This project aims to provide a clear, comprehensive account of 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 in the four nations of the UK.
Reports from each stage of the initiative will equip stakeholders in every part of the sector with the most objective and powerful information on which to base their advocacy for, and their efforts to grow the size, influence and impact of, education. It will also be key to informing decision-making processes within BERA.
Two elements are central to the initiative:
the definition of education as an academic discipline that shares characteristics with many other disciplines, including those that have been established for much longer in universities worldwide (Wyse, 2020)
the intersections between education and practice (including in teacher education and training – e.g. BERA-RSA 2014), which in recent work has been articulated as ‘close-to-practice-research’
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.
We have also commissioned two pieces of work following the outcomes of the most REF which will play into this project. The first of these will provide a quantitative assessment of the progress of education as an academic discipline in UK universities through the analysis of REF data. The analysis will be divided into two steps – firstly, assessing Education’s absolute progress. This analysis will compare Education’s REF 2014 and REF 2021 outcomes through analysis of REF reports and publicly available data. The analysis will draw out the four types of outcomes (Overall, Outputs, Impact and Environment) numbers (FTE of submitted staff), and percentages of individuals in education departments who were submitted to the respective REFs (% of eligible staff submitted). Secondly, we will assess Education’s relative progress. This analysis will compare Education’s REF 2014 and REF 2021 outcomes with other six academic disciplines. The disciplines will include social science, mathematics, arts, and a natural science.
We are also committed to publishing a selection of REF impact case studies. The aim of these is to demonstrate the positive impact of educational research and well as highlighting education as a vibrant and exciting discipline and can be used for a variety of different audiences.
Both these projects will report in spring 2023.
We are also planning a one-day conference bringing together all these projects which is due to be held in June 2023.
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