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A survey of education researchers’ work, experiences and identities

The strength of education research is necessarily dependent on the strength of its workforce. Recent research has highlighted the many challenges facing the discipline and the wider higher education (HE) sector, and has pointed to the impact of these on education researchers and their work (e.g. Belluigi et al., 2023; Boyle et al., 2021). To develop a better understanding of these issues and the complex landscape within which education research is being conducted, BERA commissioned the UK-wide State of the Discipline survey. The survey focused on four main areas: identity and background; employment, career and institution; research activities, expertise and motivations; and current issues and debates in education research. It was completed by 1,623 education researchers, and provides timely new insights into the experiences, identities and attitudes of the university-based education research community. This presentation will share key findings from the study, particularly drawing upon themes of education researchers as an ‘atypical’ HE workforce, the diversity and commonalities of experience across different regions and institutions, the motivations and value which are attached to education research, and the often-challenging contexts where research is being conducted at present. We will also examine the potential implications of the survey findings and discuss recommendations and possible next steps for the sector and discipline. Audience contributions will be warmly invited in order to stimulate dialogue and debate around the direction of education research, and the conditions needed to support the development and flourishing of its workforce.


Profile picture of Thomas Perry
Thomas Perry, Dr

Associate Professor at University of Warwick

Thomas Perry’s research and teaching focus on research- and evidence-informed education policy and practice. He has specialist methodological expertise relating to systematic review and evidence synthesis; quantitative methods and secondary...

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Rebecca Morris, Dr

Associate Professor at University of Warwick

Rebecca Morris is an associate professor in the Department of Education Studies at the University of Warwick. Her research interests include education and social policy; teachers and teaching (in both schools and higher education); social justice...

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Emma Smith, Professor

Professor at University of Warwick

Emma Smith is a professor of education at the University of Warwick. Her research interests are in the field of sociology of education, specifically exploring issues of social justice, inequality and policy as they apply to access and engagement...

Profile picture of Jess Pilgrim-Brown
Jess Pilgrim-Brown, Mrs

Research Associate at University of Bristol

Jess Pilgrim-Brown is a research associate at the University of Bristol and a current EdD student at Oxford Brookes University. Her thesis research focuses on social class and organisational culture in higher education through the experiences of...