The structures and processes governing education research in the UK from 1990-2020: A systematic scoping review

Year: 2021

Author: Boyle, Christopher

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Pre-recorded presentation link: This paper presents the findings of a systematic scoping review spanning thirty years (1990-2020) that sought to understand the structures and processes influencing education research activities in UK higher education (HE). Review work of this scale has not previously been undertaken on the topic. The purpose of the review was to ‘take stock’ of research in the field, identify continuing and emerging areas of concern regarding education research as a profession, and point to directions for future research. Seven databases were searched and additional strategies included citation chasing and hand-searching. We located 114 peer-reviewed journal articles and one doctoral thesis. Six themes emerged relating to formal structures/processes: culture of performativity and accountability; funding regime; impact agenda; ‘what works’ agenda; heated debates; and professional bodies. A further six themes related to informal structures/processes: academic pressures; affective issues; non-traditional academics; second-career researchers; career stages; and departmental cultures. The themes were complex and appeared to interact with each other. Evidence of the negative impact of neoliberal regimes on working conditions and wellbeing emerged more strongly in the past decade. The review indicates that further research is required into the experiences and academic identities of education researchers from under-represented groups (i.e. women, ethnic minority, working-class, disabled, LGBTQ+ academics). There is also a need for more studies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to understand their unique political-economic-educational contexts. The findings have relevance to education researchers and policy-makers in countries across the globe, particularly in comparable HE systems (e.g., North America, Australia).