Doctoral Research Conference

The University of Birmingham School of Education will be hosting its 22nd Annual PGR Conference during November 2023. There will be a range of presentations from PGR students discussing their research together with a Keynote presentation. Further details to follow.

Previous Events 

2022: Hindsight, Foresight, and Shaping the Future of Education

26 November 2022

Keynote speaker: Dr. Jane Gatley  

On Saturday 26th November 2022, the University of Birmingham School of Education hosted its 21st Annual PGR Conference. The Conference committee were incredibly pleased to provide a platform for 31 postgraduate researchers to present their research, in one of nine themes, including Wellbeing, Autism, Character Education, Inclusion, Research Methodology, Social Justice, Higher Education, and Identity. In addition to the wonderful PGR research, we were very pleased to welcome Dr. Jane Gatley and Dr. Holly Prescott.  Dr. Gatley, gave the Keynote lecture whilst Dr. Holly Prescott provided a presentation.


Dr. Jane Gatley: Can working with educational concepts shape the future of education?

Education studies often involves working with educational concepts. These are represented by the words that make up educational discourse, words such as ‘justice’, ‘safety’, ‘knowledge’, ‘intelligence’, ‘race’, ‘gender’, ‘childhood’, ‘wellbeing’ and so on. How we understand these concepts shapes how we think and talk about education. When a social scientist operationalizes an educational concept so that they can measure it, they are working with that concept, altering its meaning and using it to make claims about education.  I explore the contribution of philosophy of education to educational studies. In particular, I focus on analytic philosophy of education. 

Analytic philosophers of education spend a great deal of time analysing educational concepts, and this abstract approach to education has been a source of criticism. Reid, wrote that ‘analysis without synthesis is blind, or at least pointless or feckless’ (1965, p.24). Carr describes analytic philosophy as ‘a fundamental intellectual disorder’ (2004, p.57), and Standish claims that it abstracts educational issues from questions of value (p.7-8, 2010). I draw on Haslanger’s account of the method of ameliorative analysis to present a revised understanding of the contribution of conceptual analysis to educational studies. On this account, conceptual analysis is valuable because it has the potential to shape the way key educational players understand and use educational concepts, thus shaping educational research, practices and policies. 

Dr. Holly Prescott: Beyond your Postgraduate Research: Careers Support for Postgraduate Researcher

PGR Presentations

  • 3 SYMPOSIUM – “Uncertainty in creation: navigating the doctoral research journey”


  • Wellbeing
  • Autism
  • Character Education
  • Inclusion
  • Research Methodology
  • Social Justice
  • Higher Education
  • Identity

View papers from the conference: Hindsight, Foresight and Shaping the Future of Education

2021: Tear down these walls! Re-Invigorating Education Research through Unification.

27 November 2021

Keynote speaker: Dr Tom Perry

Education research is a divided field. Drawing on his own research, teaching and experience, Dr Tom Perry, provided an overview of the divided field of education research, considering the disciplinary, academic-praxis, methodological and organisational differences that characterise its factions. He discussed how these differences arise, and how we might foster a more unified education research field.

2020: Innovating educational research, theory and practice: Time, Space and Place

28 November 2020

Keynote speaker

Freya Aquarone, Kings College London -  Radial ideas in not-so-radical spaces: theory and research as tools for deconstructing the educational status quo.

2019: Education and the Developing Environment

30 November 2019

Keynote speaker: Bill Scott, Emeritus Professor University of Bath

2018: Education and Identity - New Directions

24 November 2018

Keynote session

This year we were delighted that our keynote speaker was the distinguished Dr Diane Reay from the University of Cambridge. Dr Reay is a sociologist in the area of education. Her research interests include sociology of education, education policy, social class, race and ethnicity, and gender.  

2017: New Challenges in Education

25th November 2017

Keynote session

This year we were delighted that our keynote speaker was Dr Jo-Anne Dillabough from the University of Cambridge. Her research interests include gender, social justice, youth migration and education. 

School of Education Doctoral Research Conference 2017

2016: Understanding minority ethnic flight from UK Higher Education

26th November 2016

Keynote presentation: Professor Kalwant Bhopal, University of Southampton

April-Louise, Professor Kalwant Bhopal and Holly (co-chairs of the conference organising committee and Keynote speaker)

April-Louise, Professor Kalwant Bhopal and Holly (co-chairs of the conference organising committee and Keynote speaker) 

Saturday 26th November 2016 marked another successful year for the School of Education’s Doctoral Research Conference. Now in its 15th year, the conference attracted many attendees from within the university as well as from institutions across the country.

Dr Kate Carruthers Thomas opened up the conference with a reading of two of her poems, and Professor Kalwant Bhopal’s keynote presentation discussed BME academic ethnic minority flight from UK Higher Education. Throughout the day, papers and posters from doctoral researchers showcased the exciting range and diversity of current educational research.

Delegates at lunchtime

Delegates at lunchtime 

The day closed with an expert panel focused on ‘education and inequalities’. Professor Graeme Douglas, Professor Una Martin and Professor Karen Rowlingson shared their thoughts on the future of Education in the UK, considering inclusive education, the Athena SWAN agenda and growing income and wealth inequality.

A delegate presenting her research

A delegate presenting her research

This year also saw the introduction of undergraduate student volunteers who, through their various roles, assisted with the smooth running of the conference. Another addition was the use of the hashtag #UoBSchofEdConf16 which meant that thoughts, conversations and debates taking place at the conference were shared online. Many thanks to the conference co-chairs April-Louise and Holly, the organising committee, the student volunteers, the panellists, the keynote speaker and all of the conference delegates. 

Education Doctoral Research Conference 2016

2015:Globalisation, Privatisation and Transformations in Education Governance: Oh What a Cocktail!

28th November 2015

Keynote presentation: Professor Susan Robertson, from the University of Bristol

Education Doctoral Research Conference 2015 

2014: Thinking about Research in Dark Times

29 November 2014

Keynote presentation: Professor Helen Gunter, University of Manchester

This years event was a great success with a thought-provoking opening keynote from Helen Gunter on ‘Thinking about research in dark times’; a rich array of parallel papers; and a lively panel debate on ‘Impact: a push in the right direction?’ to round off the day.

The winner of the conference poster competition was Louise Shorthouse (University of Hull). Two additional posters were awarded a commendation: Liyla Alamri (University of Birmingham) and Julia Everitt (Staffordshire University).

2013: Setting Schools Free? Reflections on the Academisation of English Schooling

16 November 2013

Keynote Presentation: Dr Louise Bamfield, Associate Director of Education at the RSA

A positive and inspiring conference was opened by keynote speaker Dr Louise Bamfield from the RSA. This was followed by researchers presenting their papers in parallel sessions which produced diverse and intense discussions on important themes in education whilst being chaired by volunteers from the delegation and the conference was closed by an interesting and wide-ranging expert panel debate discussing “who calls the shots in education?”.

The conference highlighted the very nature of issue-based research and ways that education must be inclusive, progressive and evolutionary in its approach. It also highlighted the diverse approaches to undertaking research and presented a variety of research designs such as case studies, longitudinal studies, cross-sectional studies, linguistic ethnographies, cross-cultural comparative studies, experiments and mixed-methods research.

2012: Championing research, educating professionals: how compatible are elitism, inclusion and social justice?

1 December 2012

Keynote Presentation: Professor Michael Young, the Institute of Education, University of London

Professor Michael YoungAn enjoyable, action-packed day began with a keynote presentation by Professor Michael Young. This was followed by doctoral researchers presenting their papers in parallel sessions, which produced lively discussions. The conference closed with an interesting expert panel debate centred on the conference theme.


Research Posters

The conference theme highlighted the complex nature of practice-oriented research and the onerous demands of inclusion. Those trying to access, learn or teach in the field of education face many barriers. The task of understanding and overcoming those barriers is a central focus of many of the papers in the conference. 



2011: Curiosity-driven or improving policy and practice. What’s the point of university research in an age of austerity? 

19 November 2011

Keynote Presentation: Professor of Social Policy, Karen Rowlingson and Professor of Public Governance, Chris Skelcher 

The 10thSchool of Education Research Conference at the University of Birmingham aimed to bring together postgraduate, doctoral and experienced researchers within a supportive and relatively informal environment. Irrespective of the stage they are at in their training or career, all could present and discuss their work with people who understand the ups, downs, and complexities inherent in social research. Presentations were often followed by lively debates, giving delegates a chance to explore ideas, while any feedback received by those presenting may be used constructively towards adapting their research designs or theoretical approaches. For delegates who choose not to present (yet), the event offers both a good introduction to academic conferences and a stimulating experience, allowing reflection upon one’s own research as well as that of others.  

2010: Education Researchers: Research for Change?

10 July 2010

Keynote Presentation: Professor Maggie MacLure, Manchester Metropolitan University

The philosophy of the Student Conference centres on providing first-time researchers with a supportive and relatively informal environment. They can share their work with like-minded people, regardless of what stage they are at.  

The Student Conference is a well-established part of the School of Education’s calendar, and is now in its ninth year. We were pleased with the number of delegates attending, which included many speakers. There were a number of poster presentations, giving participants the opportunity to present in a variety of ways. Some volunteered to chair sessions, thus helping with the running of the event while also being able to gain and practice new skills. 

This year’s theme “Research for Change?” was certainly a topical one, and resulted in diverse input, with presenters taking many different stances on the subject. Educational research involves contributions from various fields, and this was certainly reflected in the wide-ranging areas and topics covered by the speakers. Papers and posters were complemented by a workshop, expert panel and the key note speech by Professor Maggie MacLure, resulting in an interesting and varied day.

2009: Education Research, Education Researchers: Diverse Experiences and Perspectives

4 July 2009

Keynote Presentation: Professor John Furlong, University of Oxford 

Doctoral researcher conference 2009





The student conference in the School of Education at the University of Birmingham goes from strength to strength. Now in its 8th year the conference has evolved in the light of experience and feedback, refreshed each year by the recruitment of new students to the organising committee who bring new ideas and suggestions.

Doctoral researcher conference 2009




Professor Marilyn Martin-Jones opened the conference by encouraging students to engage with as many sessions as possible. Suitably enthused, delegates went off to the first student presentations. The expert panel session proved as popular as ever with students. Our experts (Dr Marion Bowl together with Professors Ian Grosvenor, Christine Skelton and Pete Alcock ) shared their advice and experience on how to ‘do’ doctoral research. Lunchtime offered further development opportunities – Professor Marilyn Martin-Jones ran a workshop on applying for Post-Doc funding and Dr Christine Corcoran shared her advice for students on preparing for the dreaded viva. After lunch Professor John Furlong gave a stimulating and thought-provoking keynote lecture before two more student sessions. 

2008: Privatising Education, Privatising Education Research, Privatising Education Policy

5 July 2008

Keynote Presentation: Professor Stephen Ball, University of London

Building on the success of last years’ conference, the same structure was retained.  The  expert panel comprised of Professor Lynn Davis, Professor Ann Lewis, Professor Gary Thomas and Dr. Paul Warmington.  The conference has been extremely fortunate over the years to have attracted some high profile speakers  and this year, Professor Stephen Ball from the Institute of Education, London was the keynote speaker.  As expected, his keynote was inspiring.

2007: Understanding Education Research: Principles and Practice

30 June 2007

Keynote Presentation: Professor Kathy Sylva, Oxford University

The student conference this year focused on providing a supportive environment for people to present their research to fellow students and academics in the field of education. This took the form of students presenting their research in the form of a short presentation with questions or displaying their research in the form of a poster.

This supportive theme was reflected in the expert panel session where students were able to ask the panel questions about getting published in academic journals. This was an invaluable opportunity for aspiring academics to find out the procedures and pitfalls that happen when submitting an article for publication in an academic journal. The session was well received and provided food for thought for all concerned.

The keynote speech was presented by Professor Kathy Sylva from the University of Oxford. Through her research on the Effects of Early Childhood Education, Professor Sylva demonstrated ways of disseminating research in a large scale government funded research project.'

I found the lecture really interesting as it enabled me to see how the research was depicted and provided me with an interesting insight into the methodological approaches that are available to help analyse and demonstrate research findings.

2006: Different Ways of Knowing and Doing

1 July 2006

Keynote Presentation: Professor Richard Pring

One of the most challenging things for any committee when trying to organise a conference, is deciding the topic that ‘glues’ the day together.  What should be the theme that links a dispersed group of postgraduate researchers together, that encapsulates the breadth of educational exploration and yet captures the individual experience of research?  What could be a common strand? 

Clearly there is a wealth of topics to choose from but what all of the delegates, contributors, experts and the guest speaker have in common is that they are all engaged in a quest for knowledge.  And the ways that we go about collecting that knowledge are rich and diverse.  From here it is a small step to a theme linking this research community together: the theme of the University of Birmingham’s student conference for 2006 was ‘Ways of Knowing and Doing’. 

We were fortunate this year to have as the guest speaker Professor Richard Pring.  His keynote address was inspirational and enabled everyone to start the day with a sense of common purpose.  This year the order of the day was changed and the audience were invited to question the ‘expert panel’ of educational scholars. 

The introduction of a lunch-time workshop was another innovation for this year.  Not only did the lunch break provide opportunities for networking and meeting up with colleagues old and new, but also provided the opportunity to join in a workshop run by Alison Taysum on writing for publication.

The afternoon session consisted of three parallel sessions of presentations.  Presenters were at different stages of their postgraduate degrees and for some this was their first opportunity to disseminate their work. In spite of the competition from the World Cup and Wimbledon tennis, the day finished with a substantial number of delegates who took part in a short plenary session that reflected on the day in terms of a platform to disseminate research as well as part of the student learning experience.

2005: Researchers and Researching: Dealing with Uncertainty

4 June 2005

Keynote Presentation: Professor Helen Gunter, University of Manchester and Kenny Webster, Birmingham Think Tank

The Student Conference organised by the School of Education for postgraduate students has been running for four years now, with increasing success.

The conference title provided a loose focus for papers and the conferences follow a similar format.  The first keynote speak was Helen Gunter whose presentation about teacher’s workload was inspiring.  The second keynote was Doctor Kenny Webster who gave an enthusiastic presentation about the role of education in Science.