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An exploration of the contribution that teacher education (as a sub‐discipline) makes to higher education institutions



Teacher education in UK higher education (HE) exists in a contested and ambiguous space. England, perhaps, has experienced the strongest pull away from university-led Initial Teacher Education (ITE), and pre-service education has been largely school-based here since 1992 (Ellis, 2010), with an evolving inspection framework which prioritises statistical data over other indicators of quality. Universities themselves have come under significant scrutiny in terms of neo-liberal accountability measures, formalised in the 2016 White Paper, Higher Education: Success as a Knowledge Economy. Recent policy changes in England (DfE 2021) leave HE Teacher Education (TE) under sustained threat while continued attempts to commercialise ITE in other parts of the UK reflect challenges to the combined university and school-based model more generally.

Research was initiated by members of Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) to develop a stronger understanding of the ways in which TE (as a sub‐discipline of Education) could claim a vital internal contribution to HE institutions in the UK. For example, as well as generating revenue, Teacher Education is vital in community engagement and partnerships, and could facilitate widening participation, access and employability, offers contemporary expertise in improving teaching, learning and assessment and might usefully contribute to university educators’ professional development and leadership capacity. Teacher educators are experts in supporting professional and practitioner learning, reflection and development, in developing conducive learning environments and cultures and in pedagogy, curriculum development and assessment. This raises the question: how is this expertise taken up within the wider HE institution? Where many education departments have been subsumed into larger units through restructuring, is this in danger of masking knowledge, skills and expertise that could be valuably deployed within the sector?

This discussion paper reports on the initial stage of data gathering involving a qualitative survey of selected teacher educators, which explored the contribution that is made by education departments to the strategic aims of their institutions. It is located in the domains of a) research into teacher education where Ellis et al (2020) have noted the innovations of teacher educators prompted by the urgency of the pandemic, and b) higher education scholarship (for example Johannes and Menter (2021) has explored the impact of HE teaching as a lever for social change). The presentation will allow time to invite participants to contribute their own experiences and views, posing critical questions and challenges for discussion arising from the initial research data in the chat.


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Lizana Oberholzer

Senior Lecturer in Teacher Education at University of Wolverhampton

Lizana Oberholzer is a senior lecturer in teacher education and programme lead for the leadership in education MA at the Cass School of Education and Communities at the University of East London. She is passionate about teacher development and...

Gary Beauchamp, Professor

Associate Dean: Research at Cardiff Metropolitan University

Gary Beauchamp is Associate Dean (Research) for the School of Education and Social Policy and Professor of Education. After many years working as a primary school teacher, Gary moved into higher education as a lecturer at Swansea University. He...

Lorna Hamilton, Dr

Senior Lecturer at University of Edinburgh

Having worked as an English teacher and as a primary teacher, I draw on substantial experience in schools to inform my teaching. I am also passionate about educational research and the ways in which research can help inform teaching and learning...


Judy Durrant, Dr

Principal Lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University

Judy Durrant teaches, supervises and examines across a range of postgraduate programmes at Canterbury Christ Church University and chairs the Research Ethics Committee for the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Education. Over more than two...

David Littlefair, Associate Professor

Northumbria University

Dr David Littlefair is an Associate Professor of Education in the Department of Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing at Northumbria University in Newcastle, England, UK. He specialises in continuing professional development (CPD)...

Amanda Powling

London Metropolitan University

Before joining London Met in 2013 Amanda taught French, German and Spanish in secondary schools mainly in Essex and London for many years.  In the past she has worked with the Open University as a PGCE tutor. Amanda is now course leader for the...

Christine Lewis

Dr Christine Lewis is the MA Education Programme Leader at Edge Hill University.  Her PhD study used autoethnography a critically reflexive methodology which has directly enriched her expertise in research methods and the reflective writing...

Richard Holme, Dr

Lecturer at University of Dundee

Richard Holme is a lecturer in education. He is Academic Lead for MEd Programmes and teaches on undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. His areas of specialism include primary education, STEM subjects and curriculum innovation. Richard's main...

Elizabeth Hoult, Prof

Northumbria University

Dr Elizabeth Hoult is Professor of Education at Northumbria University.  Here interests include resilience in education, adult and community education as ways of nurturing hopeful futures and the arts and humanities methodologies in Education,...