Professor David N Ashton

David AshtonEmeritus Professor

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David Ashton was educated at Leicester University where he read Sociology and graduated in 1964 and where he was later awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters. He is now an Emeritus Professor at Leicester University and Honorary Professor at Cardiff University. He has also taught at the University of Reading in the UK, the University of Alberta (Canada) and the State University of New York at Buffalo (USA). In 1986 he founded the Labour Market Studies group while teaching in the Sociology Department at Leicester University and in 1989 this later became the Centre for Labour Market Studies at the University of Leicester, an independent Centre within the university. The Centre achieved an international reputation in research in the areas of labour markets, skills and training and for its distance learning provision in the field of training, human resource management, skills and performance.

His initial research into the field of youth employment was sponsored by the UK Department of Employment and subsequently the ESRC, the Manpower Services Commission and the European Union. His early publications were in the field of youth transitions, unemployment and training in the UK with international comparisons funded by the Canadian High Commission and the EEC. This work developed into the areas of training and its impact on economic development. Following work with Francis Green on the impact of training on economic development he undertook research into the impact of training on the economic development in the Asian Tigers sponsored by the ESRC. This subsequently led to involvement in international work through the International Labour Organisation in areas such as training and later high performance working and workplace learning. Together with Francis Green he also launched the first of what is now a series UK Skills Surveys of individual skills and competences. He also researched extensively on high performance working.

His latest phase of work has been on skill formation in multi-national companies and its impact on national systems of education and training. He is currently exploring the issues of productivity, skills and performance together in Singapore together with Johnny Sung. He is also working with Johnny Sung on exploring the relationship between business strategy, company organisation and skill use.

He has provided consultancy services for trades unions and private companies, the CIPD and various UK government departments, including the Cabinet Office, BIS and the United Kingdom Commission for Employment and Skills and abroad for government departments in Canada, Singapore, South Africa and Malta. In addition to the ILO he has also provided consultancy services for the EU and the World Bank.

Research Interests

His areas of expertise are in the analysis of national systems of workforce development and training, youth labour markets, workplace learning, human resource development, high performance work organisations, the skill strategies of global and national corporations and the relationship between skills and productivity. He has published twelve books and over 180 articles on these topics.

Most Recent Publications


Sung, J and Ashton, D. N.(2014) Skills in Business. The role of business strategy, sectoral skills development and skills policy, London: Sage.

Brown, P., Lauder, H and D. Ashton, (2011) The Global Auction. The Broken Promises of Education, Jobs, and Income, New York: Oxford University Press.

Ashton, D and Sung, J. Supporting Workplace Learning for High Performance Working, Geneva: ILO (2002).

Ashton, D. Green, F. James, D. and Sung, J. Education and Training for Development in East Asia, London: Routledge, (1999)


D. Ashton, P. Brown and H. Lauder, (2010) ‘Skill Webs and International Human Resource Management: Lessons from a Study of the Global Skill Strategies of Transnational Companies’, International Journal of Human Resource Management, Vol 21, Issue 6. 838-52.

H. Lauder, P. Brown and D. Ashton, (2008) ‘Globalisation, Skill Formation and the Varieties of Capitalism Approach’, New Political Economy, Vol 13, No. 1, 19-35 2008, pp19-35.

P. Brown, H. Lauder and D. Ashton, ‘Education, Globalisation and the Future of the Knowledge Economy’, European Educational Research Journal, Vol 7, No. 2. 2008, pp 131-156.

D. Ashton, J. Sung, A. Raddon and T. Riordan, Challenging the myths about learning and training in small and medium-sized enterprises: Implications for public policy, ILO, Employment Sector, Employment Working Paper No.1. 2008. 67pp.

D. N. Ashton and J. Sung, 'How Competitive Strategy Matters? Understanding the Drivers of Training Learning and Performance at the Firm Level', Oxford and Warwick Universities, SKOPE Research Paper 66, May 2006

D. N. Ashton, J. Sung and A. Raddon 'A case of where size matters: A preliminary investigation into the institutionalisation of skill formation and firm size', Oxford and Warwick Universities, SKOPE Research Paper No. 60 Autumn 2005

D. N. Ashton, High Skills: the concept and its application to South Africa, Journal of Education and Work, Vol. 18, No. 1, March 2005, pp.19-32.

Ashton, D. 'The historical imprint of a low skills regime: skills development in South Africa.' Journal of Education and Work, Vol.18 No.1 (March 2005) 119-32.

D. N. Ashton ‘The Impact of Organisational Structure and Practices on Learning in the Workplace’, International Journal of Training and Development, 8 (1) :43-53, 2004.

Full listing of publications


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