Dr Michael Shiner

Dr Michael Shiner

Department: Department of Social Policy|; Mannheim Centre for Criminology| ;Contact details: +44 (0)20 7955 6355; m.shiner@lse.ac.uk|

Michael Shiner graduated in history from the University of Leicester in 1989 and completed a Masters degree in Social Research Methods at the University of Surrey two years later. He is currently employed as a senior research fellow in the Mannheim Centre for Criminology at LSE. Prior to this he worked at the Public Policy Research Unit, Goldsmiths College and the Policy Studies Institute.

Michael has expertise in both quantitative and qualitative methods and has worked on a diverse range of projects although his recent work has been concentrated in the fields of youth studies, criminology and socio-legal studies.

His work has included analyses conducted on behalf of the Independent Committee of Inquiry into the Misuse of Drugs Act and the Barrow Inquiry into the Council of Legal Education. Michael is also a visiting lecturer at the University of Westminster, a director of a drugs agency in south east London and is studying for a PhD at LSE. In 1995 he was awarded the Sociology of Health and Illness New Writer's Prize.

Current research

Community responses to drug and alcohol Issues

Although there is growing emphasis on the role of communities within drugs and alcohol policy, particularly in relation to crime reduction, there is a marked lack of research in this area.

Funded by Joseph Rowntree Foundation as part of its Drug and Alcohol Research Programme, this study seeks to provide an overview of community responses to drug and alcohol issues and to identify facilitating and inhibiting factors to effective community responses.

The first component of the study, which has been completed, took the form of a telephone survey in 37 Drug Action Team areas and is being followed by three detailed case studies. The study will be completed by the end of the year and is being conducted jointly with the Social Policy Research Centre, University of Middlesex.

An evaluation of mentoring plus

While mentoring has become a popular form of intervention with vulnerable or 'at risk' young people, its effectiveness remains largely unproven. This evaluation is funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Crime Concern and Breaking Barriers and focuses on Mentoring Plus - an award-winning, community-based mentoring and education project which works with some of the most vulnerable young people in England.

The evaluation has been designed around a cohort of 320-400 young people who participate in the Mentoring Plus programme and a comparison group of 160-200 young people who do not. A range of quantitative and qualitative methods, including surveys, depth interviews and observation, are being used to assess the process by which the programme is implemented and the impact that it has on participants.

In its current form the evaluation allows us to follow these young people throughout the one year programme and for six months thereafter. While this provides a solid foundation for assessing the medium-term impact of the programmes it is also hoped that it will provide the basis for a longer-term outcome evaluation.

Previous research

Delivery of drug services to black and minority ethnic communities

Many drug services have their roots in the heroin epidemics of the mid-1980s and reflect particular concerns about the spread of HIV. It is often argued that such services have been configured around the needs of white heroin injectors and have been slow to adapt to the needs of ethnically diverse communities and to 'new' forms of problematic drug use such as those based on crack cocaine.

There is a dearth of empirical research in this area and this piece of work, commissioned by the Home Office and undertaken jointly with the Ethnicity and Health Unit at the University of Central Lancashire, took the form of a 'scoping study'. Built around case studies in six areas, it combined qualitative and quantitative methods and showed how the needs of black and minority ethnic communities tend to be marginalised in the process by which drug services are planned, commissioned and delivered. The study emphasises the importance of 'cultural competence' in meeting the needs of such communities and concludes by making a series of recommendations.


  • Sangster, D, Shiner, M, Patel, K and Sheikh, N (2002) Delivery of Drug Services to Black and Minority Ethnic Communities, London: Home Office

Merton and Sutton YAP prevention, early intervention, treatment and support project

Merton and Sutton Youth Awareness Programmes (YAPs) were funded by the Youth Justice Board to implement an innovative programme aimed at cutting crime by reducing drug and alcohol use among young offenders.

As part of the evaluation of this intervention, young offenders completed a questionnaire as they were engaged by YAP workers and, again, at the end of any ongoing contact they had with these workers.

The evaluation assessed the extent of engagement achieved by the initiative and its impact on participants' attitudes to drugs and alcohol. In doing so, it highlighted the importance of the young people's readiness to change.

  • Report (unpublished): Shiner, M (2002) Merton and Sutton YAP/ YOT Prevention, Early Intervention, Treatment and Support Project, London: LSE

Drugs, youth and transitions into adulthood

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (award no R00022872), this study was based on secondary analysis of the British Crime Survey and the Youth Lifestyle Survey.

 The analysis highlighted important changes in the cultural status of cocaine, charting its drift away from the most marginalised forms of drug use towards those most closely associated with the club/ rave scene, and showed how a transitions framework is crucial to understanding contemporary drug use.

This study grew out of earlier work on the idea that drug use is becoming 'normalised' among young people.

 Related publications

  • Shiner, M and Newburn, T (1999) 'Taking tea with Noel: drugs discourse for the 1990s', South, N (ed) Drugs: cultures, controls and everyday life, London: Sage
  • Shiner, M and Newburn, T (1997) 'Definitely, maybe not: the normalisation of recreational drug use amongst young people', Sociology, 31 (3), 511-529
  • Pearson, G and Shiner, M (2002) 'Rethinking the generation gap: attitudes towards illicit drugs among young people and adults', Criminal Justice Matters, 2(1) 71-86

Alcohol and young people

Recently funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, this study took the form of a review of the literature about young people and alcohol.

Although there is considerable concern about the extent to which young people engage in 'risky' behaviour, the ambiguous position of alcohol in this regard formed a central theme of this review. Various interpretations of young people's drinking, including those that rest on a view of that learning to drink is a normal part of adolescent development, are discussed. This is followed by a review of the evidence relating to the personal and social 'harms' associated with alcohol use.

It is concluded that key issues for social policy are how to reduce the harms associated with alcohol consumption by young people and how to encourage more sensible drinking. The appropriateness of legislative approaches is questioned and it is suggested that a combination of 'situational' and 'social' prevention initiatives may offer a constructive way forward.


  • Newburn, T and Shiner, M (2001) Teenage Kicks? Young people and alcohol: a review of the literature, Joseph Rowntree Foundation: York.

Peer approaches to drugs prevention

The Home Office funded two evaluative studies of peer education as part of the Drugs Prevention Initiative. These studies emphasise that young people are active agents in the educational process: they assess both the information they are given and the people who are giving it.

Attention is given to the notion of credibility and to the apparent impact of the education sessions. While not suggesting that peer education is in any way a panacea, these studies start to establish the value of peer education and suggest that such approaches should be developed as part of a coordinated drugs prevention strategy.


  • Shiner, M (2000) Doing It for Themselves: an evaluation of peer approaches to drugs prevention, London: Home Office
  • Shiner, M (1999) 'Defining peer education', Journal of Adolescence, 22, 555-566
  • Shiner, M and Newburn, T (1996) Young People, Drugs and Peer Education: an evaluation of the Youth Awareness Programme (YAP), London: Home Office

Entry to the legal profession

This large-scale study was funded by the Law Society and was based upon a longitudinal design. It followed a cohort of one-time law students through the period in which many of them completed their full-time education and legal training and became established as fully qualified lawyers.

The study showed how some candidates, particularly those from black and minority ethnic groups and those who studied at new universities, were disadvantaged in the process of entry into the legal profession. It also highlighted the way in which patterns of disadvantage were reinforced by the financial arrangements that surround legal education and training.


  • Boon, A, Duff, L and Shiner, M (2001) 'Career paths and choices in a highly differentiated profession: the position of newly qualified solicitors', The Modern Law Review, 64 (4), 563-94
  • Shiner, M (2000) 'Young, gifted and blocked! Entry to the solicitors' profession', in Thomas, P (ed) Discriminating Lawyers, Cavendish: London
  • Shiner, M (2000; 1999; 1997; 1995) Entry into the Legal Professions: the law student cohort study year 3-6, research study 33, 25, 18, The Law Society: London. (The report on the third year was jointly authored with Newburn, T, and that on the sixth year was jointly authored with Duff, L, Boon, A and White, A)

Ethnicity and access to higher education

Funded by the Nuffied Foundation, this study highlighted the ambivalent role of higher education in relation to ethnic equality. Large numbers of young people from Black and minority ethnic communities are admitted to university and there is little evidence of bias in this regard. There can be little doubt that this general pattern helps to explain the upward social mobility that has been evident among black and minority ethnic communities since the 1960s.

At the same time, however, this study produced strong evidence of bias within old universities against black and minority ethnic candidates who tend to be filtered into new universities as a result. The biases of old universities are likely to have far-reaching implications and it is suggested that they combine with those in the labour market to create a cumulative pattern of ethnic disadvantage.


  • Shiner, M and Modood, T (2002) 'Help or hindrance? Higher education and the route to ethnic equality', British Journal of Sociology of Education 23,(2) 209-32
  • Modood, T and Shiner, M (1994) Ethnic Minorities and Higher Education: why are there differential rates of entry, London: Policy Studies Institute