Educational Research Overview

The Education and Social Research Institute is one of the leading UK centres for applied educational research and evaluation, and a thriving research community. 67% of our research was rated as 'internationally excellent' or 'world leading' in REF 2014, with 100% of our Research Impact being rated similarly. We have an outstanding portfolio of research grants and publications, regularly organise national and international seminars and workshops and other services to research, and offer several studentship awards each year. The Institute is committed to research-enriched professional practice, and aims to offer the best and most innovative approaches to research-based professionalism in the UK, across a growing range of professional areas.

Our aims are:

  • to lead debate, nationally and internationally, on the nature and future of education and educational research;
  • to contribute to the development of theory and methodology in applied social research;
  • to promote research-based understandings of policy and practice in education and the professions;
  • to support practitioners and professionals in researching their own practice and contexts of work;
  • to work closely with the users of social research at all stages of the research process;
  • to provide first-class research training and support for new and developing researchers.

The Institute's research is led by a professorial team of international distinction including Tony Brown, Liz Jones, Cathy Lewin, Maggie MacLure, Heather Piper, John Schostak, Yvette Solomon and Harry Torrance (Director of ESRI and Associate Dean for Research in the Faculty of Education). Bridget Somekh and Nigel Hall are Emeritus Professors.

The professorial team is responsible for leadership of our research groups:

Significant continuing research includes an ESRC project on the problem of 'touch' in sports coaching (Piper & Taylor). This builds on earlier ESRC research investigating 'The Problematics of Touching between professionals and children' (Piper, MacLure & Stronach 2008). Other ESRC funded projects include 'The role of celebrity in young people's classed and gendered aspirations' (Allen, with Mendick); an investigation of behaviour and identity in the early years of schooling (Holmes, Jones & MacLure); and 'The Impact of 14-19 Reforms on Career Guidance in England' (Colley & Lewin). A very large ESRC project designed to build knowledge transfer and research capacity with the voluntary sector includes several linked CASE studentships (Packham, with Lincoln and Goldsmiths). ESRC seminar series include 'Educational Futures: the theory, methods and ethics' and 'Un-easy childhoods: innovating theory, practices and ethics through interdisciplinary research' (Holmes, Jones & MacLure).

Other significant grants include EU-funded research on 'Innovative Technologies for an engaging classroom' (iTEC: Lewin) and 'Breaking New Ground In the Science Education Realm' (ENGINEER: Solomon & Heywood). Other research on technology and creativity includes a JISC-funded higher education project: investigating alternative reality games (Whitton) and work with DCSF on 'Beyond Current Horizons' and with Creative Partnerships evaluating the 'Nature and Impact of the Creative Partnerships Programme'. Other early years work includes local evaluation studies of Sure Start (Holmes, Jones & Powell) and a series of projects on children's understandings of art and museums (Esmee Fairbairn/Manchester Museum, Holmes & Jones; ESRC/Museum of Science & Industry, Heywood & Rowlands). Significant work in the area of professionalism has included the College of Emergency Medicine funding an evaluation of their CPD provision (Brown and Schostak).

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In addition to our substantive research groups, we share an over-arching interest in the development of theory and methodology in applied social research. We are committed to developing ways of researching that are critically attuned to the social and political conditions governing the production and use of research knowledge. Our methodological and theoretical interests span action research, evaluation theory, poststructuralism, hermeneutics, critical realism, discourse analysis, and socio-cultural approaches to inquiry. Our reputation for methodological innovation is evident in the internationally-recognised monographs and advanced texts produced by our members, and in national and international events hosted by the Institute, including the annual Summer Institute in Qualitative Research (SIQR) which attracts participants from all over the world.

Research active staff serve on a range of editorial boards including Assessment in Education, British Journal of Education and Work, Cambridge Journal of Education, Cultural Studies-Critical Methodologies, Educational Research (the journal of the NFER), International Journal of Early Years Education, International Journal of Educational Research, and International Review of Qualitative Research. In recent years staff have acted as editors of Educational Action Research, Journal of Education for Teaching, Learning, Media and Technology, Research in Education and British Educational Research Journal.

Research excellence includes teaching and supervision. We hold several ESRC CASE studentships and offer 1 or 2 internally funded PhD studentships per year; current research degree enrolments total c.100. The Institute offers an innovative Education Doctorate focussing on professionalism and research-based practice. MMU students are regular contributors to BERA and other research conferences.

The Institute has strong research links with national and regional policy-makers as exemplified by major DfES-funded programmes, Birth to Three Matters and Communicating Matters; the national evaluations of the ICT Test Bed and Primary School Whiteboard projects; and DCSF funded work on educational futures - 'Beyond Current Horizons'. An important link is our involvement with the Centre for Urban Education at MMU, a collaboration between the University and Manchester City Council within the Knowledge Capital initiative, designed to raise aspiration and attainment in urban schools, improve teacher retention and recruitment, and contribute to international research on urban education.

The Faculty of Education

The Manchester Metropolitan University Faculty of Education is based on two campuses at Brooks (Manchester) and Crewe (Cheshire). Initial enquiries and admissions are dealt with by the research office at the Birley site, as is registration and ongoing support. PhD supervisors can be based either at Crewe or Birley, there are dedicated research student facilities at both sites (shared office space, access to computers, printers, etc) and supervision will normally be carried out where the supervisor is based. Most research methods training is carried out at Birley and there is an active research seminar programme.

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Birley Building

Birley Building Entrance

Birley Building Inside