Sam Jones, lecturer and advanced practitioner at Bedford College, completed a master’s degree at the University of Oxford just over a year ago. She became frustrated that, while undertaking her dissertation and developing her critical approach, her day-to-day work remained static.
Through her role as local conveyer at the Learning and Skills Research Network, and involvement with the British Education Research Association, Jones discovered that she was not alone in feeling frustration.
“It seemed like a waste of resource in the sector not to use that knowledge in some way, shape or form,” she says.
Along with Norman Crowther, national official for post-16 education at the NEU teaching union, she founded #FEResearchMeet, for FE professionals who wished to share research undertaken in and on FE. They say the first meeting in June was a success; three more are lined up for 2018.
Plans are also afoot to create a “meta-network”: a platform with which organisations with a focus on FE research could collaborate, share and learn from each other.
With the recent swell of enthusiasm for developing a body of FE research, Jones – who will soon begin a PhD at the University of Cambridge – says she is optimistic for the future. “If you’re doing research, you’re running against the grain of where FE is at the moment,” she says. “When people are encouraging, others want to join in. It’s empowering.”
Howard Scott, a lecturer in initial teacher education for post-compulsory education at the University of Wolverhampton, believes new relationships between researchers are flourishing online. “Lots of people are asking questions and finding resonance with others around the sector,” he says. “Social media provides a place to congregate.”
Scott continues: “Reduced funding is making people speak out. They’re looking for ways of drawing attention to the problems. Once we start a conversation about the issues, it gives people agency to do something about them – and the first place to turn to is research.”