Dr Martin Purcell

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Martin has over thirty years' experience as a Community Education practitioner, having worked in various community development and youth work roles throughout the UK (including ten years in Wales, four in Scotland and over twenty in England).  Throughout his professional career, Martin has been employed mainly in the voluntary and statutory sectors, working with community groups to design and deliver community-based services, for which he secured several million pounds in funding from public and charitable sources.  Martin's practice has been underpinned by a commitment to social justice and to facilitating transformation in the lives of marginalised and excluded groups through informal educative processes.

Over the past fifteen years, Martin’s career has been in transition from being purely practice-based to academia.  Martin worked as a contract researcher for the prestigious Leeds-based Policy Research Institute for several years, conducting work on community initiatives for central government departments and agencies, local authorities, national voluntary organisations and local charities.  These included evaluations of the New Deal for Communities, the Youth Contract and the Children’s Fund; contributions to national and local policy on public participation and multi-disciplinary working; and research into the children’s workforce, including the role of Directors of Children’s Services and Children’s Trusts.

Martin has become involved increasingly in a voluntary capacity in various roles for community organisations and charities.  Currently a Trustee for two charities concerned with ensuring quality youth work provision, Martin was until recently a Trustee for a mental health charity providing services for young people in his home county of West Yorkshire.  Since his return to Dundee – where he was engaged in community regeneration and anti-poverty work for four years in the mid-1990s – Martin has continued to develop links with local community organisations, where he continues to work in voluntary roles.

Martin has taught for the past ten years on professionally qualifying community education and other programmes, including Youth & Community Work, Regeneration and Urban Design courses at four English Universities: Leeds Beckett, Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan and Huddersfield.   Throughout his time teaching on these programmes, Martin has developed considerable expertise in both his subject area and pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning, all of which inform his teaching practice at the University of Dundee.


As indicated by details of his publications and contract research outputs (from over 30 contracts), Martin has conducted research in a wide range of areas.  Over the past ten years, building his PhD research (which explored the role of professional values in enacting public participation policy), Martin's research has focussed on the role of love as an element of professional practice in community development and work with young people.  Martin is developing a network of practitioners and researchers with an interest in this area, and guest-edited a special issue of the Radical Community Work Journal in 2020, focussing on professionally loving practice. 

In 2020, Martin completed his most recent contract research project, a three-year evaluation of Kirklees Community Learning Works, a voluntary sector-led programme delivering targeted support to some of the most vulnerable and marginalised individuals in the Kirklees district, West Yorkshire. Martin remains interested in conducting contract research for voluntary and community sector organisations, to support the sharing of excellence throughout the sector, in areas related to his own practice and research expertise.  

Research interests

Martin would be interested in conducting research into work in the fields of community education in its broadest interpretation, including community development, youth work, anti-poverty work and the promotion of social and environmental justice. 

Reflecting his ongoing interest in values-based practice, Martin is keen to collaborate with practitioners and academics in fields related to Community Education, exploring the translation of professional values into practice.

In particular, Martin welcomes approaches from potential collaborators in research into professionally loving forms of practice, including attention to 'healing' work for practitioners as well as the groups and individuals with whom they work.   

View full research profile and publications


As a member of the Community Education team, Martin teaches mainly on the professionally qualifying undergraduate and postgraduate Community Education programmes, including the following modules:

CO10009 Working with People (Lead Tutor)

CO12002 Youth Work Practice

CO20016 Community Education & Sustainability

CO32001 Community Education Practice Learning 3

CO40006 Practice Inquiry Project 

CO42001 Critical Reflection 

Martin also contributes to the following modules on the Professional Development programmes:

PD30077 Leadership & Management Strategies

PD30087 Professional Inquiry Project

PP30091 Organisational Learning & Development