Our research activities include studies of policy, practice and provision to meet a diversity of learner needs as well as research which focuses on specific aspects of disability. We also have two dedicated Research centres - the Autism Centre for Education and Research (ACER) and the Visual Impairment Centre for Teaching And Research (VICTAR).

Our research focuses on:

  • Policy and theoretical analyses of schools, systems and support structures
  • Developing methods and methodologies, particularly participatory research and the use of innovative technologies 
  • Language and literacy 
  • Cognitive and developmental needs
  • Professional development, particularly with reference to e-learning
  • The circumstances and needs of particular special educational needs and disability groups

Examples of some of our research include:

Barriers to access: why some children with albinism in Malawi are not attending school

This British Academy funded study (Sept 2012 - May 2014) builds on previous research in Malawi by Dr Pat Lund from the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences in Coventry University and Dr Paul Lynch from the School of Education. This project aims to identify the key determinants preventing young people with albinism from accessing education in five rural villages in northern Malawi.

The experiences of diagnosis for people with Usher syndrome

Funded by SENSE (2011-2013), this research examined the lives of people with Usher syndrome types 1, 2 and 3. The researchers talked to people at different stages in their lives to try to understand their experience of diagnosis and the impact this has on planning for life and identity.

Transitions Study: longitudinal study from age 14 of blind and partially sighted young people in the UK

This 5 year research project (2012-2015) funded by the RNIB is looking at the transition of blind and partially sighted young people from the age of 14 years of age through to employment or further education.

Early childhood development and education for young children with visual impairment in Malawi

This research, funded by Sightsavers (2012-2014), will be looking at parents'/carers' attitudes, beliefs and behaviour towards their children with visual loss in Malawi

SHARE-IT: School-Home Autism Research Environment through Intelligent Technologies

The SHARE-IT project is systematically investigating how personal and mobile devices can be used individually and together to create a scalable intelligent learning environment for children with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASCs). It will run from 2012-2014.

Shaping the future of educational technologies today: from prototypes to practice

The aim of this ESRC funded project (2012-2013), was to contribute to shaping the future landscape of technology use for children on the autism spectrum in the classroom, and through this to contribute to educational advancement, emotional wellbeing and positive outcomes for children.

The ENABLER project: experimental new action-based beneficiary led employment research

Using a Big Lottery Fund grant, the RNIB, Action for Blind People and the University of Birmingham (VICTAR) aim to improve the employment prospects for thousands of the UK's blind and partially sighted population by ascertaining key employment needs amongst blind and partially sighted job seekers.

Reach Forward: Making educational research count for children with disabilities in Malawi, Kenya and Uganda

The Reach Forward Project funded by ESRC (2013-2014) aims to address the exclusion of children with disabilities in Africa from quality education. The project will draw on existing primary research to address a number of issues around the current educational support available for children with visual impairment and those with other disabilities, focusing on Malawi, Uganda and Kenya.

Evaluation of the future in-sight project

This research, funded by the RNIB (2013-2018) is an evaluation of the Future In-Sight project which aims to support partially sighted and blind young people as they move from compulsory education into independent adulthood.

Experiences of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) on people with sensory loss

This project (2014-2015) funded by RNIB, the Thomas Pocklington Trust, and Sense explores the experiences of the DLA to PIP policy change for people who have a visual impairment or a dual sensory impairment (deafblind).
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Examples of Publications

Douglas GGA, Pavey S, Corcoran CE, Clements B. 2012. Evaluating the use of the ICF as a framework for interviewing people with a visual impairment about their mobility and travel, British Journal of Visual Impairment. ISSN: 0264-6196.

Macnab, N., Thomas, G. and Grosvenor, I. (2011) The changing nature of ‘connectivity’ within and between communities. Report to AHRC as part of the Connected Communities cross-Council Programme.

McLinden, M and Edwards, C.  (2011) Developing a culture of enquiry-based, independent learning in a research-led institution: Findings from a survey of pedagogic practice International Journal for Academic Development., 16, 2, pp 147-162 DOI:

Thomas, G. (2011) A typology for the case study in social science following a review of definition, discourse and structure. Qualitative Inquiry, 17, 6, 511 – 521. DOI 10.1177/1077800411409884

Thomas, G. (2012) Stanley Fish and theory. In: G. Biesta, J. Allan and R. Edwards (eds) Making a difference in theory: The theory question in education and the education question in theory. London: Routledge (in press).