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.

Picture of two students writing.

Image via Unsplash by Jeswin Thomas


BAICE funded Online Forum

BAICE funded Online Forum Academics’ Perspectives on the Impact of Global Emergencies and Uncertainties: Voices from UK and China BAICE funded Online Forum Academics’ Perspectives on the Impact of Global Emergencies and Uncertainties: Voices from UK and China Time: 11am-1:30pm Tuesday 7 June Forum partners: Edge Hill University, Bath Spa University, Liverpool Hope University, and Beijing Normal University Registration: tinyurl.com/VoicesUKChina with Prof Andy Green Prof Jun Teng, Prof Richard Watermeyer and Dr Xin Xiang.The Higher Education Research Group at Edge Hill is hosting an online forum event exploring academics’ experiences of the impact of the pandemic and global uncertainties. This event will bring together comparative education experts from China and the UK to explore their reflections on changes within the Higher Education sector in the two countries since 2020.

This event is free and open to all, booking below.

Full Programme: : via eshare

Register to receive the Zoom link for the session: tinyurl.com/VoicesUKChina



Due to COVID 19, the HERG seminar programme for the foreseeable future will be delivered online via Teams. All seminars are free, and students, staff and members of the public are welcome to attend.

Seminars for the academic year 2021-22 are now complete. More information on the 22-23 seminar series will be published here when available.

Please register to receive the link to access our seminars online. 

NB: Staff can access all our events via the wiki pages.

Please email [email protected] if you have any queries

Our seminars this year are recorded where possible, and can be viewed online following the session.

All seminars begin at 12 noon and finish at 1.30pm. You are welcome to join us for part of the session if you are unable to attend the full time.

Group Members

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.

JoClarisse Albia

Dr Liana Beattie

Dr John Bostock

Dr Liam Bullingham 

Professor Amanda Fulford

Dr Bethan Garrett

Helena Knapton

Catherine Langridge

Dr Chris Lawton

Dr Heather Lloyd

Professor Sean (Shuying) Li (Former Visiting Professor, 2019)

Dr Susie Marriott

Dr Ali Rouncefield-Swales

Dr Selwyn Stanley

Professor Liz Thomas

Eliot Wright

Dr Annabel Yale

Dr Aimee Yostrakal

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

Funded research activities

2021-23     Multi-stakeholder perspectives on Learning and Teaching of Comparative and International Education during global emergencies and uncertainties

British Association for International & Comparative Education (BAICE) Thematic Forum.

Ming Cheng Co-I; collaboration between Bath Spa University, Liverpool Hope University and Beijing Normal University in China.

More information via the project website.

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

To view the recordings of our 20/21 and 21/22 seminars, see the Faculty’s Figshare depository

23rd November 2021

The shifting subjectification of the ‘widening participation’ student The shifting subjectification of the ‘widening participation’ student: the affective world of the ‘deserving’ consumer

Dr Emily Danvers and Dr Tamsin Hinton-Smith, University of Sussex

Access to becoming a higher education student is increasingly mediated through an outreach industry in which the academy’s opportunities are communicated and distributed from education providers to ‘targeted’ young people and their communities. The use of geo-demographic measures as proxies of disadvantage to guide such work, we argue, obscures key affective dimensions of transitioning into higher education. Drawing on interviews and focus groups with young people and education professionals conducted as part of an evaluation of the UK National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) – we explore how ‘affect’ circulates in outreach discourse and practice. We describe how young people, in our research, spoke of ‘risk’, ‘pressure’ and ‘fear’ as they narrated the emotional intensities of their educational decision making. We also analyse how outreach activities focusing on wellbeing or resilience  in response often constructed ‘affect’ as an individualised and psychologised barrier to be simply ‘thought out’. Consequently, we argue for a renewed and nuanced role of  ‘affect’ within outreach to take account of young people’s situated and complex educational lives and trajectories.

Dr Tamsin Hinton-Smith

Dr Emily Danvers

Dr Tamsin Hinton-Smith is a Senior Lecturer in Education and Dr Emily Danvers is a Lecturer in Education. Both work in the School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sussex and have shared interests in widening participation, identities, equity and inclusive teaching and learning. Between 2017-2019, they were seconded as Research and Evaluation managers to the Sussex Learning Network, to lead a programme of research evaluating the Office for Students’ funded National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) in Sussex.

13th October 2021

Students as consumers? An exploration of English undergraduates’ discourses and practices

Carlos Azevedo, The Open University

Academic literature and policymakers have been discussing the construction of English undergraduates as HE consumers, often positioning them as such (Nordensvärd, 2011; Brooks, 2018). However, empirical research on this topic incorporating students’ perspectives is somewhat limited (Budd, 2017). This paper explores how undergraduate students perceive their positioning within HE and to what extent their educational and socioeconomic backgrounds influence their perspectives.

Forty one-on-one semi-structured qualitative interviews with English undergraduates were conducted in England and Scotland. The findings show that HE seems to be an instrumental project whose primary purpose is to lead to future employability for many students. Moreover, some argue that paying fees places them in a position similar to that of a consumer. Still, this positioning does not translate into concrete actions in their everyday life as students. The comparison of state school educated students’ accounts with private school ones shows that the former, contrary to the latter, tend to construct education as a public good that should be free.

Carlos Azevedo is a doctoral researcher at The Open University Business School who is about to conclude his doctoral thesis. He is based at the Business School, and his research critically explores UK higher education undergraduate students’ discourses and practices. Before starting his PhD, he worked for more than a decade as a contract and project manager in international projects. Following Stuart Hall, Carlos believes that ‘the university is a critical institution or it is nothing’.

Twitter: @cprazevedo


Wed 8 Sept 2021

The Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education: a review of emerging evidence

Thomas Farnell, Ana Skledar Matijević, Ninoslav Šćukanec Schmidt, Institute for the Development of Education (IDE)

The webinar presented the results of the analytical report ‘The impact of COVID-19 on higher education: a review of emerging evidence’, published by the European Commission’s Network of Experts of the Social Dimension of Education and Training. The authors of the report are Thomas Farnell, Ana Skledar Matijević, Ninoslav Šćukanec Schmidt from the Institute for the Development of Education (Croatia).

The analytical report provides a synthesis of the emerging evidence on what impact COVID-19 has on three aspects of higher education in Europe:

teaching and learning;
the social dimension (i.e. the effect on underrepresented, vulnerable and disadvantaged learners);
and student mobility.

Drawing upon 14 surveys carried out by university networks, student organisations and researchers, as well as over 50 journal articles, reports and publications, the report synthesises the emerging evidence and presents recommendations on actions to be taken at the policy level and by higher education institutions themselves.

Thomas Farnell works as a higher education policy expert at the Institute for the Development of Education (IDE). He is a member of the Network of Experts on the Social Dimension of Education and Training (NESET) and is the lead author of the NESET report. He is currently participating in the UNESCO International Institute for Higher Education expert team on the impact of COVID-19 on higher education.

Ana Skledar Matijević is a higher education project manager at IDE and is a co-author of the NESET report. She was previously Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Applied Sciences Baltazar Zaprešić in Croatia.

Ninoslav Šćukanec Schmidt is the executive director of IDE and is a co-author of the NESET report. He has been the co-chair of the Bologna Follow-Up Group’s Advisory Group for the Social Dimension of Higher Education since 2019, whose work resulted in the adoption of the Principles and Guidelines to Strengthen the Social Dimension of Higher Education in the EHEA as a part of the Rome Ministerial Communiqué in 2020.


Weds 19th May 2021

The University of Life – Employability and Essential Life Skills at University

Dr Rebecca Montacute, The Sutton Trust


Traditionally, there has been a focus on the academic side of university. But with more young people studying for degrees in an increasingly competitive job market, it is now becoming clear that a degree alone is not enough for young people to succeed in the world of work. And importantly, even if two young people go to the same university and achieve the same degree classification, if one of them is from a higher socio-economic background, they will be more likely to gain a top job, and also to earn a higher salary, than their equally academically qualified peers from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Rebecca’s research looks at a range of activities offered at university outside of a student’s core academic course, to examine how well they develop employability and essential life skills in students, as well as how access to such opportunities differs by socio-economic background. She has also examined

Dr Rebecca Montacute

how access to these activities has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rebecca Montacute, Erica Holt-White, Alice Gent, ‘The University of Life‘ (February 2021), available to download via The Sutton Trust.

Dr Rebecca Montacute is Research and Policy Manager at the Sutton Trust. Since she joined the Trust in 2017, she has authored reports on a variety of topics including internships, university access, highly able student from disadvantaged backgrounds, access to the professions and how parents use financial and cultural resources to boost their children’s educations. Rebecca previously completed a PhD at the University of Manchester, and was a Fellow at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.


Thu March 18th 2021

‘Getting students ready for work’ – what it means for all students

Dr. Iwi Ugiagbe Green, Leeds University

Iwi is a strong advocate of research informed teaching and holds a PhD in Accounting Education from University of Leeds.

Dr Iwi Ugiagbe Green

Dr Iwi Ugiagbe Green

In particular, she has undertaken research on ‘working to get students ready for work’, ‘professional identity’ and has published articles on the topic of unconscious bias in recruitment. Iwi’s work recently featured in Advance HE’s new publication ‘Employability: Breaking the Mould’:

‘Whose job is it anyway? Inclusive approaches to developing work-ready students for the graduate labour market’.

Hear more about the importance of her research in this session.

Iwi has worked in a varied range of business and management roles in Higher Education since graduating from University of Huddersfield in 2000. She worked in higher education as a management accountant, financial accountant and tax accountant before moving into academia in 2008. Since then she has taught most areas of accounting and finance (specialising in management accounting) at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in the UK, Hong Kong and China. Iwi is an early career researcher and holds a PhD in Accounting Education from University of Leeds; she is a strong advocate of research informed teaching. Before taking up her current appointment at Leeds University Business School, Iwi was a Course Director for postgraduate accounting and finance programmes at Leeds Beckett University.

Wed 24 Feb 2021

Community engagement through service learning: the experience of Strathmore University

Dr. Alfred Kitawi, Ms. Christina Garashie and Mr. Michael Babu, Strathmore University, Kenya



Service learning is an experiential form of education. Learning occurs through immersion. Students spend hours working with others, reflect on the issues with communities and apply what they have learned to resolve community problems. Few universities in Africa have integrated this as part of their core-curriculum and offer credits for being involved in community issues. Our presentation will focus on the nature of service-learning in one private university in Nairobi. The university is Strathmore University, and the service-learning activities include student mentoring, providing certificate instruction to prisoners, building of classrooms and dormitories. The main philosophy of service learning is to produce a sense of commonality and shared experience across social divides (Stoecker, 2016). A number of benefits have accrued from service-learning: personal growth and development, academic learning, interpersonal outcomes, improved grade point average, reduced dropouts, positive attitude and behaviours, community connections (Farber, 2011), moral development, civic engagement, student personal efficacy and development of critical thinking skills(Butin, 2010; Jacoby, 2015). Our presentation will focus on five projects, the Macheo Mentoring Programme, the TAI project, the Prisoners Education Programme, the Kwale Project and the Lodwar Education Project.


Dr. Alfred Kitawi
Dr. Alfred Kitawi is the Director of Centre for Research in Education and a lecturer at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. He has implemented several monitoring and evaluation projects in the areas of community capacity development, action research, life-skills development and community engagement in Kenya and Uganda. His interests, publications and expertise span the areas of education management, community engagement and use of instructional technologies to facilitate learning. His most recent works focus on student retention, use of ICT to enable learning within refugee communities and service-based learning in universities.

Ms. Christina Garashie
Christina is an experienced donor relations and fundraising professional with a demonstrated history of working in higher education. She is passionate about community engagement and volunteering with experience in civic leadership, working with women, girls, and youth from low income homes in rural and marginalized Kenya. Christina is keen on youth empowerment and works with university students to transform them into great volunteers and make them partners in her work. She is committed to the advancement and education of African children from marginalized communities and is working at bridging the educational gaps that exist in rural Africa. She works with university volunteers to support the education of school children through mentoring, tutoring, leadership camps, teacher training, training of mentors and distribution of books and sanitary towels. Since 2012, she has trained over 1,000 university volunteers and currently runs major bi-annual mentoring camps in Kitui, Kisumu, Turkana, Kwale and Nairobi.

Mr. Michael Babu
Michael has a background in Microfinance and Community Development. He has at least 10 years expertise in community service. He has coordinated over 450,000 student volunteer hours within the community outreach office of Strathmore University. These community outreach hours are dedicated to improving the skills and knowledge of prisoners, support for teenage mothers, mentoring support to secondary students and support to the deaf. He is the lead of Centres of Excellence of Strathmore University, Community Outreach unit. The Centres of Excellence focus on providing life- skills training to students, pedagogical skills to teachers, administrators, and parents. Together with his team, they have built maternity wards, schools, churches, a dormitory and a hall in various rural and semi-urban areas of Kenya.


Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Care-experienced students in higher education: what we know… and what we don’t

Dr Neil Harrison, University of Oxford


Until relatively recently, it was assumed that few people who had spent time ‘in care’ as children would be found in higher education. The legacy of childhood trauma, coupled with social and educational disruption, were felt to be – and indeed are – significant barriers to attainment. However, we now know there are approaching 10,000 care-experienced students in our universities and the number is growing. One-in-four care-experienced adults will participate at some point in their life – much lower than the general population, but higher than the often (mis)quoted 6% figure.

Photo of Dr Neil Harrison

Dr Neil Harrison (photo (c) John Cairns used with permission)

This seminar will draw on a series of studies undertaken since 2016 looking at the lives of care-experienced students, from pre-entry to graduation and into work. We increasingly know a lot about the challenges that they face and the support they need. However, there are still significant gaps in our knowledge – the seminar will reflect on these within a forward research agenda.


Dr Neil Harrison is an associate professor at the University of Oxford and deputy director of the Rees Centre, which specialises in researching educational outcomes for young people in and around the care system.

His interest in care-experienced students in higher education dates from the early 2000s – first as student support professional and latterly as academic. He is a trustee of the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers and currently leads a Nuffield Foundation study on transitions into the labour market. Neil’s edited book Marginalised Communities in Higher Education (with Graeme Atherton) will be published in early 2021.


Thursday, 26 November

The Industrialisation of University Rankings

Dr Miguel Antonio Lim, University of Manchester


The research examines the production of influence of ranking expertise in the higher education sector. It analyses the content of the THE World University Rankings supplements / magazines, social media, and fieldwork data from the Rankings’ Summit events. The analysis shows how university ranking organisations, using the case of the Times Higher Education, present their own historical development and explain how university rankers claim a demand for their services and how they respond to their critics. The research contributes to higher education studies by demonstrating the pathways of industrialisation of rankings and the development of ranking associated services including conferences and summits, data consulting, and brand management services. The variety of these services highlights the increasing number and also differentiation of ranking audiences and the ways in which university rankers cultivate target markets.


Dr Miguel Antonio Lim is Senior Lecturer in Education and Impact Coordinator at the Manchester Institute of Education at the University of Manchester. He is co-convenor of the Higher Education Research Network at Manchester.

Photo of Miguel Lim

Dr Miguel Antonio Lim

Previously, he was EU-Marie Curie Fellow at Aarhus University, Denmark, and task force leader on migration and higher education at the EU-Marie Curie Alumni Association. He has worked and taught at Sciences Po-Paris, the London School of Economics (LSE), and University College London (UCL).



Developing Ethical Internationalisation of the Curriculum and Pedagogy in Higher Education

Seminar 12-1:30pm, Tuesday 20 October
Dr Jenna Mittelmeier, University of Manchester

To book, email our education research team.


International student mobility is a frequent discussion point in higher education, particularly considering more than four million students currently study for a degree outside their home country. Yet, despite the increased presence of international students, systemic change regarding internationalisation of the curriculum or pedagogies with international students has been limited. This session offers a critical perspective on issues of ethics in internationalised classrooms and suggestions for increased intercultural inclusivity in higher education teaching practices.


Photo of Dr Jenna Mittelmeier

Dr Jenna Mittelmeier

Dr Jenna Mittelmeier is Lecturer in International Education at the University of Manchester. Her research expertise focuses on international students’ transition experiences and curriculum internationalisation.





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

Professor Rosemary Deem, Royal Holloway

21 January 2020


Beyond employability: Higher education that enables graduates to contribute to organisations

Dr Peter Kahn, University of Liverpool

27th February 2020

How students’ freedom to learn is threatened by student engagement policies

Professor Bruce Macfarlane, University of Bristol

6th March 2020

International research collaboration: The Cases of Russia and Taiwan

Prof Sheng-Ju Chan, National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan
12:30pm, 27 June 2019


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