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Ongoing project

Education: The State of the Discipline

BERA has had a long-standing interest in the state of education: as an academic discipline in universities, as a field of practice, and as a significant and central element of social and political policy. The State of the Discipline project forms a core part of BERA’s strategic plan. The reports from each stage of the initiative are viewed as key to informing decision-making processes within BERA and beyond.

In the last decade the nature of work in universities has been subject to a range of significant changes. Some of these changes have been recognised by trade unions, for example increased casualisation of the workforce and changes towards more teaching-only contracts. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) also continues to be an influence on the ways universities work. Mindful of the ongoing changes within many UK universities, with resultant impacts on BERA members, BERA Council approved the development of an initiative to examine the state of education as a discipline taking account of the four nations of the UK.

The ultimate purpose of this project is to equip those interested in the development of education with the most objective and powerful information on which to base their advocacy for education. For example, a particularly important example of this advocacy will be better understanding of the numbers and characteristics of people employed in education departments, and other university departments, over time, and ways in which each next generation of education researchers can be encouraged to continue to grow the size, influence, and impact of education.

One of the ways the State of the Discipline initiative is framed is in the definition of education is an academic discipline that shares characteristics with many other disciplines (Wyse, 2020), including those that have been established for much longer in universities worldwide. The work is also framed by, and builds on, BERA’s long engagement with the intersections between education practice (including in teaching education/training e.g. BERA-RSA 2014) which in recent work has been articulated as ‘close-to-practice-research (Wyse, Brown, Oliver & Poblete, 2020).

This project will be a long running strategic priority for BERA. In January 2020, we commissioned a systematic review (SR) which was designed to inform this work. The SR reviewed the research on the structures and processes – both formal and informal – that influence research activities in the UK.  

The next stages of the project include:

Research Intelligence 149, published in December 2021 focused on these issues. This issue presents a variety of perspectives on the present and future of education as a discipline, responding in part to a newly published systematic scoping review that explores the structures and processes that have shaped educational research between 1990 and 2020 and lays the foundations for a wider investigation by BERA. BERA members can access the full issue but we have chosen to make some of the pieces available here to support the project. These include:

  • Vivienne Baumfield discusses BERA’s strategic priorities and role in the wider educational research landscape in the coming years.
  • Christopher Boyle and colleagues survey our discipline’s recent past and identify important gaps in the literature
  • Sally Power offers an account of the unique environment for educational research in Wales
  • Ian Menter urges deeper investigation of the increasing divergence in teacher education between the four nations of the UK nations

In addition, there were some follow-up pieces in Research Intelligence 150 published in February 2022. Published here are two further selected pieces:

  • Barbara Skinner surveys the state of educational research in Northern Ireland
  • David Egan discusses the Welsh government’s national strategy for educational research and enquiry

Content associated with this project

HE Education Research Census 2022

The UK-wide census of all HE-based education researchers has just been launched. It is a nationwide census examining the characteristics, experiences and attitudes of education researchers...

BERA in the news25 May 2022

Winter 2021/22

Education: Mapping the discipline Research Intelligence issue 149 This issue presents a variety of perspectives on the present and future of education as a discipline, responding in part to a...

Research Intelligence2 Dec 2021

Tender: Updating the BERA Observatory

As part of our ambitious project examining the state of education: as an academic discipline in universities, as a field of practice, and as a significant and central element of social and...

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