Student Research Conference 2011

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

Saturday 19 November 2011

In a speech at the Universities UK Annual Conference, Cranfield University in September 2010, Secretary of State for higher education, David Willetts, argued that "a strong research base is vital for our future in a global knowledge economy....strong in both fundamental, curiosity-driven research and research applied to the challenges facing businesses and public services...."

All well and good if you are a researcher in science, since this was his focus. Things look very different in education, social policy, business/economics and public policy (arguably they look even worse in the Arts and Humanities…).

At a time when state schools and local authorities must compete with free schools and declining amounts of research funding are tied increasingly to government priorities, what is the purpose of academic research in Britain today? Some say that attempts to make it accessible and relevant to policy and practice, such as the £50 million Teaching and Learning Research Programme (1999-2010), have had limited impact, and bridging the gap between teacher education, professional development and research is not easy. Others argue that quality in much social science research is so poor that there is a long way to go before we have any impact at all.

So what should the future direction of academic research in social sciences be? Should we encourage academics and research students to forget ideas that might be interesting but produce no tangible benefits? Or does research tied to policy and practice end up bland and compliant in order to be accessible and relevant? How should we be training new social science researchers to consider the purpose and impact of their work?

Speakers will include:

Karen Rowlingson, Professor of Social Policy, University of Birmingham and Chris Skelcher, Professor of Public Governance, University of Birmingham

Themes for papers include:

  • Education policy, history and philosophy
  • Social justice and inclusion
  • Disability and special educational needs
  • Language and discourse
  • Leadership and management
  • Teaching, learning and assessment
  • Compulsory schooling, vocational education and higher education

This conference brings together experienced and new researchers across the college to think about these questions and to consider how they affect their own research. We will have keynote presentations, parallel sessions and a panel debate about the politics of education research in an ‘age of austerity’.

You are invited to submit an outline for a 20 minute presentation of your research and an organising committee of students and academics will design themes for each session. Please send your outline to Denise Lees ( by 15 July 2011.

This is an opportunity to present a paper based on your research activities linked to the title of the conference. Abstracts may be submitted for:

Paper Sessions Several themed parallel chaired sessions (20 minutes per paper to include discussion).

Posters Design a poster about your research for display throughout the conference. Time will be set aside (during lunch) for people to visit the poster display. If you wish to submit a poster, please let us have your title and a short description. Further guidelines for posters are attached.


There will also be a Staff/Student panel.

The conference will be from 9.00 am – 5.15 pm. Registration will be 9.00am and lunch will be provided at 12.30 pm.

There is a Conference Catering Fee of £10 to cover lunch and refreshments throughout the day.

Complete and return the booking form no later than 15 September 2011

Download the research conference application form (Word 2003) 

Download the research conference abstract guidelines (PDF)

Download the research conference poster guidelines (PDF) 

Alumni Helen Lees gives her view on the student conference

Related Video


Contact Details

Denise Lees: