Higher Education Research Group

The Higher Education Research Group aims to develop research addressing contemporary issues and dilemmas facing Higher Education faculty staff, managers, students, practitioners and policy makers. It aspires to create an active and inclusive research environment by engaging with key stakeholders and wide audience such as faculty staff, practitioners, students, policy makers, learned societies, and renowned research groups and research institutes.


The Higher Education Research Group is delighted to announce three seminars for 2020.

All welcome – Please RSVP to educationresearch@edgehill.ac.uk for catering purposes.

Professor Rosemary Deem, Royal Holloway

Developing a research culture in a social science context: challenges and opportunities

21 January 12.15 -13.45
(Refreshments from 12.15, 12.30 start, 13.15 Q & A and 13.45 Ends)
E21 (FoEL 2.03)

This seminar will explore what it means to develop and nurture a departmental or faculty research culture in a social sciences field such as Education. This will include looking at the characteristics of high performing research groups based on an investigation using data from the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. In addition the seminar will cover how an open and trusting research culture can be built, examining the role of empowering leadership and supporting early and mid-career researchers, exploring the place of research activity, including seminars, research projects (funded or unfunded), conferences and publication (including open access) and considering how research students (whether on-site or studying at a distance) can contribute to a vibrant and transparent research culture.


Rosemary Deem is a sociologist, Doctoral School Director & Professor of Higher Education Management at Royal Holloway (UoL), Egham, UK. She has been a Fellow, UK Academy of Social Sciences, since 2006. U.K. Research Assessment Exercise Education sub-panellist 1996, 2001, 2008. Member ESRC Grants Board, 1999-2003. Co-editor, Higher Education (Springer) since 2013. Appointed OBE for services to HE & social sciences 2013. 2014 Chair Social Science Panel, FCT/ESF country wide Research & Development Periodic Evaluation, Portugal.  Member, Peer Review College, European Science Foundation 2016-present. Co-convenor, Higher Education Network, European Educational Research Association. 2015 -2018 chair, UK Council for Graduate Education. Her research includes doctoral education, inequalities in HE, academic work, HE leadership, governance, management & HE policy, HE and public good.


Dr Peter Kahn, University of Liverpool
Beyond employability: Higher education that enables graduates to contribute to organisations
27th February 2020 12.15-13.45,
(Refreshments from 12.15, 12.30 start, 13.15 Q & A and 13.45 Ends)
E22 (FoEL 2.09)

Employability has become a key focus for higher education in recent years. The approach taken to conceptualising employability, however, frames it as part of a supply-side problem, with higher education institutions equipping graduates with skills and competencies appropriate to the available employment opportunities. As a result, higher education is increasingly seen as a form of investment in a project of the self for economic reward. This seminar reports on a theoretical study drawing on critical realist perspectives that challenges this paradigm, and that offers an alternative based around higher education as a means to prepare students to contribute to both organisations and collectives present within workplaces. The paper develops understanding of the casual tendencies by which contributions are made to workplace collectives, including those that pertain both to the maintenance and transformation of such collectives. It further addresses the means by which universities can prepare students for these contributions, leading to a range of practical strategies to enhance higher education. The seminar concludes by addressing considerations that might lead institutions of higher education to focus on forming their students for an active and critical approach to their working lives and beyond.


Dr Peter Kahn is Director of the Centre for Higher Education Studies, School of Histories, Languages and Cultures, University of Liverpool. He is a Senior Lecturer in Higher Education Studies, and Director of Studies for a fully-online professional doctorate (EdD) in Higher Education. This programme has an established global network of students and alumni. His research is focused on applications of the critical realist paradigm to the study of higher education, covering such areas as reflexivity of staff and students, employability and professional education. He was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2014, and is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He is Executive Editor of the journal Teaching in Higher Education. He was a Visiting Professor to Edge Hill University in 2008-09.


Professor Bruce Macfarlane, University of Bristol
How students’ freedom to learn is threatened by student engagement policies
6th March 2020 12.15-1.45pm,
(Refreshments from 12.15, 12.30 start, 13.15 Q & A and 13.45 Ends)
FoEL 0.30 (E5)

The student engagement movement has become a worldwide phenomenon and national student engagement surveys are now well-established internationally. Curriculum initiatives and assessment practices closely associated with student engagement policies include compulsory attendance requirements, class contribution grading, group and team working assignments and reflective exercises often linked to professional and experiential learning. These types of assessment practices often grade students for their ‘time and effort’ and commitment to active and participatory approaches to learning. They are justified by reference to both active learning as a new pedagogic orthodoxy along with the improvement of retention rates and achievement levels at an institutional level. However, many of these assessment practices constrain the extent to which higher education students are free to make choices about what to learn, when to learn and how to learn. Forms of student performativity – bodily, participative and emotional – have been created that demand academic non-achievements to be acted out in a public space. A higher education is, almost by definition, intended to be about adults engaging in a voluntary activity but the performative turn in the nature of student learning is undermining student rights as learners – to non-indoctrination, reticence, choosing how to learn, and being trusted as an adult – and perverting the true Rogerian meaning of ‘student-centred’. This seminar will be based on arguments presented in my 2017 book, Freedom to Learn. (Routledge).


Bruce Macfarlane is professor of higher education at the University of Bristol and distinguished visiting professor at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.

His research and publications have developed concepts in respect to the ethics of academic practice, student academic freedom, academic citizenship, and intellectual leadership.


Key Members of the Group 

We have a team of active researchers focused on contributing and challenging debates about:

  • internationalisation of higher education,
  • widening participation,
  • philosophy of higher education,
  • curriculum,
  • management and leadership
  • quality evaluation.

Professor Ming Cheng is the Chair of the Higher Education Research Group. Other key members (in alphabetic order) include:

Ms Liana Beattie

Professor Amanda Fulford

Dr Bethan Garrett

Helena Knapton

Professor Saville Kushner

Dr Chris Lawton

Professor Sean (Shuying) Li (Visiting Professor, Edge Hill University 2019)

Susan Murrin-Bailey

Dr Selwyn Stanley

Professor Liz Thomas

Dr Annabel Yale

This group welcomes new members. Its membership is open to all interested staff members at Edge Hill University and colleagues outside Edge Hill.

Current funded research activities

2019: Supporting Young People to Become International Creative Talents: Educational  Enterprise Collaborations between Shanghai and Liverpool.

Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) UK-China Creative Industries Partnership Development Call.

Ming Cheng as Project leader, £25,000.00

Past events 

International research collaboration: The Cases of Russia and Taiwan
Prof Sheng-Ju Chan, National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan
12:30pm, 27 June 2019
E18 (FoE Lakeside)
To book email: educationresearch@edgehill.ac.uk

Along with the greater internationalization, transnational research collaboration becomes one of the prominent phenomena propelling the competition of knowledge production and reputation building worldwide. Earlier empirical data have shown that international research collaboration tends to take place within and among developed countries and few developing countries. Such dominance had been criticized as ‘academic hegemony’ and even ‘knowledge colonialism’. However, the intensification and progression of world-class university movement and mega-science projects trigger the further development of international research collaboration among a wide range of countries. Several policies and initiatives around the world are launched to promote the wider engagement with transnational research cooperation. It is against such wider context that this paper aims to address how non-English speaking developed countries (Russia and Taiwan) engage with international research collaboration for the past decades. It also touches upon a fundamental issue whether greater research internationalization intensified the hegemony of traditional academic powerhouses or not.

Sheng-Ju Chan, Professor of Graduate Institute of Education at National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan and serves as Dean for Quality Assurance Office of Higher Education Evaluation & Accreditation Council of Taiwan (HEEACT) since 2019. Specializing in higher education, comparative education and education policy and management, he is devoted to academic research on higher education policy, system and management. He is the President of Chinese Taipei Comparative Education Society and severs as executive member of the World Council of Comparative Education Societies (WCCES).

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