Prof Emer Smyth biography


Prof Emer Smyth (ESRI)
Prof Emer Smyth (ESRI)


Emer Smyth is a Research Professor and Head of the Social Research Division at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in Dublin. She is joint research area coordinator for education. Her main research interests centre on education, school to work transitions, gender and comparative methodology.

She has conducted a number of studies on the effects of schooling contexts on student outcomes, including Do Schools Differ? She recently led the Post-Primary Longitudinal Study (PPLS), which followed a cohort of young people from the first year of second-level education onwards. This study was the first of its kind in the Irish context, and yielded insights into important processes such as the transition to second-level education, the factors influencing examination performance, the impact of ability grouping, and gender and social differentiation in educational outcomes. Seven publications on this study have been issued to date, with the first phases of the study providing an important evidence base for junior cycle reform. The cohort of students involved in this study has been followed to look at these young people’s post-school pathways. Her current research projects include a large-scale study of teacher induction practices, an analysis of the criteria for entry to initial teacher education, and a review of the School Completion Programme.

Emer Smyth is on the management team of the Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) study, and has used GUI data to co-author reports on children’s out-of-school activities, teaching methods and time allocation in primary schools, teacher take-up of continuous professional development, and job satisfaction and stress among primary principals and teachers. She has a strong interest in comparative research on education issues, recently acting as co-ordinator to a FP7-funded comparative project on religion and primary schooling across Europe, Religious Education in a Multicultural Society (REMC). She is currently involved in a European study on primary school effectiveness in maths and science and in the education and stratification strand of the UK-based AQMeN network. She has been involved in a number of European networks, including Changequal, Equalsoc, and the FP7-funded network.

Key publications

Smyth, Emer. Do Schools Differ? Dublin: Oak Tree Press, 1999.

Smyth, Emer and Banks, Joanne. ‘There was never really any question of anything else: young people’s agency, institutional habitus and the transition to higher education’, British Journal of Sociology of Education, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 263-281, 2012

Smyth, Emer.Gender differentiation and early labour market integration across Europe’, European Societies, Vol. 7, No. 3, pp. 451-479, 2005.

Smyth, Emer. ‘Buying your way into college? Private tuition and the transition to higher education in Ireland’, Oxford Review of Education, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 1-22.

Smyth, A. Dunne, M. Darmody, S. McCoy, 2007, Gearing Up for the Exam? The Experiences of Junior Certificate Students, Dublin: Liffey Press/ESRI.