Written by Dr Clare Gartland.
The Centre for Integrated Research across Educational Spaces (CIRES) is being launched at the University of Suffolk, Waterfront Building on Saturday 9th June at 12.30. Professor Miriam David, Professor John Pitts and Jonathan Leigh Smith will be leading the launch.
CIRES offers holistic approaches to research into educational access and progression, extending across subject areas, educational sectors and formal and informal learning environments. The learning journey through different institutions and into the workplace represents challenges for people of all ages and backgrounds, particularly for those who have been traditionally excluded from certain routes. The ambition of the centre is to identify and inform good practice in supporting equality in access and progression across all stages of education.
It has a distinctive and integrated approach to researching access and progression across different subject areas, learning contexts and sectors. The research undertaken within CIRES aims to inform policy and practice in supporting students’ progress, challenging entrenched, inequitable patterns of participation in education and the workplace.
With an emphasis on applied research, our researchers consider access, progression and transition through the lenses of pedagogy, equality and identity.
There are key dimensions underpinning these foci. Structural dimensions, such as economic context and geographic location, play vital roles in influencing educational progression and transition. Social and cultural dimensions also vitally influence students’ ability to navigate and position themselves in different educational contexts.
The centre aims to conduct high quality local, national and international research into access and progression and will build on and develop relevant expertise in research and practice. The centre provides an active physical as well as a virtual centre where relevant knowledge is regularly shared and critiqued and will be a vibrant hub for early career researchers, PhD students and their supervisors.
CIRES supports opportunities for cross-sector and cross-disciplinary research collaborations, promoting innovative partnerships and networking opportunities. The research undertaken within CIRES aims to inform policy and practice in supporting students’ progress, challenging entrenched, inequitable patterns of participation in education and the workplace.
The relevance of the centre in Suffolk
Suffolk is a diverse county. There are some affluent areas but also significant areas of multiple deprivation with a predominance of low skilled, low wage jobs and comparatively low levels of progression to Higher Education. Understanding students’ experience during all stages of their education before they progress to university or employment is vital if this is to be effectively supported. Locally as well as nationally there is limited knowledge amongst teachers and lecturers about progression routes through educational sectors and into the workplace. There is also sparse connectivity between pedagogies across different educational sectors.
Research indicates the centrality of young people’s developing self-identity in patterns of access and progression. Young people will often make decisions about careers/ subject areas at a young age with decisions being made (e.g. about science identities) as early as primary school level. These decisions are often gendered, cultural, raced and classed. Rural and post-industrial locations and an employment landscape where lower waged jobs are disproportionately represented, contribute to the formation of young peoples’ learner identities. These are clear issues in Suffolk. This suggests an imperative for identifying ways to facilitate access and progression in education that supports equality and effectively challenge intersecting classed, cultural, gendered, learner and subject disciplinary identities and trajectories.
Given our locality and expertise in working with students from diverse backgrounds, and in contexts with great diversity, as an institution we are well placed to share this expertise and contribute to national and international discussion in this area.
More information on the launch: