Lisbon warmth thaws academics

WOOED by Portuguese hospitality, even the most sceptical of British researchers seemed to be won over by this year's European Conference on Educational Research.

It would be an overstatement to say researchers were angry at having to choose between the British Educational Research Association conference in Exeter and the European gathering in Lisbon last week.

But any frostiness not soothed by Lisbon's 28oC sunshine, was soon banished by the warmth of what must be Europe's most courteous student population.

Dozens of students were posted at intervals along the corridors of the two university buildings hosting the 800 delegates. The friendly undergraduates offered directions, sorted out overhead projectors and translated as necessary.

"The helpers were superb," said Dr Chris Gaine of University College, Chichester, one of the convenors of the social justice and intercultual education network, "it is much better organised than Lille."

Memories of last year's conference in France, where EERA seemed unable to organise dinner in a nation of food-worshippers, may have added to initial doubts of Lisbon-bound delegates.

But researchers who turned up not just from Europe but from South America, Australia and Africa, found that this year the formal dinner was cancelled in favour of a series of early evening gatherings, a move so popular it is likely to be repeated at the Hamburg conference next year.

With their basic needs of food, wine and overhead projectors being met, apprehension gave way to gratitude. More than one presentation began with a heartfelt thanksapology for the fact the entire conference was conducted in English.

Research was mostly channelled into the 23 networks - focusing on areas such as teacher education research, philosophy of education and school effectiveness - with the evening socials giving a chance for cross-network mingling.

Speakers included Brenda Taggart, research co-ordinator for the Effective Provision of Pre-school Education project speaking on its findings; Professor Pat Mahony, of the University of Roehampton, on the increasing role of the private sector in education; Professor Christopher Day, of the University of Nottingham, on the pound;1.2 million government-funded study on teachers' work and lives which is being jointly run by Nottingham and London universities.

Professor Antonio Novoa, chair of the local organising committee, said EERA had an important role to play in European educational research. He said:

"It is true that educational research still remains primarily attached to national settings and boundaries. But the quantity of researchers involved in European networks and trying to conduct their research together with colleagues from other countries is quite impressive."

And Martin Lawn, editor of the online European Education Research Journal and former general secretary of EERA, confirmed diaries have already been checked to ensure there will be no clash between Britain and Germany in 2003.

Visit www.eera.ac.uk Helen Ward

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