Colin Mills

Colin Mills

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 Nuffield College



Colin Mills

Head of Department & Associate Professor in Sociology


I'm interested in supervising talented doctoral candidates who want to do serious quantitative work in the following areas: social stratification; social mobility; assortative mating; the measurement of social class; some aspects social demography – for example the connection between family background and life-course outcomes; social inequality and partnership formation/fertility; sociology of employment.

Serious means an intention to do something a bit more than run a few crosstabs and stick on the end a logit with 25 predictor variables (unless you have a very good reason for doing that). It also means having a substantive point. I have no interest in quantitative pyrotechnics for their own sake. I'm not a methodologist and don't do methodological research. Nothing against methodologists but it is just not what I do and you won't get good value from me as a supervisor if your interests are purely in the development of technique.

Likewise you won't get good value from me if a large component of what you want to do is 'qualitative'. Again this is not a judgement about scientific value but a statement of where my interests lie. I don't want to waste my time (or your time) on things I have no interest in so if your project is 'qualitative' you would be better off with somebody else.

My empirical interests are largely UK-centred and I hold the somewhat peculiar belief that sociology is about processes that are in part specific to a time and a place and that it is important to know quite a lot about that time and that place. I can be persuaded to supervise theses about other societies - especially ones where I have some, albeit tenuous, grasp of the language and some knowledge of the institutions - which means in essence the Anglo world plus Germany, France and Sweden. I'm not keen on supervising theses on societies where I have no access to primary materials in the original language and I have to rely on what you tell me.

If I supervise you I will push you very hard, ask you difficult questions and not let you get away with sloppy or wishful thinking. I will also insist that you take intellectual ownership of and responsibility for your project. I will also insist that you are really doing something that has genuine sociological content (and that you know some sociology). If you just want to do another of the social sciences under the label of sociology, then we won't get along. My style of supervision does not suit everyone and you would be ill advised to seek it unless you can deal with firm (but fair) criticism and an insistence that technically you really know what you are doing (I'm not a just push the buttons on STATA person).

People who stay the course with me tend to be very competitive in the academic job market.

If you have read all this, are not put off, and have an original idea for an exciting thesis, please get in touch. It's best if you send me an outline (maximum of five A4 pages) before you formally apply so that I can give you an indication as to whether I would be willing to supervise you. Please don't send me BA/BSc, MA/MSc theses and other long documents; I don't have time to read them. If you can't catch my attention in five pages then you can't catch it at all.

Research Areas: social inequality, social mobility, social measurement, workplace employment relations, social survey methodology, quantitative social research.