He is a critic of Labor's education reforms, including the Gonski review and was also chief of staff to cabinet minister Kevin Andrews in 2004.
In 2008 he established the Education Standards Institute in Melbourne and is also a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University.
Mr Donnelly is a former member of state and national curriculum bodies, including the Year 12 English Panel of Examiners, the Victorian Board of Studies and the federally funded Discovering Democracy program.
On the Education Standard's Institute's website, it says it "favours an education system based on standards, equity, diversity and choice and the values and institutions that promote liberty, democracy, an open and free society and a commitment to Christian beliefs and values".
His views on religion, homosexuality and gender in education have divided opinion and caused widespread criticism over his appointment as co-head of the review into the national school curriculum with Ken Wiltshire.
In an online opinion piece written by Donnelly, he states: "In recent years several education groups have sought to introduce gay, lesbian and transgender studies in the classroom and to convince schoolchildren that such practices, along with being heterosexual, are simply lifestyle choices open to all."
In another article, written for ABC's The Drum, he writes: "Multiculturalism is based on the mistaken belief that all cultures are of equal worth and that it is unfair to discriminate and argue that some practices are wrong."
Mr Donnelly argues that a focus on "political correctness" has seen the current national curriculum attempt to cover too much subject matter without any depth.
"The Americans say that a curriculum like ours is a mile wide and an inch deep. We try and do too much. We should be focussing on the basics, especially in the early years of primary school," he told the ABC last month, following the release of global education rankings by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Dr Donnelly is the author of "Australia's Education Revolution: How Kevin Rudd Won and Lost the Education Wars" (2009), "Why Our Schools are Failing" (2004) and "Dumbing Down" (2007).