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Potential PhD research projects

We welcome PhD proposals linked to our research themes. We particularly welcome applications from well-qualified students who are interested in pursuing one of the projects listed below (click on the project title to see more details).

Professor Vanita Sundaram

Manifestations of gender-based harassment and violence in education

Supervisor: Professor Vanita Sundaram

Evidence suggests that forms of sexualised harassment and physical violence occur in educational contexts across the life course, including in early years settings, primary, secondary and tertiary education. These forms of harassment take place in different forms, through varying media and between different groups in education. Gender intersects with other characteristics in some forms of harassment and abuse. Our understanding about the multiple ways in which gender-based harassment and violence may be experienced by different stakeholders in education should be furthered.

Read more about this 'Manifestations of gender-based harassment and violence in education' research project.

Institutional responses to gender-based harassment and violence

Supervisor: Professor Vanita Sundaram

Under the Equality Act and Public Sector Equality Duty in the UK public institutions, such as schools, further education colleges and universities have a legal duty to ensure that they do not discriminate against people working and studying within these institutions. Discrimination might occur on the basis of characteristics defined as ‘protected’ under the Equality Act, including gender reassignment, sexual orientation, religion, race and sex. Institutional responses to gender-based harassment and violence (and other forms of harassment and hate crime) have been varied, ranging from spot-check solutions to deal with the immediate issue to institution-wide policy change and implementation of training programmes for staff and students. Few of these responses or interventions have been rigorously evaluated; few have considered the cross-cutting forms of harassment that might be experienced by students and staff.

Read more about this 'Institutional responses to gender-based harassment and violence' research project.

Teachers, teaching and gender equality

Supervisor: Professor Vanita Sundaram

From September 2020, Relationships and Sex Education will become a statutory subject in primary and secondary schools in England and Wales. The updated curriculum requires schools to cover issues relating to healthy relationships, including enabling children and young people to recognise unhealthy relationship behaviours and dynamics. In secondary school, teachers are required to specifically teach about particular forms of abuse including coercion, grooming, sexual and physical violence. However, teacher education in England and Wales does not include a statutory component on gender, gender-based harassment or violence. Relatively little is known about teachers’ experiences of teaching about or for gender equality in schools, and research-informed modules on issues relating to gender, including harassment and violence do not form a standard or statutory element of teacher training.

Read more about this 'Teachers, teaching and gender equality' research project.

Dr Sarah Olive

Shakespeare in East Asian Education

Supervisor: Dr Sarah Olive

Shakespeare in East Asia is a celebrated phenomenon in Shakespeare Studies. However, it tends to focus on translation and performance, rather than on Shakespeare in educational settings eg schools and higher education institutions as well as theatre education departments. I am currently working with colleagues in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Vietnam to redress this imbalance, including writing a co-authored monograph on the subject with Adele Lee (Emerson, USA), Kohei Uchimaru (Toyo, Japan) and Rosalind Fielding (Birmingham, UK/Waseda, Japan) for Palgrave, as well as book chapters and journal articles. A current focus for me is the Chinese University Shakespeare Festival, held annually in Hong Kong between 2003 to 2014. I would welcome proposals which wish to explore this, using the online (YouKu) videos of all ten seasons, as well as other such student Shakespeare Festivals. I am additionally interested in countries other than the above-mentioned, globally.

Read more about this 'Shakespeare in East Asian Education' research project.

Representations of Education in Literature and Popular Culture

Supervisor: Dr Sarah Olive

Formal education is, in many countries, increasingly a universal experience. Education also occurs throughout our lives in various informal contexts. It is hardly surprising that we are surrounded by literary texts and popular culture that represent experiences of education, from school days to driving lesson to language learning and much more. I am interested in representations of Shakespeare in other countries and in diverse popular forms such as manga and anime. Articles concerning such representations have been published in the British Shakespeare Association’s Teaching Shakespeare magazine, of which I am the founding editor.

Read more about this 'Representations of Education in Literature and Popular Culture' research project.

Dr Sally Hancock

Mapping postdoctoral pathways

Supervisor: Dr Sally Hancock

This project will track the early to mid-careers of PhD graduates.  Over the past decade, there has been a substantial growth in the number of PhD graduates internationally, and with this a shift in careers doctoral graduates go on to do. Indeed, in many national contexts, the vast majority of doctoral graduates will forge so-called ‘alternative’ careers outside of the academy. This trend has been met with two opposing reactions from commentators - there are those who characterise this as a necessary step in the development of the global knowledge economy, while others question the extent to which the PhD sufficiently prepares  ‘disillusioned and directionless’ PhD graduates for work beyond the academy. Despite the political and economic importance of this debate, there is relatively little robust empirical data tracking the careers of PhD graduates, and of the particular variables and decision processes which shape individual trajectories. 

Read more about this 'Mapping postdoctoral pathways' research project.

Professor Ian Davies

Is citizenship education the same as character education?

Supervisor: Professor Ian Davies

Several countries include both citizenship and character in guidance provided for teachers. It is possible that citizenship focuses on the social and political while character is essentially about moral issues. This project will explore the ideas and issues relevant to these fields. Policy documents, the perceptions of key respondents and the practices of educators and students will provide possible sources of data.

Read more about this 'Is citizenship education the same as character education?' research project.

What is meant by global citizenship and how are people educated for it?

Supervisor: Professor Ian Davies

Global citizenship for some is an empty slogan. For others it is an all encompassing attachment to humanity. For some it is associated with a precisely and concretely framed governmental system. The political, economic and other forces that influence the development of a more fragmented or less diverse world are hotly debated. At a time when many education systems are dominated by national (and perhaps nationalistic) forces this project allows for the exploration of the vital (and curiously neglected) field of global citizenship education.

Read more about this 'What is meant by global citizenship and how are people educated for it?' research project.

What is done in different national contexts to educate for the nation?

Supervisor: Professor Ian Davies

Citizens have a legal and political status. They also have an identity that may or may not overlap with that status. They may do certain things as an expression of the rights, duties and identities associated with their nation state. What do teachers and students understand by the phrase ‘national citizenship’ and do they see their work connecting to it? What actions in and beyond classrooms are undertaken by teachers and students to inform and develop their sense of national citizenship?

Read more about this 'What is done in different national contexts to educate for the nation?' research project.

Is there a connection between youth civic activism and education?

Supervisor: Professor Ian Davies

It is possible that the goal of citizenship education is to help people understand and engage in society. There are, however, potential obstacles about linking education to what would some would see as politically motivated attempts to create change. In this project a literature review in which the links and disconnections between citizenship education and activism inform data collection from those who are teachers, students and/or activists. The project will explore key questions including: what is meant by activism, what patterns of activism exist and how do those patterns relate to education?

Read more about this 'Is there a connection between youth civic activism and education?' research project.

How may citizenship education be assessed?

Supervisor: Professor Ian Davies

What sorts of knowledge, skills and, possibly, dispositions are targeted by teachers and students? What are the ways in which those things may be assessed? In this project a variety of student work (written and in other forms) will be examined in order to explore the ways in which students are deemed to have made (or not made) progress.

Read more about this 'How may citizenship education be assessed?' research project.

Dr Eleanor Brown

Non formal Education and Educating Global Citizens in a Post-development era

Supervisor: Dr Eleanor J. Brown

Development Education and Global Citizenship Education tend to be based on values of solidarity and generating international understanding to meet the needs of everyone on the planet. Much research considers how this education can be included into formal education settings, however, this project seeks to explore how non-formal spaces for education could be used to provide education that encourages people to challenge the status quo and explore what development we are really aiming for and whose needs and interests are foregrounds and whose are silenced. Candidates should have a clear understanding of international development agendas and theoretical perspectives of development that require a critical approach to education, the work of post-development and postcolonial scholars will be important. Proposals should consider education about international or development issues and include a working definition of non-formal education at any stage of education, including adult education, youth work, learning through volunteering, extra-curricular learning, NGO education, social movements, civil society etc.

Read more about this 'Non formal Education and Educating Global Citizens in a Post-development era' research project.

Education and post-development: challenging dominant narratives

Supervisor: Dr Eleanor J. Brown

The role of education in international development has a long history and there is extensive research that investigates how these relationships work and how education can best be used to improve quality of life, particularly in so-called ‘developing’ countries. However, much of this work uses the development theories of modernisation and/or human capital as a starting point, and the assumptions built into these approaches affect the nature of the research, and as such, the findings tend to reproduce Western thinking about development that some argue is neo-colonial in its impact. Education can provide opportunities to challenge these narratives and search for appropriate and powerful alternatives in a range of different contexts. This will mean examining carefully how we understand development and what we should be aiming for in our attempts to improve living standards. The following step will be to explore the innovative ways that education may facilitate these aims. Education can be explored in a range of context(s) and at different stages, both formal and non-formal. The key aspect of the proposal will be the way the candidate engages with post-development literature and applies this to education in the chosen context of their research.

Read more about this 'Education and post-development: challenging dominant narratives' research project.

Non formal education and development goals: innovations in education provision

Supervisor: Dr Eleanor J. Brown

In the aftermath of the Millennium Development Goals, the international community agreed the Sustainable Development Goals, which launched in 2015. These goals are ambitious and multifaceted, but wrought with contradictions and complications. Nevertheless, they form a useful starting point to discuss how education can impact the international agenda, taking these 17 internationally recognised goals as a starting point. It is worth noting that, in contrast the MDGs for education (which focused largely on primary school enrolment), SDG 4 for Quality Education cites the importance of different stages and settings of education. Despite this, much of the research to date focuses on formal education classrooms and how these can contribute to development metrics and indicators. This project calls for a fresh look at the forms education can take and how context may determine the nature of this provision. Candidates should have a clear understanding of the SDGs and a working definition of non-formal education at any stage of education. Projects may look at non-formal education that is innovative or emancipatory, such as popular education, or alternative provision of education in any context that meets development goals or has a development focus.

Read more about this 'Non formal education and development goals: innovations in education provision' research project.