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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Professor Julie Rattray

Professor, Director of Education in the School of Education
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 48249
Room number: ED215A

Contact Professor Julie Rattray (email at


Julie Rattray is Professor in Higher Education at Durham University. Her research interests include the threshold concept framework, liminality, affective dimensions of learning as well as other aspects of policy and pedagogy in Higher Education. In particular she is interested in the ways that learners deal with troublesome knowledge and the extent to which affective characteristics and attributes might influence this. 

In recent years Julie has been involved in research projects and conference organisation in the area of Higher Education. She was a member of the UK team of project IBAR working with 6 European partners to explore the potential barriers to the implementation of pan-European standards and guidelines for higher education the findings of which are described in Eggins, H. (Ed). (2014) Drivers and Barriers to Achieving Quality in Higher Education, published by Sense). Julie has had an ongoing involvement in the biennial Threshold Concepts conference which started with the 5th conference held in Durham in 2014. Since then she has contributed as a paper reviewer (6th and 7th) and invited workshop facilitator at the most recent conference held at Miami University, Ohio, in June 2018. In 2016 she was the chair of the Improving University Teaching (IUT) conference held in Durham. Her most recent project is DASCHE (Developing, Assessing and Validating Social Competences in Higher Education. which focuses on the identification of practice in relation to the development of social Competence in Higher Education. This project includes 5 European partners along with the UK and is funded by Erasmus +.

Julie joined the University of Durham in 2001 having completed a Ph.D in Developmental Psychology at the University of Dundee. Julie currently holds the role of Director of Education in her department which means she has strategic oversight of its teaching and learning strategy. Over the years Julie has contributed to a range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules that take a psychological approach to teaching and learning or which have a specific higher education focus. As a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy she contributes to the postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice.

Julie has a broad range of supervisory experience and is currently working with students on a range of projects that use threshold concepts theory as a framework to explore aspects of teaching, learning and policy issues in Higher Education, metacognitive awareness and psychological and affective dimensions of learning.

Completed Supervisions (since 2008)

A Longitudinal Evaluation of the Impact of a Problem-Based Learning Approach to the Teaching of Software Development in Higher Education

The Effectiveness of the Response and Follow Up Processes to the Learndirect ‘Gremlins’ Campaign in the Nottingham Area

Exploring a Group of Students’ School Experiences in a Secondary School: a Case Study in the Implementation of Invitational Education in Hong Kong

The Effectiveness in Measuring Character Development Outcomes in Singapore Schools Through the Character Development Award

Improving English Listening Self-efficacy Of Chinese University Students ----- Influences of Learning Strategy Training with Feedback on Strategy Use and Performance

Spiritual Narrative and Secondary School Pupils: How do pupils respond to spiritual narrative? What factors might influence response or evoke conceptual change?

Developing Critical Thinking through Problem-Based Learning: an Action Research for a Class of Media Literacy

LEARNING BY TEACHING: Action Research into Changes in Metalearning Capacity of Taiwanese Secondary School Students

Investigating Factors Which Promote Metacognitive Development in Early Years Children.

Does the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme facilitate students’ motivation toward self-regulatory, autonomous learning?

The use of stories as a means of teaching moral development in two Singapore secondary schools.

Towards an Effective School Improvement Model for a Middle Eastern Context: Capacity Building for Sustainable Improvement.

An investigation into the impact of an integrated curriculum on learning in the primary school.

A Comparative Study about Early Childhood Teachers’ Preparation and Role in England and Kuwait.

Civilian to Officer: Threshold Concepts in Military Officers’ Education.

An Exploratory Study of Hong Kong Chinese Students’ Conceptions and Experiences of Academics’ Care within a Higher Education Context

Threshold concepts in research and evidence-based practice: Investigating troublesome learning for undergraduate nursing students

Food for Thought: An exploration of the relationship of Academic Confidence to Academic Sustenance in Australian undergraduate students.

Exploring the Role of Psychological Capital and Academic Hope in High School Students: How they interact With Their Cognitive Strategies to Influence Learning Outcomes?

Information for prospective doctoral research student supervisions

Julie would welcome applications from prospective doctoral students on any of her research interests.

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2018: 2018 invited workshop on “An Introduction to threshold concepts and Transformation” at the 7th Biennial Threshold Concepts conference, Miami University Oxford, Ohio.:
  • 2016: May 2016. Invited to give a presentation on Threshold Concepts and Inclusive Pedagogy at Dortmund University as part of a German government funded project on inclusive practice.:
  • 2014: Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy:
  • 2009: present chair University Library users committee :


Research Interests

  • The Threshold concept Framework
  • Liminality
  • Affective dimensions of learning
  • Higher Education pedagogy - Teaching and Learning
  • Issues of quality in higher education
  • Higher Education Policy

Research Groups

Research Projects


Journal Article

Edited book

Edited Journal

  • Rattray, J & Land, R (2017). Special Issue: Threshold Concepts and Conceptual Difficulty. Practice and Evidence of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 12 (2).

Chapter in book

  • Lin,S., Rattray,J. & Walker-Gleaves,C. (2019). Designing a Meta-Learning Programme. In Thinking Skills and Creativity in Second Language Education: Case Studies from International Perspectives. Li, L. Routledge.
  • Chen, D. & Rattray, J. (2018). Critical thinking threshold concepts in PBL. In Threshold Concepts in Problem-based Learning. Savin-Baden, M. & Tombs, G. Leiden: Brill | Sense. 1-17.
  • Rattray, J. (2017). Assessing Liminality: The Use of Ipsative Formative Assessment During a Postgraduate Taught Induction Programme to Support the Development of Criticality. In Ipsative Assessment and Learning Gain: International Case Studies. Hughes, G. London: Palgrave Macmillan. 149-171.
  • Rattray, J. (2016). Affective Dimensions in Liminality. In Threshold Concepts in Practice. Land, R., Meyer, J.H.F. & Flanagan, M.T. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. 67-76.
  • Syed Mohamed, A.T.F., Land. R & Rattray, J. (2016). Ambivalence, Hybridity and Liminality: The Case of Military Education. In Threshold Concepts in Practice. Land, R., Meyer, J.H.F. & Flanagan, M. T. Rotterdam, Taipei & Boston: Sense Publishers.
  • Martindale, L., Land. R., Rattray, J. & Anderson, A. (2016). Exploring Sources of Trouble in Research Learning for Undergraduate Nurses. In Threshold Concepts in Practice. Land, R., Meyer, J.H.F. & Flanagan, M. T. Rotterdam, Taipei & Boston: Sense Publishers.
  • Smith, J. & Rattray,J. (2016). Preface: Mapping the Terrain of Identity-Work Research. In Identity Work in the Contemporary University. Smith,J., Rattray,J., Peseta,T. & Loads,D. Sense Publishers.
  • Rattray, J. & Smith, J. (2015). Principles for reviewing the taught postgraduate induction curricula. In Masters Level Teaching, Learning and Assessment: Issues in design and delivery. Kneale, P. London: Palgrave.
  • Haskova, A., Lachka, L., Pilarik, L. & Rattray, J. (2014). Information and internal quality assurance in European and Slovak Higher Education Institutions. In Drivers and Barriers to Achieving Quality in Higher Education. Eggins, H. Sense: Rotterdam.
  • Land, R. & Gordon, G. (2013). 'To See Ourselves as Others See Us': The Scottish Approach to Quality Enhancement. In Enhancing Quality in Higher Education: International Perspectives. Land, R. & Gordon, G. Routledge.
  • Land, R. & Rattray, J. (2013). Policy drivers and barriers to implementation: Context and practice. In Drivers and Barriers to Achieving Quality in Higher Education. Eggins, H. Sense: Rotterdam.
  • Doody,J. & Rattray,J. (2008). An evaluation of the effectiveness of using a hybrid PBL approach in the teaching of the Java programming language to first year third level students. In Improving Student Learning: Improving Student Learning Through the Curriculum. The proceedings of the 16th Improving Student Learning symposium. Rust,C.
  • Rattray, J., Aiston, S. & Barmby, P. (2007). Learning for Life not just for Exams: the development of metalearning in Higher Education students. In Improving Student Learning through Teaching. Rust, C. (Ed) Oxford: Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development.

Conference Paper