I am currently involved in four main research projects.
There are over 35 million students within Europe and yet, to date, we have no clear understanding of the extent to which understandings of ‘the student’ are shared. This project (which runs from 2016-2021, funded by a European Research Council Consolidator Grant) thus investigates how the contemporary higher education student is conceptualised and the extent to which this differs both within nation-states and across them. This is significant in terms of implicit (and sometimes explicit) assumptions that are made about common understandings of ‘the student’ across Europe – underpinning, for example, initiatives to increase cross-border educational mobility and the wider development of a European Higher Education Area. It is also significant in relation to exploring the extent to which understandings are shared within a single nation and, particularly, the degree to which there is congruence between the ways in which students are conceptualised within policy texts and by policymakers, and the understandings of other key social actors, such as the media, higher education institutions and students themselves. You can read more about the project here.
Internationalisation within English secondary schools
This project, funded by a Brian Simon Fellowship from the British Educational Research Association and led by Johanna Waters of the University of Oxford, examines the extent and nature of internationalisation in a small number of secondary schools, within two regions of England (Warwickshire and Surrey). It aims to advance current debates within human geography and sociology around international education (especially in relation to student mobilities, transnationalism, off-shore education, and cosmopolitanism). Most of the extant discussion has focused upon internationalisation within higher education, to the general neglect of ‘lower levels’ of schooling. Although there is a growing interest, amongst geographers, in schools and the geographies of schooling, very little has been written on the impact that pervasive discourses of internationalisation are having upon schools in England. There is, therefore, a pressing need to examine the diverse ramifications of internationalisation across state and independent sectors, and England offers a potentially fascinating (and neglected) study area. The project seeks to answer two research questions: i) In what ways are secondary schools engaged in internationalisation? ii) And with what consequences?
Freedom to Learn
I am also involved in an ESRC seminar series, led by Max Hope of the University of Hull. The seminar series, entitled ‘Thinking the ‘yet to be thought’ is underpinned by the principle that in order to be able to envisage different ways of doing things, we need to step outside our usual frames of reference. Instead of looking inside existing systems for answers, developing transformative and socially just educational systems requires more radical approaches or ‘totally different ways of envisioning education’ (Reay, 2012). This reflects Bernstein’s (1996) work on the pedagogic device, in which he describes the place between the known and the unknown as ‘the crucial site of the yet to be thought.’ This place, he argues, is often regulated by those who have the power to control what is thought and who it is thought by; in essence, those with power can reproduce inequalities in education by ensuring that they control the curriculum, pedagogy and assessment strategy. By inviting speakers who undertake research or operate as practitioners in counter-hegemonic structures, this seminar series seeks to challenge these distributive rules about ‘knowledge’. Further details can be found here.
Enablers and constraints of equal or primary caring among UK fathers and the realities of such care
Finally, I am working with my colleague Paul Hodkinson at the University of Surrey on a small project about fathers who have taken on substantial responsibilities for caring for young children. By interviewing around 20 fathers who are equal or primary carers for children age 3 or under, we hope to develop a better understanding of the circumstances that enable and constrain equal or primary caring among UK fathers, and provide an in-depth analysis of the everyday realities of such care. This is funded by a pump-priming grant from the University of Surrey.