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Durham University

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Dr Cora Lingling Xu, PhD, FHEA

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Assistant Professor in the School of Education

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Cora is a sociologist of education mobilities. Her research examines how the intersection of class, gender, ethnicity, rural-urban divides, time, and geopolitics can shape social agents’ educational and life trajectories. She is interested in investigating the interplay between individual agency and structural factors through innovative research methods, such as digital storytelling. Cora draws heavily on social theories to inform her empirical research, including Bourdieu’s theory of practice, sociology of time, diaspora and diaspora at home. Cora’s geographical focuses include China (mainland China, Hong Kong), the UK, and the Asia-Pacific. Listen to this interview with The Migration Podcast about Cora's research details.

Cora’s research has been funded by the British Sociological Association, The Sociological Review Foundation, the ESRC Methods North West, The National Social Science Fund of China, Monash University Malaysia, and the Cambridge International Trust.

Cora is founder and director of Network for Research into Chinese Education Mobilities (NRCEM). The NRCEM is a cross-disciplinary network that attracts more than 500 members from across Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. The website has on average 2,000 monthly hits. Its ‘Research Highlights’ section has featured more than 100 original submissions of latest publications and research projects. This network has become an important outlet for global scholars to disseminate cutting-edge research on all aspects of Chinese education mobilities. Visit the Network's Youtube channel and listen to the Podcast series ‘Meet the Author‘ and ‘Lived Experiences‘ that Cora has curated. 

Cora received her PhD in Sociology of Education from the University of Cambridge in 2016, as a Cambridge Trust scholar. She obtained her MA from King’s College London as a British Chevening scholar and her Bachelor’s from the Education University of Hong Kong as an Outstanding Mainland scholar. A qualified teacher, she taught English as a second language for five years in two Hong Kong secondary schools. 

A Fellow of the Advance HE (FHEA), at Durham, Cora convenes and contributes to modules on the BA and MA courses in the International and Comparative Education area and supervises Master's and doctoral dissertations. Cora serves as a meber of Durham's Respect Oversight Group with an aim to striving for great equality and diversity. Before joining Durham University, Cora worked at Keele University as Lecturer in Education (Assistant Professor) between 2016 and 2020.

Cora is enthusiastic about career education of postgraduate (especially doctoral) researchers. Since January 2021, Cora has established her Youtube and Bilibili channels to share advice on academic writing, publication and job searches. Cora is also a fervent believer in community writing. This has been shaped by her experiences in organising various Writing Groups at the University of Cambridge and Keele University. She is a member of Durham University Writing Group.

Information for Prospective Doctoral Research Student Supervisions

Cora is interested to work with students on areas of inquiry related to rural-urban inequalities, ethnic minority experiences, international student and academic mobilities, transnational institutional and knowledge mobilities. She is keen to explore opportunities facilitated by creative qualitative research methods such as autoethnography, digital storytelling and other arts-based methods. She would be pleased to investigate how social theories can inform such empirical research.

Research Groups

School of Education

Research Interests

  • Academic mobilities
  • Bourdieu
  • China studies
  • Diaspora & Diaspora at home
  • Ethnic minority experience
  • Hong Kong studies
  • International student mobility (ISM)
  • Rural-urban inequalities
  • Sociology of time
  • Study-to-work transition

Indicators of Esteem

  • Editorial Board Membership:

    Associate Editor of Journal of International Students

    Editorial Board Member of British Journal of Sociology of Education; Cambridge Journal of Education; International Studies in Sociology of Education; Beijing International Review of Education; Polish Journal of Educational Studies.

  • External Awards:

    2018 British Journal of Sociology of Education Best Early Career Article 2017: shortlisted

    2013 Best Paper Award (Emerging Researchers) Prize and Conference Bursary, European Conference of Educational Research

  • External Examiner and Grant Reviewer Roles:

    External PhD examiner: University of Edinburgh, UK and University of New South Wales, Australia

    External grant reviewer: Education University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Baptist University

    External examiner: MA Education programme, University of Northampton (2019-2023)

  • Invited Keynotes and Talks:

    2018 Keynote Speech on ‘A Typology of Contemporary Chinese Higher Education Mobilities and Belt and Road Initiative’, Manchester Institute of Education, University of Manchester, 8 November.

    2020/21 forthcoming · Research seminars on Contemporary Chinese Higher Education and Inequalities, International and Comparative Education Research Group, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Brunei.

    2020/21 forthcoming · ‘BJSE: Let non-Western theoretical tools travel far and beyond’, British Journal of Sociology of Education 40th Anniversary Celebration, IOE UCL.

Selected Publications

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Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Education: international student mobility
  • Subject specialists: international student mobility
  • Asia (excluding Middle East): international student mobility
  • Social and ethical inequality: international student mobility
  • Sociology: international student mobility