Jacobs Foundation Research Fellow

Rob Gruijters

University of Cambridge

Research Focus

Rob is a quantitative sociologist who studies inequalities in educational outcomes and life trajectories in the global South. His research takes an explicitly global perspective, using cross-country comparative methods as well as in-depth case studies from low- and middle-income countries.  Recent projects look at school segregation in South Africa, the effect of private schools on learning outcomes, and the implications of Ghana’s Free Senior High School policy. 

My plans for the Fellowship

During my fellowship, I am planning to develop a harmonised dataset of educational indicators on more than 130 countries, derived from various international learning assessments. By merging this harmonized dataset with country-level macro-economic indicators and institutional characteristics of education systems, I will be able analyse the patterns, trends, and determinants of educational inequality around the world. For example, I will be able to provide internationally comparative evidence on the patterns and trends in learning inequality and between-school socio-economic segregation, identify the macro-level determinants of socio-economic inequalities in learning, and identify countries that combine high achievement with low inequalities in learning. I am also planning new collaborative projects using administrative data to study patterns of school segregation and their implications for inequality in India and Brazil. 

How will my work change children’s and youth’s lives? 

Educational stratification—the structural inequality in educational resources and opportunities awarded to children from different socio-economic backgrounds—is a grave social injustice. The resulting inequality in learning outcomes hampers the life chances of marginalised children and lies at the root of the intergenerational transmission of poverty and deprivation. The patterns and determinants of learning inequality remain poorly understood, especially in the global South. 

My research agenda therefore seeks to develop the first longitudinal and global comparative analysis of learning inequality. It looks at the broader political economy of education systems and seeks to identify the ways in which education systems can inadvertently reproduce elite interests. At the same time, I am planning to study positive outliers—countries or regions that have achieved comparatively high levels of school integration—and use them as case studies for in-depth policy analysis. In doing so, I seek to provide evidence that is of direct relevance to international organizations and policymakers in the global South.