Education: An anatomy of the discipline  rescuing the university project

Year: 2012

Author: Furlong, John

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Given the many challenges it faces, it would not seem to be an exaggeration to say that the university based discipline of Education in the UK and in many other countries is in crisis.  But the depth of the crisis is not one that many recognize and is much more profound than having to deal with the consequences of the latest government interventions (however challenging they may be) or dealing with the financial downturn.   The nature of the crisis is that despite one hundred years of struggle which means that, finally, Education is now housed in the university system, too much of its activity is not really of the university system.  Too much of its teaching and too much of its research is not seen by those who pay for it - particularly governments - as needing to be based in universities at all.   In this paper, John Furlong will explore this current crisis by asking four questions:  Where as a discipline does Education come from? Where is it now? Why is it currently shaped in the way that it is? Where should it be in the future? 


John Furlong is Professor of Educational Studies at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Green Templeton College Oxford.  From 2003 to 2010 he was Director of the Oxford University Department of Education, having previously been head of department at both Bristol and Swansea Universities.  John began his career as a London comprehensive school teacher, carrying out his doctoral studies at the same time. Since moving into higher education he has had an active research career, having directed many externally funded research projects on three main sociological topics - teacher education, new technologies and disaffection from school. He was elected as an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences in 2004 and is a member of the 2014 REF sub-panel in Education.


Mary James is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge where she is Associate Director of Research. From 2002 to 2008 she was Deputy Director of the UK-wide ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme and had responsibility for supporting school-based projects. From 2001-2005 she was also director of one of the largest TLRP projects: ´Learning How to Learn´ - in classrooms, schools and networks'. She was a member of the Assessment Reform Group from 1992 until it disbanded in 2010. Her research interests encompass curriculum, pedagogy and assessment in schools, and implications for teachers´ professional development, school leadership and policy frameworks.