The Philosophy, Religion and Education Research Group provides a unique interdisciplinary contribution to the research culture of the Department of Education at the University of Oxford.

The Philosophy, religion and education Research Group specifically forges theoretical and empirical interconnections between the arts, humanities, philosophy and the social sciences through the common focus of education. Contributions of this research group have been made to matters such as: theories of research policy and impact; the cultural value of research in the arts and humanities; research ethics; the intersection of epistemological and ethical domains in research in schools; religion, radicalisation and counter-terrorism in schools and universities; and the creation of distinctive sub-field of study at the interface of education, security and intelligence studies.

The research group convener is Liam Gearon. He and the co-convenors Alis Oancea and Nigel Fancourt have diverse research interests which all contribute to this distinctive research culture.

Liam Francis Gearon is Associate Professor in Religious Education in the Department of Education, Senior Research Fellow at Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford; Docent, University of Helsinki, Finland; Conjoint Professor at Newcastle University, Australia; Visiting Professor at the Irish Centre for Catholic Studies, MIC, Limerick, Ireland; Extraordinary Professor, North-West University, South Africa. Liam has multidisciplinary interests in the arts and literature, philosophy of education, and the epistemological foundations of contemporary religious education. Cognate interests at the interface of religion, security and education have enabled empirical, methodological and theoretical advances on the ethics of security and radicalisation research, notably through critical analyses of the relationships between universities and the security and intelligence agencies. The author and or editor of 30 books and one hundred articles and chapters, as Principal Investigator, Liam has led funded research projects with the Academy of Finland, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust, the Nuffield Foundation, the Philosophy of Education Society of Great Britain, and the Society for Educational Studies.

Professor Alis Oancea 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 Research Fellow (UK) Professor James Arthur OBE
  • Honorary Research Fellow (UK) Dr Lorraine Foreman-Peck
  • Honorary Research Fellow (UK) Dr John Gay
  • Honorary Research Fellow (Finland/ Sweden) Professor Arniika Kuusisto, University of Stockholm
  • Honorary Research Fellow Professor Terence Lovat (Australia) University of Newcastle Australia
  • Honorary Research Fellow Distinguished Professor Linda Woodhead MBE


Selected Publications


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