Creating a Platform for All Voices in Education Research – The HE Education Research Census UK 2022

By Jess Brown, University of Warwick, University of Bristol, and Oxford Brookes University

About the HE Education Research UK Blog Series
To raise awareness of the HE Education Research Census and contribute to a conversation about HE education research in the UK, this blog series explores a wide range of issues at the forefront of education research today. It includes blogs from colleagues at all career stages, research areas and nations of the UK. Please get in touch if you too would like to contribute.

The central purpose of the HE Education Research survey is to voice the experiences and perspectives of researchers from across the UK HE community. As a project team it has been enormously important to us to find a way to hear from and understand researchers as individuals and to hear about their relationship to their research, institutions and colleagues. For a large-scale survey, with prominently closed questions, this is not always easy to achieve. We wanted to move away from a methodology that used exclusively closed questions so we can achieve depth and richness as well as breadth within the findings.

To ensure we can meaningfully analyse all responses, we have had to be very selective with the number and focus of open-response questions. We picked three areas which get right to the heart of education research and experiences of colleagues working within the sector. Our open questions ask about:

  • Motivations for doing education research in your area(s) of interest
  • Priority debates and issues for education research and researchers
  • What it is like to be an education researcher in a UK university today

We hope that these areas will resonate with colleagues and create a space where we can collectively make sense of our experience of working in education research. It was crucial to the design of this survey that we were able to understand the lived experiences of researchers from all areas of the UK in a way that could provide rich insight and a deeper level of understanding.

Getting qualitative data, and hearing perspective is one half of the battle. Analysis will be another. We are planning a mixed methods analysis in which we connect comments and reflections to demographic and categorical data to explore how experiences vary by career stage, area of work, and personal characteristics. Understanding of space, place and time will differ between people and temporalities and it is the intricacies of these insights which help to illuminate our understanding of those working in the field and of the research that they are conducting. 

Our analytical process will focus on a combination of deductive and responsive inductive thematic coding, drawing upon key themes from the BERA scoping review (Boyle et al., 2021) while being open to new and emerging issues too. Through the analyses, for example, we hope to better and more thoroughly understand the issues and challenges faced by non-traditional academics, and linked to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), precarious research contracts, and working conditions. We also want to gain more detailed insights into some of the thorny issues surrounding methodological debates, research quality and impact, and the direction the sector is heading.

We have aimed for these questions to contribute to a conversation between the participant and the study, to give researchers the space to unpack their concerns, highlight their ambitions but also to recognize the nuance in the way that different personalities, cultures, individuals and identities experience the broader landscape of education research.

We are humbled by the support we have had in this project. This includes authors for our blog series, the generous advice we have had when designing the survey, and vital contribution of so many colleagues in completing, sharing and promoting the survey. This all adds up – we hope – to create the basis for a vibrant and valuable piece of research – one that can make a real difference to the sector. We want to harness the voice of education researchers. We are optimistic that the findings can empower those tackling pressing problems relating to working conditions; understanding research quality, positioning and purpose; and making sense of education research’s role(s) and potential contribution to a wide range of societal issues.

Opportunities to conduct large scale surveys of this kind do not happen often and we hope that we can capture the environment, nature and state of the space in a way that accurately reflects education research in the UK in 2022. It is a precious and cherished task to find out how education researchers feel about their community, environment and practice and we hope that you will help us by joining the conversation, sharing your views and encouraging others to participate too.

Find out more:

Have you had your say yet?
The HE Education Research Census is live. If you engage in any form of education research and/or scholarship, and are a paid employee of a UK university (on any contractual basis), we want to hear from you!

Please click here to visit the survey page:
https://edu-research.uk/

Author

Jess Brown is a Research Assistant at the University of Warwick and a Research Associate at the University of Bristol. She is a current EdD student at Oxford Brookes University. Her research interests focus predominantly on class, gender and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion practice in institutions. She is particularly interested in how these themes relate to organisational cultures, environments and structures. 

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