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

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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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Profile picture of Lizana Oberholzer
Lizana Oberholzer, Dr

Senior Lecturer - Postgraduate Provision at University of Wolverhampton

Lizana Oberholzer is a senior lecturer in teacher education and programme lead for the University of Wolverhampton's International MA in Education, as well as the Early Careers Framework and National Professional Qualifications for school...

Profile picture of Gary Beauchamp
Gary Beauchamp, Professor

Professor of Education at Cardiff Metropolitan University

Gary Beauchamp is Professor of Education in the School of Education and Social Policy at Cardiff Metropolitan University. He was Director of Research from 2009-2020. Gary worked for many years as a primary school teacher, before moving into...

Profile picture of Lorna Hamilton
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...

Mairead Davidson, Miss

Lecturer in Education at Ulster University

Mairead is the Northern Ireland Rep for the BERA Teacher Education SIG.


Profile picture of Judy Durrant
Judy Durrant, Ms

Higher Education Lecturer/Researcher 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 decades...

Profile picture of David Littlefair
David Littlefair, Dr

Associate Professor of Education at 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)...

Profile picture of Christine Lewis
Christine Lewis, Dr

MA Education Programme Leader at Edge Hill University

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...

Profile picture of Richard Holme
Richard Holme, Dr

Lecturer at University of Dundee

Richard Holme is a Reader in Education Studies at the University of Dundee. He is the Professional Development and Scholarship Lead for School of Humanities Social Science and Law and his main area of research interest is informal, grassroots...

Profile picture of Elizabeth Hoult
Elizabeth Hoult, Professor

Professor of Education at 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,...

Profile picture of Matthew Martinez
Matthew Martinez

Research Fellow at Northumbria University

Matthew Martinez is a Research Fellow at Northumbria University, where they are involved in a research project focussed on the current climate for teacher education within higher education and how this sub-discipline is able to remain resilient...