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100th Anniversary of the passing of a statute creating the Oxford University Department of Education

In 2019, the University of Oxford’s Department of Education celebrates its 100th anniversary in style; rated first in the UK for degrees in education by the Times Higher Education World University Subject Rankings, number one in the UK for research in education by the most recent Research Excellence Framework (the REF), and as part of the world’s leading University for Social Sciences teaching and research.

Originally established in 1919 to prepare teachers for Elementary and Secondary schools, the department’s contribution to the wider community has been evident since its inception, with the delivery of the University’s cultural resources to schools always being of critical importance. Our excellence in teacher education remains a core part of the department today, as demonstrated through the recently received ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted rating of our PGCE programmes, through our MSc in Teacher Education and Learning and Teaching, our research informed teaching practices, and the work of our Oxford Education Deanery, which has been dedicated to supporting teachers’ professional development and improving outcomes for pupils in schools since 2013.

Today, the department has 7 postgraduate programmes, 9 research groups, 4 research centres, over 590 postgraduate students and more than 160 staff members. The department takes particular pride in the diversity of its students, with 33% of students coming from the UK or EU during 2018 and the remaining 67% from countries overseas, including Ghana, Japan, Germany, India, Malaysia, China, Mexico, Estonia, Australia, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey and the United States, among many others.

Research in the department has continued to grow over this past century, not only across the breadth of its research areas, addressing issues in Language, Cognition and Development, Policy, Economy and Society, and Pedagogy, Learning and Knowledge but also through its increased physical growth, research activity and popularity. In 2018, the number of researchers in the department increased by 36%, research income exceeded department records and the number of doctoral applications increased by 20%.

The relevance of our research on policy, in particular, has been both influential and crucial to the UK government through parliamentary committees such as the  Science and Technology Committee, the Treasury Select Committee and the Economic Affairs Committee, to the Education Committee, the House of Lords Select Committee and the Women’s & Equalities Committee. The depth of research on both an inter and cross-disciplinary level has seen collaboration not only within the Social Science disciplines, from Philosophy, Social Policy, Sociology and Psychology, but also into the Humanities and Medical Sciences.

Last year saw the launch of a brand new Masters programme aimed at researchers and professionals in the field of educational assessment and led by academic researchers from the department’s Centre for Educational Assessment. We also welcomed three new senior academic Professorships to the department in Higher Education, Teacher Education and Child Development and Education, with Associate Professorships in Applied Linguistics and Higher Education underway. 2018 also saw the arrival of our most recent research centre, the Centre for Global Higher Education, now headquartered at the department and actively researching themes from the internationalisation of Higher Education, local and global public good contributions of Higher Education and the implications of Brexit, trade and migration for UK universities.

100th Anniversary Activities

To mark our 100th anniversary a year-long series of themed activities will be delivered to address some of the department’s top initiatives for 2019, answer some of the big questions facing education today and to reveal the advancements the department has made to the study of and research in the field of education.

Celebrations will start with a public seminar series on ‘Student Access to University’, led by Simon Marginson (Professor of Higher Education and Director of the Centre for Global Higher Education). The series will run for 5 weeks starting in January and involve an array of education experts within and outside of the department. In March, our annual student conference, STORIES (Students’ Ongoing Research in Education Studies), will explore issues in mental health, access and accountability in education. During Trinity term we will discuss the importance of Teacher Education, the basis that established the department in 1919, through our second public seminar series for the year, as well as celebrating with our alumni through the relaunch of our annual Oxford Education Society lecture.

A paper commemorating the centenary and the department’s history will also be published by Emeritus Professor and former Department Director, Richard Pring, later in the year. Entitled, ‘Teacher Training at Oxford University; Reluctant birth, Robust development – and the Oxford Review of Education’, the paper will set-out the department’s evolution, relationship with the University and cultural involvement with the wider community and contribution to Government policy.

If you would like the opportunity to explore our history, learn more about our future research and discover how you can be part of our 100th anniversary celebrations, join our mailing list and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for all the latest updates. Further announcements will follow throughout the year.

To find out more about our research:

To view our public seminar series on ‘Student Access to University’ and register to attend see here.

To find out more about our PGCE, range of masters programmes and DPhil in education:

To view all upcoming events:

The Department of Education has achieved its highest annual research income to date, with records also showing an 82% increase in the total amount of research funding since 2016. This news comes just ahead of its 100th anniversary year.

The department’s current research portfolio comprises over 80 active projects, with research taking place across six of the world’s continents.  During 2017/18 funding was received from EU Government and Industry, Research Councils, UK Charity, Industry and the Public sectors. Some key funders included the European Commission, Economic & Social Research Council, Nuffield Foundation, Wellcome Trust, Education Endowment Fund and the Departments of Health and Social Care, Children Schools & Families, Education and Education & Skills.

Research in the department addresses a wide range of education matters across the lifespan, from the early years, through schooling, further and higher education and into the workplace. Projects awarded during this period have spanned educational themes addressing language, cognition and development, policy, economy and society, and pedagogy, learning and knowledge. Some areas of particular focus have included research to address equality and social disadvantage in education, children’s emotional, social, mental health and well-being, as well as advancements in digital learning and assessment. Below are a selection of some of our current research projects.

With millions of children around the world using digital learning technologies claiming to have developmental significance, a grant received during the 2017/18 period has allowed the department to coordinate a rigorous programme of research to examine key issues in learning through digital technologies so to better understand and improve the process for children and their learning at critical points in their lives.

Children who enter school with poorly developed language are also at high risk of educational failure and it is imperative that they receive intervention before they fail to learn. Research funded by the Nuffield Foundation has allowed the department to develop a preschool language programme for use in nurseries to ameliorate the language weaknesses seen in disadvantaged groups at school entry, whilst also reducing the inequalities in educational attainment associated with social disadvantage.

A two year collaborative project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme will also see departmental researchers contribute to an initiative to combat inequalities and increase inclusiveness in education systems and society across 11 countries. The project includes 17 partners who will aim to contribute to effective policy and practice development at different system levels in order to effectively combat early arising and persisting educational inequalities.

Starting in February 2018, a new five year research programme has begun to increase the understanding of the role of attachment and trauma in children’s education by facilitating staff development on attachment and trauma in a minimum of 300 schools nationally. The programme is taking place across primary, secondary and special schools across England. The expectation, to demonstrate that schools being ‘attachment aware’ and addressing these needs early will lead to improved quality of relationships and the experience of all children and young people in school and make a difference to young people’s emotional, social, mental health and well-being.

Memory is the ability to remember and manipulate information over short-time frames. With proven studies showing a correlation between working memory and attainment in maths, particularly arithmetic, the Education Endowment Foundation granted the department research funds to utilise a working memory intervention that would improve children’s working memory in deaf and hearing children in the UK, targeting those who have been identified by teachers as performing in the bottom third of the class for numeracy at the end of Key Stage 1. This will see the intervention utilised in over 120 national schools by training teaching assistants to deliver the programme.

Children’s Centres are a much valued resource for parents expecting a baby, or those with a child under 5 years old, providing a place, or group of places, where local families with young children can go and enjoy facilities and receive support that they need. Research funded by the Sutton Trust has allowed the department to survey local authorities in England and investigate closure and change in centre provision. The research discovered that closures in England were double that of the official government figures. The final report was sent to Leila Moran MP (LibDem Education lead), accompanied by five top recommendations for the future.

Young people Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEETs), is a term that was first used in the UK but has since spread to other countries and regions. In 2012 no less than 15% of young people aged 15-29 in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries were Not in Employment, Education or Training. It is known that NEET rates vary markedly between countries – in Turkey, for example, almost 30% of all young people were NEETs in 2012, whilst in the Netherlands the NEET rate was 7% – the lowest of all the countries. Funding received by the Economic and Social Research Council has allowed the department to explore and understand the similarities and differences in NEETs across several OECD countries to identify patterns, causes and consequences in France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and the UK.

An international survey commissioned by the Department for Education exploring the use of teaching and learning research to inform and improve teaching practice by looking directly into the classroom and capturing insights and observations on an international scale. The department has provided the academic and technical input for the design of the English component of the video study pilot, and is contributing to the resulting analysis and insights for relevant policy makers.

The Department of Education is renowned for its research excellence and was ranked first in the UK in the most recent research evaluation exercise (the REF). The department has nine research groups and four research centres specialising in Applied Linguistics, English Medium Instruction, Child Development and Learning, Foster Care and Education, Educational Assessment, Comparative and International Education, Skills Knowledge and Organisational Performance, Higher Education, Philosophy and Religion, Learning and New Technologies, Pedagogy, Sociocultural and Activity Theory and Teacher Education and Professional Learning.

In 2019, the department will celebrate its 100th year leading research in education. This milestone acknowledging the official passing of a statute creating the Oxford University Department of Education, known in 1919 as ‘The University Department for the Training of Teachers’. A year-long series of themed activities will be delivered to celebrate, starting with a Public Seminar Series to address ‘Student Access to University’. If you have an interest in the future of education and would like to be kept informed about our anniversary activities, join our mailing list to receive the top news, publications and event opportunities for the forthcoming year and beyond.

To find out more about the Public Seminar Series on ‘Student Access to University’, visit:

To learn more about our breadth of research and view all active projects,

The Economist

Article citing Simon Marginson (Professor of Higher Education)

Read now.

The Guardian

Article citing research and commentary from Simon Marginson (Professor of Higher Education).

Read now.

Proficiency in English can directly influence the academic achievement of a student with English as an Additional Language, according to new research conducted by the department academic, Steve Strand.

Published on 11 October, the report: ‘English as an Additional Language, proficiency in English and pupils’ educational achievement: An analysis of Local Authority data’ was conducted by the department in partnership with the Bell Foundation and Unbound Philanthropy, and focused on better understanding the experiences of students in the UK with English as an Additional Language (EAL), and to what degree ability (proficiency) shaped them.

The findings support the growing argument that the decision taken by the Department for Education (DfE) in June of this year, to scrap compulsory EAL proficiency data collection in schools, was a mistake. In recent months EAL professionals have put increasing pressure on government Ministers to reinstate the short-lived rule and today’s report has only strengthened their case.

The report assessed January 2017 School Census data from more than 140,000 pupils from 1,569 schools in six Local Authorities. Although this was the first year that the School Census included the requirement for schools to assess the proficiency in English of their EAL learners, the information was not made available in the National Pupil Database (NPD).

Professor Steve Strand, one of the report authors and Professor of Education at the department said: ‘The Department for Education has since announced that it no longer requires schools to assess a child’s proficiency in English for the purpose of transmitting it to the department via the School Census. This is a retrograde step, and potentially a damaging one, as the scale is the best predictor of EAL learners’ educational attainment, and therefore I strongly urge the Department for Education to reconsider this decision and to include the data in the National Pupil Database so that further research can be conducted.’

The term ‘English as an Additional Language’ encompasses pupils with a wide range of language skills, from new arrivals to the country with little or no exposure to English, to those brought up in multilingual homes, who are also fully fluent in English.

The report finds that although English language support is most needed in early years’ education and at Key Stage 1, there is also a need for support at later ages for some pupils. Assessing a student’s proficiency in English language is key to providing the right level of support to students of all ages, and developing a tailored programme to guide them from their first day at school, throughout the rest of the curriculum.

The report finds that your proficiency in English is central to understanding achievement and levels of need among pupils with EAL. In fact, proficiency in English can explain 22% of the variation in EAL pupils’ achievement compared to the typical 3-4% that can be statistically explained using gender, free school meal status and ethnicity.

The findings also suggest that being bilingual is an asset to learning, and not the barrier that some research has claimed. However, low proficiency in the language of instruction used at a school can be a significant barrier. The report’s authors caution that providing support for students so that they can reach the proficiency level needed to succeed, is vital to providing effective education to EAL pupils.

The report’s authors are urging schools to continue to assess the proficiency in English of their EAL pupils, and to use this data to identify individual needs, in order to provide targeted support.

The findings include a number of suggested recommendations for the Department for Education (DfE). These include, reconsidering the decision to withdraw the Proficiency in English Scale, which is a valuable tool to understand pupils’ EAL language proficiency and to predict attainment. Secondly, to make that data available in the National Pupil Database so that it can provide researchers with the vital data they need to truly understand this heterogeneous group. Finally, the authors recommend that the DfE provides guidance on best practice in EAL assessment to schools to enable them to understand the variability in EAL pupils’ educational achievement and to plan targeted support.

Diana Sutton, Director, The Bell Foundation, commented: ‘This report provides more evidence on the diversity of this group of learners and therefore the need for valid and reliable assessment. Assessment allows teachers to establish the EAL learner’s current proficiency in English language, alongside other background information, to inform individually tailored targets and support strategies for teaching and learning, ultimately allowing learners to develop their language skills and fully access the curriculum.

‘The Foundation encourages the Department for Education to use the evidence contained in the report to provide more comprehensive guidance for schools to undertake EAL assessment. Through undertaking robust assessment schools can develop a better understanding of their learners, their level of proficiency and their needs, which will inform teaching and learning.’

TES article citing research led by Steve Strand.

Read now.

Members from the department will collaborate with Peking University (China) on the development of maths interventions for Chinese children. The collaboration was inspired by the Reasoning First programme, a programme developed by researchers from the department’s Children Learning Research group, to promote mathematical learning.

The interventions, which will be specially re-designed involve two weeks of intensive joint work taking place in Beijing, starting in September. The visit of four members of the research group –Terezinha Nunes, Peter Bryant, Deborah Evans and Susan Baker – to Beijing is being sponsored by Peking University to launch this collaboration. The Chinese team will be led by Professor Lei Wang, from the Psychology Department.

For more information about the Reasoning First programme, see here.

29 October 2018 – Professor Lars-Erik Malmberg (Quantitative Methods in Education) will deliver his first Professorial talk as part of the department’s flagship public seminar series.

The Department of Education’s public seminar series are convened by members of the department and run throughout the academic year.

The Michaelmas term 2018 programme will include a wealth of speakers from across the department and wider University, as well as internationally recognised professionals from across the globe. Together, the invited speakers will provide a critical overview of and insight to their specialisms in the subject area of Education.

Professor Malmberg’s seminar will explore how students’ experiences of learning are comprised of dynamic sequences of intraindividual processes that take place in real-time throughout school days and weeks. Key findings from a recent study will be presented, together with some suggestions for policies on personalized learning. The use for collecting real-time data (experience sampling or ecological momentary assessment) through electronic devices such as tablets and iPads will be discussed.

Lars-Erik Malmberg is Professor of Quantitative Methods in Education. He began his career as a primary school teacher in Finland. He is Docent in Education with particular focus on quantitative methods, at Åbo Akademi University, Vasa, Finland, where he earned his Doctorate of Education. He completed his post-doc at Yale University and enjoyed the prestigious Research Councils UK (RCUK) academic fellowship 2007-12. He has more than 70 publications (peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and reports). He is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Learning and Instruction 2018-21 (impact factor 3.97). His current research interests are on intraindividual approaches to learning processes, and modelling of intensive longitudinal data. He has published on effects of education, child care and parenting on developmental and educational outcomes, and teacher development. He applies advanced quantitative models to the investigation of substantive research questions in education. Together with his colleagues he recently completed the ESRC-funded seminar series called “Network on Intrapersonal Research in Education”.

To register to attend visit:

To view all upcoming public seminars in the Michaelmas Term 2018 series visit:

Congratulations to researchers from the department’s Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education who have been Highly Commended for Excellence in Impact in the inaugural O2RB Excellence in Impact Awards for their work on The Educational Progress of Looked After Children in England – the first major study in England to explore the relationship between educational outcomes, young people’s care histories and individual characteristics.

The awards were announced on Thursday 19 April in a ceremony at St Anne’s College, Oxford, under the categories of Excellence in Impact, Impact Champion and Early Career Impact Champion.

The former Director of the centre, Professor Judy Sebba, received the award on behalf of the project team, which included, Professor David Berridge, Professor Steve Strand, Professor Sally Thomas, Dr Nikki Luke, Dr John Fletcher, Dr Karen Bell, Professor Ian Sinclair and Aoife O’Higgins.

The O2RB Excellence in Impact Awards are an opportunity for members of the University of Oxford, the Open University, Oxford Brookes and Reading Universities (O2RB) to come together to recognise and reward the successes of social sciences researchers who have achieved, or are currently achieving, excellent economic and societal impacts. Find out more here.

Photo credit- John Cairns