The recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) confirmed earlier clear signals (BIS, 2011; QS, 2014) about the high quality and impact of UK educational research. REF 2014 showed 66% of educational research to be in the top categories of ‘world leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’. As a field, educational research is large and vibrant, and is particularly successful at developing future research capacity with a high level of Doctoral completions. The British Educational Research Association (BERA) now has the highest number of members in its 42-year history and UK-based educational research continues to hold a prominent position on the international stage.
It is not difficult to see why we need excellent educational research. One only has to look at the sheer scale and breadth of educational activity in schools, colleges, universities and training contexts.Then there is the enormous investment of money, time and energy on the part of governments, organisations and individuals. Add to this the power of education to shape the capacities, world-views, ambitions, prospects and values of so many younger and older citizens (and therefore the culture, society and economy), and the case becomes compelling.
Educational research generates insight, evidence and analysis that can be used to improve policy and practice for greater efficiency and effectiveness. At the same time it is a source of new understandings, new ideas, new approaches and robust, independent constructive criticism. Together, these are at the core of its contribution to the health of a democratic society.
Educational research faces similar challenges to other social sciences in a time of relative austerity, and Britain’s prominent place in European research projects is likely to become more difficult to sustain following the outcome of the referendum on EU membership. Despite these uncertainties, a strong track record and high potential for impact are good grounds for optimism when looking to the future.
As even the small ‘taster selection’ of examples contained in this booklet shows, educational research encompasses a wide range of concerns, from the most detailed learning situation through to global issues. It has its own identity, whilst also drawing in other disciplines both within and beyond the social sciences.
Educational research matters. These examples demonstrate why.
This issue has been made possible through the kind support provided by the British Educational Research Association, the Scottish Educational Research Association and the publisher Routledge,Taylor & Francis.