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Dr Mike Finn

Senior Lecturer and Director of Liberal Arts

I am an historian of post-war and contemporary Britain, with particular interests in British political culture and the history of education policy. At Exeter, I lead the BA Liberal Arts degree programme, and I was previously Deputy Head of the School for Cross-Faculty Studies (Liberal Arts Division) at the University of Warwick.

My teaching interests are interdisciplinary, ranging from history to sociology and political science, and I have also published across disciplinary genres. I have recently published a short book on British Universities in the Brexit Moment, which appeared with Emerald in early 2018, and I am in the final stages of completing a monograph for Palgrave on Anthony Crosland, namely Socialism, Education and Equal Opportunity, which will appear in 2021. My next project, Empire State: British political culture in the age of neonationalism, is under contract with Routledge. In 2015 my edited collection on British education policy, The Gove Legacy: Education in Britain After the Coalition (Palgrave Pivot), was named Education Book of the Year by Schools Week.

I have held Fellowships at Oxford (Lady Margaret Hall), and Cambridge (Magdalene) in addition to teaching at the University of Birmingham, Liverpool Hope University and the University of Warwick. I have also worked in Westminster as a political adviser and speechwriter, and I have appeared widely in national and international media as a commentator on British politics. I have a keen interest in sport, and am South West Regional Chair for Basketball England.

Research interests

My principal research interests lie in post-war and contemporary British history. My doctoral research was a study of the political economy of higher education in post-war Britain, and I retain an abiding interest in both the history of education and contemporary debates in higher education policy. In relation to this last I recently published a book on the challenges facing Britain's universities in the Brexit moment (British Universities in the Brexit Moment, EmeraldInsight, 2018) and have written a wide range of academic and popular essays on higher education policy development, including a number of pieces for The Conversation. I am increasingly interested in historical debates concerning academic freedom in the UK. In 2015 I delivered an invited keynote address to the British Educational Studies Association annual conference in Cardiff.

My work is underpinned by a focus on political culture, and is interdisciplinary in methodological terms and sensibility. Having taught political sociology in a number of institutions, and held posts in Education and Political Science departments in addition to History, my work on political culture is characterised both by an attention to the contemporary and the influence of social science approaches. My next two books draw on this, with my next book a study of Anthony Crosland's role in the development of a moral economy of education in post-war Britain, forthcoming with Palgrave in 2019, entitled Socialism, Education and Equal Opportunity. In 2019 I will complete Empire State: British political culture in the age of neonationalism, which is contracted to appear with Routledge in their Fascism and the Far Right series. This work addresses changes in contemporary British political culture through an historical lens through the elucidation of a number of 'sites of memory'.

I am also interested in epistemological and theoretical debates in relation to history and the social sciences. I am a member of the Political Studies Association's Anarchist Studies Network (ASN).

Research supervision

I welcome research proposals from students working on any aspect of post-1945 British history, the history of education in Britain, and contemporary political history, particularly the history of the left and radical social movements.

External impact and engagement

In 2014 I was a contributor to the BBC's World War One at Home project, and I have contributed extensively to media coverage of the Brexit process. In both 2015 and 2017 I was an expert media commentator for a range of outlets on the General Elections in those years, including the BBC and CNN. In 2017 I was a correspondent for Agence-France Presse.

Contribution to discipline

I have peer-reviewed journal articles for a number of journals in history, sociology and political science.

have served as a remote referee for the European Research Council.

I am external examiner for the BA Liberal Arts programmes at the University of Nottingham and at Bristol UWE.


I have appeared widely in broadcast media, including on the BBC, ITV, Sky, CNN, CBC, CNBC, Deutsche Welle, France24 International, TRT World and many others. I occasionally review the newspapers for BBC Breakfast, and am a regular guest on BBC Radio Merseyside's Snelly in the Morning.

I have also written for a wide range of periodicals, including the Guardian,Times Higher EducationThe Conversation, LSE Politics and Policy, YouGov and the Yorkshire Post. In 2017 I also acted as a correspondent for Agence-France Presse during the UK General Election.

In 2014 I was a contributor to the BBC's World War One at Home project.


At Exeter I convene the core modules on the BA Liberal Arts, namely LIB1105 Being Human in the Modern World and LIB2000, Think Tank. For the BA History course, I will from 2018-19 be offering a second-year option module on the history of anarchism.

My teaching approach is fundamentally interdisciplinary, and often uses historical contextualisation to 'frame' contemporary problems (especially in LIB1105).

In 2014 I was the recipient of a Student-Led Teaching Award for Inclusivity at Liverpool Hope University, and was also nominated for Most Inspiring Lecturer.

Modules taught