PhD students supervised


  • Hoda Mobasseri- Islamic Feminism and the potential of Adult Education spaces to progress Muslim women's lives
  • Chen Zhang -Closing the Broch: Applicant to returnee, an ethnographic study of a group of Chinese students complete Scottish education journey to investigate how they make adjustments emotionally, cognitively and behaviourally that may influence their educational, sociocultural and employment success
  • Jian Liao -Equity and Inclusion in Education for Migrant Pupils in China

Past PhD students supervised

Christiana Fizet- History Teachers' Understanding of Canadian history and orientations- a critical study of the master narrativeMohammad Alkuwahri - International Branch Campuses in Qatar: Qatari student experiences of campus life (graduated 2020)

Dana Dabbous - A critical inquiry into education for refugee pupils: the construction of primary teachers' pedagogies in supporting pupils who are refugees (graduated 2019)

Emilia Georgiou- Intercultural Education in Greek-Cypriot Primary Schools (graduated 2018)

Ibtihal Ramadan- The experiences of Muslim academics in UK Higher Education Institutions (graduated 2016)

Patricia Cacho- The effectiveness of inclusion strategies for minority ethnic pupils in secondary schools in Scotland (graduated 2015)

Byerly Ania- Scottish primary school teacher perspectives on multicultural and anti-racist education (graduated 2015)


Research summary

I am interested in equity and anti-discrimination issues and how these issues are taken forward in education (school, community education and tertiary) and within educational policy. I am particularly interested in how individual educators take equity and anti-discrimination/inclusion work forward in their practice and within their establishments. Specific areas of interest include:

  • multicultural and anti-racist education (school and tertiary education)
  • teacher activism in areas of equity and anti-discrimination
  • change agency within organizations, particularly in relation to equity and social justice
  • mainstreaming equality issues into policy frameworks
  • teacher education and particularly its role in developing critical thinkers
  • social capital, diversity and equity

Project activity

  • Internationalising the Curriculum (2015) funded by the Higher Education Academy
  • Non-Muslim and Muslim youth: religious identities, Islamophobia and everyday geopolitics - funded by AHRC 2013-2016. In partnership with Prof Peter Hopkins (PI) Newcastle University, Dr Gurchathen Sanghera, University of St. Andrew's and Dr Katherine Botterill, Newcastle University
  • Attracting International Students:Equitable Services & Support, Campus Cohesion and Community Engagement - funded by the Equality Challenge Unit. Working in partnership with Dr Philomena de Lima (University of Highlands and Islands), Johanna Holtan (Edinburgh University Student Association) and Kristina Konstantoni (Research Assistant) Report published May 2012
  • ESRC Seminar series on the theme of ‘Diverse Teachers for Diverse Learners’ with Dr Geri Smyth (Strathclyde University – PI), Professor Ian Menter (Glasgow University), Ian Matheson (GTC Scotland), Professor Angela Creese (University of Birmingham) and Dr Ghazala Bhatti (University of Southampton)
  • Promoting cohesion: challenging expectations:educating the teachers of tomorrow for race equality and diversity in the 21st century schoolswith Laura Mitchell (School of Education) and colleagues in Manchester Metropolitan University and Dr Peter Hick (Project Leader) and Dr Lorna Roberts. Full report published 2011. Funder: ESCalate, HE Academy
  • Teacher Education Students' Understanding of Social Justice Issues with Laura Mitchell, School of Education, University of EdinburghFunder: Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland (CERES)
  • Poverty and Ethnicity: Scotland Community Consultation with Dr Philomena de Lima (University of Highland and Islands). Funder: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

View all 53 publications on Research Explorer