Skip to content

Department of Education

John Brennan

Honorary Research Fellow

John Brennan is Emeritus Professor of Higher Education Research at the Open University and a Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics and the University of Bath.

A sociologist by background, his interests lie broadly in the area of higher education and social change. For nearly 20 years, he directed the Centre for Higher Education Research and Information at the Open University where he led and participated in many national and international projects on topics such as graduate employment, quality assurance, the academic profession, and universities and social transformation. He has published several books and many reports and articles on higher education and its changing relationship with society and has spoken at countless conferences  in the UK and many other parts of the world. Before joining the Open University in 1992, he had been Director of Quality Support at the UK Council for National Academic Awards and had held academic posts at Lancaster University and Teesside Polytechnic. Most recently, he has been a key expert for the European Commission on projects on ‘Innovation in Higher Education’ and ‘Universities and Research Organisations as drivers of ‘smart specialisation’ for regional development’. He has also been working on projects with UNESCO’s International Institute on Educational Planning (IIEP), one on ‘Internal Quality Assurance in Higher Education’ and one on ‘Flexible Learning Pathways in Higher education’.

Professor Brennan has contributed to the Department’s MSc Education over several years and, during the academic year, 2014/5, he joined the Department on a part-time basis to provide additional teaching on the Higher Education parts of the MSc. He also does some teaching and supervision on the DBA Higher Education Management at the University of Bath. He is a Fellow of the Society for Research into Higher Education and a founder member of the international Consortium of Higher Education.

Main external research grants since 2000
  • Change in Networks, Higher Education and Knowledge Societies, ESRC, Oct 2009 – Sept 2012, £240,000
  • Higher education and regional transformation, ESRC, June 2007 – May 2009, £423,910
  • Higher education in Europe beyond 2010: resolving conflicting social & economic expectations, European Science Foundation, April 2006 – Sept 2007, £98,000
  • Cross Regional Perspectives on the Transformative Impact of Higher Education on Disadvantaged Groups and Communities, ESRC, March – July 2006, £12,000
  • Changing Nature of the Academic Profession: an international study, UUK, HEFCE, HEA, UCU, Jan 06 – Dec 2007, £54,000
  • The development of a long-term research and evaluation plan to underpin policies on learning and teaching, HEFCE, May- Sept 2004, £30,960
  • What is Learned at University.  The social and organization mediation of university learning, ESRC/TLRP, Jan 2004 – Dec 2007, £774,000
  • The flexible professional in the knowledge society , European Framework 6 project (and HEFCE), May 2004 – April 2007, £114,000
  • The Role of Universities in the Transformation of Societies, Ford, Soros and Rockefeller Foundations, July 2003 – Oct 2004, £82,000
  • Feasibility a feasibility study to test a proposal for a Greater Manchester Strategic Alliance , Greater Manchester Strategic Alliance, July – Oct 2003, £62,430
  • Collecting and Using Student Feedback on Quality and Standards of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education , HEFCE, July – Dec 2002, £43,250
  • Impact of Debt and Term-Time Working on Higher Education, Universities UK and HEFCE, Jan 2001 – Dec 2002, £139,750
  • Rolling Research Brief (Higher education research database), DfES, UUK, HEFCE, HEA, July 2000 – on-going, £370,000 (to date)
Authored and edited books
  • (with Cochrane A.C., Lebeau Y.,Williams R.K), 2018 The  University in its Place: social and cultural perspectives on the regional role of  universities, Dortrecht: Springer
  • (with Galez – Fontez J P, Arimoto A and Teichler U, 2016 forthcoming, Biographies and Careers throughout Academic Life, Dortrecht: Springer
  • (with Teichler U and Zgaga P (eds) 2013, The Globalisation Challenge for European Higher Education: Convergence and Diversity, Centres and Peripheries, Frankfurt: Peter Lang
  • (with Jary D, Osborne M, Richardson J, Edmunds R, Houston M, Lebeau Y), 2009, Improving what is learned at university, London: Routledge.
  • (with Shah T), 2000, Managing Quality in Higher Education: An International Perspective on Institutional Assessment and Change, Buckingham: Open University Press.
  • (with Fedrowitz J, Huber M, Shah T) eds, 1999, What Kind of University?, Open University Press: London.
  • (with deVries P and Williams RK), eds, 1997, Standards and Quality in Higher Education, Jessica Kingsley Publishers: London.
  • (with Kogan M, Teichler U) eds, 1995, Higher Education and Work, Jessica Kingsley Publishers: London.
  • (with Westerheijden DF and Maassen PAM) eds, 1994, Changing Contexts of Quality Assessment, Uitgeverij Lemma, Dortrecht.
  • (with Lyon E, McGeevor P, Murray K), 1993, Students, Courses and Jobs: the relationship between higher education and the labour market, Jessica Kingsley Publishers: London.
  • (with Boys C, Kogan M, Kirkland J, Henkel M, Youll P), 1989, Higher Education and the Preparation for Work, Jessica Kingsley Publishers: London.
  • (with Silver H), 1988, A Liberal Vocationalism, Methuen: London.
  • (with McGeevor P), 1988, Graduates at Work: Degree Courses and the Labour Market, Jessica Kingsley Publishers: London.
Some book chapters
  • 2018, The social dimension of higher education: reproductive and transformative, in B Cantwell, H Coates and R King (eds) Handbook on the Politics of Higher Education, Edward Elgar Publishing
  • (with M Henkel), 2018, Higher education systems and institutions, in International Encyclopaedia of Higher Education Systems and Themes, Dortrecht: Springer
  • (with M Henkel), 2018, Higher education research in the UK, in International Encyclopaedia of Higher Education Systems and Themes, Dortrecht: Springer
  • 2017, Internal quality assurance and employability: can it make a difference? in M Martin (ed) Trends, Innovative Practices and Effects in Internal Quality Assurance in Higher Education, Paris: UNESCO
  • 2017, Higher education in its social context, in D Dashavantha Reddy, K Venkateswara Rao, K Rama Krishna (eds) Insights on Global Challenges and Opportunities for the Century Ahead, Hyderabas: B.S. Publications
  • (with R Naidoo and M Franco) 2017, From academic profession to higher education workforce: academic careers in the UK, in M de Lourdes Machado-Taylor, V M Soares, U Teichler (eds)
    Challenges and Options: The Academic Profession in Europe, Dortrecht: Springer
  • (with Branca Sousa, S), 2013, UK research excellence framework and the transformation of research production, in C Musselin and P Teixeira (eds), Reforming Higher Education: public policy design and implementation, Dortrecht:Springer
  • 2013 , Higher education differentiation and the myth of meritocracy: the case of the UK, in J L Brennan, U Teichler and P Zgaga (ed) The Globalisation Challenge for European Higher Education: Convergence and Diversity, Centres and Peripheries, Frankfurt: Peter Lang
  • (with Patel K), 2011, Up Market or Down Market: shopping for higher education in the UK, in P N Teixeira and D D Dill (eds) Public Vices, Private Virtues: assessing the effects of marketisation in higher education, Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
  • (with Patel K), 2011, ‘Excellence’ and the Student Experience of Higher Education: What it is and How to find it, in M Rostan and M Vaira (eds) Questionning Excellence in Higher Education: policies, experiences and challenges in national and comparative perspective, Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
  • (with Singh M,), 2011, Playing the quality game – whose quality and whose higher education? in C Calhoun and D Rhoten (eds) The Public Mission of the Research University, New York: Columbia University Press.
  • 2010,  Employability of university graduates and graduate outcomes, in International Encyclopaedia of Education, 3rd Edition, Elsevier.
  • 2010, Final thoughts on his ‘conceptual system’ – a legacy for the next 30 years, introduction to Trow M, ‘Reflections on the Transition from Elite to Mass to Universal Access: Forms and Phases of Higher Education in Modern Societies since WWII’ in M Burridge (ed) Elite to Mass to Universal: Martin Trow on the transformation of higher education in the 20th century, University of California Press.
  • 2009, Quality, Equity and the Social Dimension: the shift from national to European level, in B M. Kehm, J Huisman and B Stensaker,(eds) European Higher Education: sustainable futures, Dortrecht: Springer.
Some journal articles
  • (with A Cochrane) 2019, Universities: in, of and beyond their cities, in Oxford Review of Education, Vol 45, No 2, Taylor and Francis
  • 2018, Success factors in quality management in higher education: intended and unintended impacts, European Journal of Higher Education, Routledge
  • 2011 Is there a future for higher education institutions in the knowledge society? in the European Review, London: Academica Europaea
  • 2010, Burton Clark’s ‘The Higher Education System: academic organisation in cross-national perspective’, in The London Review of Education, London: Taylor and Francis.
  • 2008, Higher education and social change, in Higher Education, Vol 56, No.3, Dortrecht: Springer.
  • (with Naidoo, R), 2008, Higher education and the achievement (and/or prevention) of equity and social justice, in Higher Education, Vol 56, No.3, Dortrecht: Springer.
  • (with Teichler, U), 2008, The future of higher education and of higher education research, in Higher Education, Vol 56, No.3, Dortrecht: Springer.
  • (with Osborne, M), 2008, Higher education’s many diversities: of students, institutions and experiences: and outcomes? in Research Papers in Education, Taylor and Francis, Vol 23, No 2, 179-190.
  • (with Thorpe, M), 2008, Public value in adult learning, in Ad Lib, the Cambridge University Journal for Continuing Liberal Adult Education, 35,  University of Cambridge.
  • (with Williams R and Woodley A), 2005, Alumni studies in the United Kingdom, in Enhancing Alumni Research: European and American Perspectives – New Directions for Institutional Research, No 126, pp22-25.
  • 2005, Managing Quality and the Globalization of Higher Education, (translated into Japanese by Akiyoshi Yonezawa), in Research on Academic Degrees and University Evaluation, No 3.
  • 2004, Graduate employment: issues for debate and enquiry, in International Higher Education, 34 (Winter), 12-14
Follow Us