Dr Nigel Fancourt

Nigel has worked at Oxford since 2010. He is currently (until December 2017) Director of the PGCE and usually the director of the Masters in Learning and Teaching

He specialises in research on ways of learning at the intersections of different epistemological and ethical domains, particularly in relation to:

  • Research and schools, for instance how and why teachers engage with research;
  • Religions and schools, for instance around policy, pedagogy, and assessment;
  • Conflicting epistemological and ethical demands across professional practices.

He studied Theology, and then Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford; he later completed a PGCE at Westminster College, and then a part-time PhD in educational studies at Warwick.  Previously he worked as a researcher at Warwick, and was a RE teacher for fourteen years in a local state secondary school.

Teaching & Supervising 

Nigel teaches across the professional and research programmes. Apart from leading the MLT, he is a tutor in religious education on the PGCE, and lectures on philosophical and ethical issues for the research degrees.

He welcomes full- and part-time doctoral students in educational topics related to religions & secularities, ethics in education, research use, and professional ethics.  He usually supervises qualitative and mixed-methods approaches, including practitioner and action research studies.  

Recent doctoral students’ studies include: religious pupils’ experiences of schooling in England; adult Muslim learners in USA; teachers’ perceptions of bullying in England and USA; RE in England and Turkey; citizenship education in Indonesia; school leadership & teacher flourishing; shifting professional practices in Post Office management.   

Recent Research

  • 2017-2018: Evaluation of Attachment-Aware CPD – Birmingham (Co-PI, with Professor Judy Sebba). The evaluation of the impact of research-led courses for teachers, on addressing the demands of Looked-After Children. Funded by Birmingham City Council.
  • 2017: Evaluation of WISERDEducation (With Alis Oancea (lead) and others). Report on value and effectiveness of an initiative on developing research capacity in educational research in Wales. Funded by Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.  
  • 2016-2017: Research Use in Schools: teachers’ views of methodology, status and implementation (Co-PI, with Dr Katharine Burn). John Fell funded study of teachers and school leaders in four schools.
  • 2016-2017: Evaluation of Attachment-Aware CPD – Leicestershire (Co-PI, with Professor Judy Sebba (lead)). The evaluation of the impact of research-led courses for teachers, on addressing the demands of Looked-After Children. Funded by Leicestershire County Council.
  • 2015-2017: Ethical quandaries in practice-based research (Co-PI, with Professor Alis Oancea). Departmentally funded project on tensions between professional and research ethics. 
  • 2013-2015: Test and Learn: Closing the Gap. Department for Education sponsored research and development project, with CfBT, CUREE & University of Durham. 7 different randomised controlled trials across 700 schools over two years. Research training leader and research ethics advisor.  
  • 2012-2014: Raising and Sustaining Aspiration in City Schools. A study of Oxford school pupils’ aspirations to higher education. Funded by CitiFoundation.
  • 2012-2014: Leadership for Learning: research and development project (with Oxford Brookes University) on school leaders in Oxford City primary schools.  Funded by Oxford City Council.


Editorial board: British Journal of Religious Education

Reviewer for: Journal of Beliefs and Values, Journal of Contemporary Religion, Journal of International Migration and Integration, Oxford Review of Education, Teachers and Teaching, and Religious Education Journal of Australia.

Current professional associations: Association of University Lecturers in Religion and Education; British Education Research Association; European Network for Religious Education through Contextual Approaches; International Seminar for Religious Education and Values; Philosophy of Education (Great Britain) Society.


Nigel welcomes consultancy work for schools, educational organisations e.g. Education Development Trust, and governments, having carried out projects for organisations around the world – and notably Great Britain, India, Indonesia and Bhutan.  

Book chapters

  • Childs, A, Menter, I (2017) Afterword. 224-231
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9781315160320

  • Fancourt, NPM (2017) “Spatial and temporal explanations in researching religious education”, In: M Rothgangel, K von Bromssen, H-G Heimbrock, G Skeie (eds.) Location, space and place in religious education. Religious diversity and education in Europe. Munster: Waxmann. 39-45

  • Fancourt, NPM (2017) “Crucifixes in classrooms: the pedagogical assumptions of the European Courts”, In: M Rothgangel, K von Bromssen, H-G Heimbrock (eds.) Location, space and place in religious education. Religious diversity and education in Europe. Munster: Waxmann. 87-100

  • Fancourt, N (2017) “Research ethics in closing the gap: Equipoise in randomised controlled trials in education”, In: Mobilising Teacher Researchers: Challenging Educational Inequality. 159-174
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9781315160320

  • Fancourt, NPM (2017) “Assessment in Ethics Education: Neoliberalism, Values and Alignment”, In: O Franck (ed.) Assessment in Ethics Education: A Case of National Tests in Religious Education. Evaluating Education: Normative Systems and Institutional Practices. Springer. 163-176

  • Fancourt, N (2016) “Creating a System of Distributed Expertise: The Oxford Education Deanery Narrative”, In: A Edwards (ed.) Working Relationally in and across Practices A Cultural-Historical Approach to Collaboration. Cambridge University Press.

  • Fancourt, NPM (2014) “Insiders and Outsiders: Task design in learning about religions”, In: I Thompson (ed.) Designing Tasks in Secondary Education Enhancing Subject Understanding and Student Engagement. London: Routledge.

  • Fancourt, N (2013) “Very sad, but it Works’: One pupil’s assessment career in religious education”, In: Religion in Education: Innovation in International Research. 105-118
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9780203067246

  • Fancourt, NPM (2013) “Religious education across Europe: contexts in policy scholarship”, In: G Skeie, J Everington, I Avest, S Miedema (eds.) Exploring Context in Religious Education Research Empirical, Methodological and Theoretical Perspectives. Münster: Waxmann Verlag.

  • Fancourt, NPM (2011) “Differentiation”, In: P Barnes (ed.) Debates in Religious Education. London: Routledge.

  • Fancourt, N (2009) “Reflexive Assessment: The Interpretive Approach and Classroom Assessment”, In: J Ipgrave, R Jackson, K O’Grady (eds.) Religious Education Research Through a Community of Practice Action Research and the Interpretive Approach. Munster: Waxmann.

  • Fancourt, NPM (2009) “The “safe forum”: difference, dialogue and conflict”, In: J Ipgrave, R Jackson, K O'Grady (eds.) Religious Education Research Through a Community of Practice Action Research and the Interpretive Approach. Münster: Waxmann.

  • Fancourt, NPM (2007) “The dialogical teacher: pupils’ perceptions of good teaching in religious education”, In: C Bakker, G Heimbrock (eds.) Researching RE Teachers. RE Teachers as Researchers. Münster: Waxmann Verlag.

Journal articles

  • Fancourt, N (2017) “Teaching about Christianity: a configurative review of research in English schools”, JOURNAL OF BELIEFS & VALUES-STUDIES IN RELIGION & EDUCATION. 38(1) 121-133.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13617672.2016.1229469

  • Fancourt, N (2016) “The classification and framing of religious dialogues in two English schools”, BRITISH JOURNAL OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION. 38(3) 325-340.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01416200.2015.1113932


  • Fancourt, NPM (2015) “Re-defining learning about religion and learning from religion: A study of policy change”, British Journal of Religious Education. 37(2) 122-137.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01416200.2014.923377

  • Fancourt, N, Edwards, A, Menter, I (2015) “Reimagining a School – University Partnership: The Development of the Oxford Education Deanery Narrative”, Education Inquiry. 6(3) 27724-27724.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/edui.v6.27724

  • Fancourt, N (2013) “"Very sad, but it works": One pupil's assessment career in religious education”, Religion and Education. 40(1) 78-89.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15507394.2013.745360

  • Fancourt, N (2013) “Law, religious freedoms and education in Europe”, BRITISH JOURNAL OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION. 35(2) 218-220.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01416200.2012.760912

  • Brooks, V, Fancourt, N (2012) “Is self-assessment in religious education unique?”, BRITISH JOURNAL OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION. 34(2) 123-137.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01416200.2011.614747

  • Fancourt, N (2010) “'I'm less intolerant': Reflexive self-assessment in religious education”, British Journal of Religious Education. 32(3) 291-305.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01416200.2010.498616

  • Fancourt, N (2007) “Quelle formation pour l'éducation à la religion? (British Journal of Religious Education (2005) 29, 2 (197-99))”, British Journal of Religious Education. 29(3) 303+.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01416200701479927

  • Fancourt, N (2005) “Challenges for self-assessment in religious education”, British Journal of Religious Education. 27(2) 115-125.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0141620042000336611

  • Fancourt, N (2003) “Whole-class strategies in Religious Education”, Support for Learning. 18(3) 112-116.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9604.00292

  • Fancourt, NPM “Assessment, failure and motivation in religious education”, Religious Education Journal of Australia. 28(2) 29-35.

Internet publication

  • Fancourt, NPM (2012) It’s time to rethink the way Christianity is taught in schools. Guardian Online.


  • Alexander, P, Edwards, A, Fancourt, NPM, Menter, I (2014) Raising and sustaining aspiration in City Schools. University of Oxford: Department of Education.

  • Fancourt, NPM (2012) Teaching Christianity in religious education: a review of research. University of Oxford: Nigel Fancourt.

  • Jackson, R, Ipgrave, J, Hayward, M, Hopkins, P, Fancourt, NPM, Robbins, M, Francis, LJ, McKenna, U (2010) Materials used to Teach about World Religions in Schools in England. London: DCSF.


  • Fancourt, N (2016) “Philosophical perspectives on teacher education”, JOURNAL OF BELIEFS & VALUES-STUDIES IN RELIGION & EDUCATION. 37(1) 123-124.
    DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13617672.2015.1107369

  • Burns, J Teaching of Christianity ‘lacks intellectual development’.


  • Department staff

College affiliation

  • St Stephen's House


  • Associate Professor

Subject area

  • D.Phil
  • MSc Learning and Teaching
  • PGCE Religious Education

Research groups

  • OSAT
  • Philosophy, Religion and Education
  • Teacher Education and Professional Learning

01865 274259

Publications, books and other work