The Philosophy, Religion and Education Research Group provides a unique interdisciplinary meeting place in the Department of Education for ideas on and around education from a range of disciplinary perspectives, including the arts, cultural studies, literature, philosophy, the study of religion and theology, and science and technology studies.

The group is especially interested in making links between different theoretical perspectives which inform and interconnects the arts and humanities, philosophy and the social sciences through its common denominator of education. It has convened nearly 100 events in the department and beyond.

Its conveners have diverse research interests:

Dr Liam Gearon has multidisciplinary interests in the arts and literature, philosophy of education, theories of religious, as well as security and intelligence, specialising in the relationships between universities and the security and intelligence agencies. The author and or editor of 30 books and one hundred articles and chapter, including two novels to be published in 2018, Liam Gearon has made a sustained contribution to research in religious education, as well as philosophy, literature and the arts for over 20 years.

Professor Alis Oancea is Director of Research in the Department of Education. She specialises in philosophy of research and in research-on-research, in particular studies of research policy and higher education governance (including work on research impact and knowledge exchange, research quality, evaluation, assessment, and rankings). She has specialist interest in the philosophy of education, including in the cultural value of research in the arts and humanities. She is Secretary of the Oxford Branch of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain.

Dr Nigel Fancourt directs the MLT programme and 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; and religions and schools.  He is currently researching argumentation in science and religious education (with Professor Erduran and others), funded by the Templeton Foundation.

He is co-convenor of the Oxford Branch of the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain.

The group’s activity is enhanced by collaborations with the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain (Oxford Branch).

Its seminars are open to all members of the University and the public.

Honorary members of the group include

Honorary Research Fellow (UK) Professor James Arthur OBE
Honorary Research Fellow (UK) Dr Lorraine Foreman-Peck
Honorary Research Fellow (Finland// Sweden) Professor Arniika Kuusisto, University of Stockholm
Honorary Research Fellow Professor Terence Lovat (Australia) University of Newcastle Australia

Selected Publications

  • Fancourt, N (2018) “Assessment in Ethics Education: Neoliberalism, Values and Alignment”, In: O Franck (ed.) Assessment in Ethics Education: A Case of National Tests in Religious Education. Springer. 163-176
  • Fancourt, N (2018) “Research ethics in closing the gap: Equipoise in randomised controlled trials in education”, In Childs & Menter (eds.): Mobilising Teacher Researchers: Challenging Educational Inequality. 159-174
  • Fancourt, N (2017) “Teaching about Christianity: a configurative review of research in English schools”, JOURNAL OF BELIEFS & VALUES-STUDIES IN RELIGION & EDUCATION. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1080/13617672.2016.1229469
  • Fancourt, NPM (2017) “Crucifixes in classrooms: the pedagogical assumptions of the European Courts”, In: M Rothgangel, et al. (eds.) Location, space and place in religious education. Religious diversity and education in Europe. Munster: Waxmann.
  • Fancourt, NPM (2017) “Spatial and temporal explanations in researching religious education”, In: M Rothgangel, et al.  (eds.) Location, space and place in religious education. Religious diversity and education in Europe. Munster: Waxmann.
  • Gearon, L. and Prud’homme, J. (2018) State Religious Education and the State of the Religious Life. Oregon: Wipf and Stock.
  • Gearon, L. (2018) ‘Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism Policy and Research in UK Universities (1997-2017): An Analytic-Structural Review of the Literature and Related Sources.’ Policy Reviews in Higher Education, 2 (1) 32-60, Doi/abs/10.1080/23322969.2018.1424561
  • Gearon, L. and Kuusisto, A. (2018) ‘Researching Religious Authority in Education: Political Theology, Elites’ Theory and the Double Nexus’, Power and Education, 10(1) 3–24, doi/abs/10.1177/1757743818757256
  • Gearon, L. (2017) ‘Secularisation and the Securitisation of the Sacred:   A Response to Lewin’s Framing of the Gearon-Jackson Debate’, British  Journal of Educational Studies, doi.org/10.1080/00071005.2017.1363375
  • Gearon, L. (2017) ‘Paradigm Shift in Religious Education: A Reply to Jackson, or Why Religious Education Goes to War’, Journal of Beliefs and Values. Doi/10.1080/13617672.2017.1381438
  • Oancea, A. (2018) The practice of educational research. In: International Handbook of Philosophy of Education. Cham: Springer. ISBN:978-3-319-72759-2.
  • Oancea, A, Florez-Petour, T, Atkinson, J (2018) “The ecologies and economy of cultural value from research”, International Journal of Cultural Policy. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10286632.2015.1128418
  • Oancea, A, Petour, TF, Atkinson, J (2017) “Qualitative network analysis tools for the configurative articulation of cultural value and impact from research”, Research Evaluation. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/reseval/rvx014
  • Oancea, A. (2018) Research governance and the future of research assessment. Palgrave Communications. (forthcoming)
  • Oancea, A. and Xu, X. (2017) Performance-Based Research Funding. In Oxford Bibliographies in Education. Eds. L. Meyer and A. Hynds. New York: Oxford University Press.

Study with us

We are able to offer doctoral level (MPhil and DPhil) supervision across a range of specialist areas, including:

  • Philosophy of Education/ Philosophy of Research
  • Research on Research
  • Religion and Education
  • Philosophy of the Arts and Literature in Education
  • Higher Education
  • Security and Intelligence in Universities

The department also offers the following programmes and modules:

  • Postgraduate Certificate of Education in Religious Education
  • Religious Education route in its Masters in Learning and Teaching (MLT degree)
  • Philosophy of Educational research module to all MSc (Research Design and Methodology) and first year DPhil students

Members of the Forum also teach on a variety of other programmes, including Foundations of Educational Research.

Conveners and members of the Forum supervise or have supervised DPhil students from across the world, including Canada, China, Georgia, Germany, Indonesia, Kosovo, Romania, Serbia, South Korea, Turkey, the UK, and the US.

Examples of current DPhil projects

  • Dina El Odessey Emergent Critical Pedagogies in Community Schools in Egypt: a multi-sited Ethnography
  • Tracey Hartanajaya Accommodating a vision of diversity in different school contexts: “Unity-in-Diversity” in Indonesia
  • Katy Granville-Chapman: How could school leaders improve the flourishing of academic staff?
  • Kristine Gorgen Welcoming & Othering- civic immigrant education in Germany and the United Kingdom.
  • Tom Martin Learning ‘the Feel’ in the Wooden Boat Workshop
  • Robyn Sneath Transnationalism, History, and the Schooling of Low German Mennonites of Canada and Mexico
  • Xin Xu  Incentives for International Publication in the Social Sciences and Humanities in China

Examples of past DPhil projects

  • Abdurrahman Hendek ‘A Comparative Study of Religious Education Policy in Turkey and England
  • Adrian Hilton ‘Free Schools’: the role of Conservative and Liberal political thought in shaping the Policy
  • Hoonhui Cho: The centrality of the state in the governing of higher education in South Korea: A critical discourse analysis
  • Isaac Calvert  Education and the Sacred: Judaic Holiness and the Dynamics of Teaching and Learning – An Ethnography from Jerusalem
  • Jeanne Erickson: The education experiences of eight American adolescents in cancer survivorship
  • Zainab Kabba The Education of American Muslims: Knowledge and Authority in Intensive Islamic Learning Environments
  • Mariela Neagu Young adults’ perspectives on their experiences of different types of placement in Romania
  • Sanja Djerasimovic: Formation of the civic education policy as a discursive project in post-2000 Serbia
  • Steven Puttick: Geography teachers’ subject knowledge: an ethnographic study of three secondary school geography departments
  • Sun Kim: Re-conceptualizing ‘educational policy transfer’: An analysis of the Soviet and US influence on educational reforms in the two Koreas
  • Tatiana Rodriguez Leal “I sometimes question myself”: The learning trajectories of four managers as they confronted changing demands at work


Shaping National and International Research Assessment Policy and Practice.’

Alis Oancea is member of European Commission expert group on New Indicators for Researchers’ Engagement with Open Science and its Impacts  – drawing her my work on research assessment and research careers. The group, comprising of six international experts, met for the first time in November 2017 and will produce its final report and recommendations for European policy by Autumn 2018.

Alis Oancea is also a member of the International Advisory Panel on the reform of primary and lower secondary teacher education in Norway (2017-2019), an initiative established in connection with the Norwegian government’s introduction of five-year integrated master’s programs for primary and lower secondary education. The panel provides direct advice, recommendations and feedback to the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education, to the Ministry of Education in Norway to primary and lower secondary teacher education institutions. The work has been widely covered in the media.

In 2017-18, a team lead by Alis Oancea and including Professor J Michie, Dr A Childs, Dr N Fancourt, Dr I Thompson and Dr J Robson was commissioned to evaluate Wiserd Education, a large-scale five-year investment by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales with the aim to develop the capacity and infrastructure for educational research in Wales and to contribute to research-informed teacher education and educational practice. It led to wider recommendations for future capacity building in educational research in Wales, due to be published by HEFCW in July.

Alis Oancea, David Mills and James Robson were commissioned to review (completed December 2017) the capacity, impact and wider landscape of educational research, for the joint inquiry into educational research led by the British Academy and Royal Society. The inquiry is due to publish its recommendations in 2018.

Liam Gearon and Emma Williams (2018) are currently guest editor of the Journal of Philosophy of Education for a Special Issue on  Philosophy, Literature and Education.

Liam Gearon has won major awards from the Society for Educational Studies to host international colloquia for the 2018 Society for Educational Studies Colloquium