‘Lifelong education and lifelong social mobility: research using birth cohorts data spanning 75 years’

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Research group meeting on Wednesday, 7 December, 1-2 pm, Conference Room 2.15 CMB

Lindsay Paterson, Professor of Education, will discuss the design of a new collaborative research project:


Lindsay Paterson: ‘Lifelong education and lifelong social mobility: research using birth cohorts data spanning 75 years’

I will describe the design of a project that compares three Scottish birth cohorts – people born in 1936, 1958 and 1970 – looking at their educational opportunities and their social mobility. The research questions are:

(1) Has educational inequality diminished across the three cohorts, and, if so, is that mainly because the overall level of educational participation has risen?

(2) Has social mobility been driven by changes in the occupational structure, rather than by changes in the strength of association of origins and destinations?

(3) Do the answers to questions (1) and (2) vary across the life course?

(4) Has the importance of adult education diminished in importance across these three cohorts, as the formal education system has expanded and become increasingly inclusive of all types of pupil?

However, answering these will be for the future: all that I can describe at this stage is the research design. In particular, I will describe the process of getting access to the data for the 1936 cohort which is complex, and involves working closely with the National Records of Scotland.’

Greek Higher Education reforms during the crisis: the discursive construction of contesting issues

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Our next research group meeting will be on Wednesday, 16th November, 1-2 pm (CMB meeting room 6).

Nikos Kanellopoulos, PhD candidate in social policy, will present his latest findings from his research on Greek Higher Education reforms during the crisis.


Nikos Kanellopoulos: Greek Higher Education reforms during the crisis: the discursive construction of contesting issues

During the current economic crisis, a series of reforms in Greek Higher Education were proposed and made legal, with a view to address some of the deficiencies and challenges in the sector. Nevertheless, most of the policies have been partly implemented or largely amended, mainly due to the strong resistance by coalitions of university unions, some rectors and professors, and the youth organizations of political parties operating in universities. Furthermore, due to their embeddedness into this new socio-political context of the acute financial crisis in Greece, these reforms have largely collided with the deteriorating economic climate in Greece; this has dealt a severe blow not only to the basic, daily operations of Greek HE institutions, but even their survival in itself.

The aim of this research is to explore the role and function of the various contesting individual and/or collective discourses in the construction of the recent Greek HE reforms during the financial crisis and reveal the ideas and ‘imaginaries’ that underpin them. In this presentation I will explore three topics that emerged from the analysis of the interview data, namely the internal governance of the universities, the external policy actors’ influence and the impact of crisis.

Programme 2016/17

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Welcome back to a new academic year!

Here’s our programme for semester 1:


12 October, 1-2 pm (CMB meeting room 6)
Sotiria Grek: Research Design and Interdisciplinary research: challenges of developing a new project


16 November, 1-2 pm (CMB meeting room 6)
Nikos Kanellopoulos: Competing Discourses in Greek Higher Education Reform during the Crisis


7 December, 1-2 pm (CMB meeting room 6)
Lindsay Paterson: Lifelong education and lifelong social mobility: research using birth cohorts data spanning 75 years


In semester two we’ll meet on 18 January, 22 February and 15 March.
Students and staff wanting to present their work are very welcome!


To register in the group’s emailing list, please contact sotiria.grek@ed.ac.uk or anna.pultar@ed.ac.uk

Exporting educational marketization: Swedish policy retailers on the move

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We’re happy to welcome Linda Rönnberg from the University of Umeå to give a lecture as part of the SPSS Social Policy seminar series.

Discussant: Anna Pultar, PhD student Social Policy


14th of March 2016
4-5.30 pm

room 1.204, 7 Bristo Square



The Swedish education system is increasingly viewed as being dominated by marketization. A series of reforms implemented in the 1990s turned the Swedish school system into ‘one of the world’s most liberal public education systems’ (Blomqvist, 2004, p. 148; Lundahl et. al., 2013). Swedish parents are free to choose any school for their child free of charge, public as well as tax-funded so-called free schools. The independent education providers are allowed to extract profit. As a result, for-profit school chains have flourished and they have also gone abroad to sell and market their services. Swedish school chains now operate globally (see for example examples in England, USA and India). We are facing a situation in which ‘despite its neglect in the policy transfer literature, business is now directly engaged with education policy in a number of different ways (…) [that] erase national boundaries’ (Ball, 2012, p. 11).

This study focuses on the undertakings of actors in the borderless flow of education policy by focusing on how a number of Swedish policy retailers market policy ideas about free schools and their own related commercialized services. The aim is to map and explore the connections, movements, and exchanges of a selection of Swedish education policy retailers in the transnational transactions of policy ideas and services. This study highlights how the original free-school architects in the domestic arena later travelled as ‘transnational missionaries,’ and the results empirically show how policy retailers move from the domestic to global arenas along transnational trade routes. These actors embody particular forms of knowledge and experience from department ministerial work and party politics, which blends with work in public relations and various edu-businesses. Mobilization and public exposure of policy-advocacy networks are important when these policy retailers are carrying, influencing and (trans)forming the growing global edu-business . The study points to the importance of mapping and exploring commercial policy retailers’ actions, moves, and embeddedness within networks domestically and globally, and argues that this holds implications for our understanding of contemporary educational policymaking and ultimately for democracy.

Crafting the English welfare state— interventions by Birmingham Local Education Authorities, 1948–1963

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Christian Ydesen, Associate Professor at the University of Aalborg and current IASH-SPS Visiting Fellow, will give a talk as part of the SPSS Social Policy seminar series.

Discussant: Mark Wong, PhD student Social Policy


2 March 2016
3-4.30 pm
Medical School, Teviot – G.16 Seminar Room – Doorway 4


The presentation will throw light on the range of education professionals and their interventions against deviance understood as the ‘problem child’ or the ‘ineducable child’. I argue that these interventions played a central role in successfully establishing schools as social administrators in England during the constitutive years of English welfare state formation. Using Birmingham local education administration as an empirical and historical case, the influential Children Acts of 1948 and 1963 serve to demarcate the period examined. The theoretical framework is drawn from Bourdieu and Wacquant’s concept of state, with the key concept being ‘state-crafting’. The article contributes to knowledge about the imaginaries, and the manufacturing and managing of ‘the public good’—understood as a referent for modern governing—of the English welfare state.

The high-stakes sorting of children into remedial education

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We welcome our newest member, Christian Ydesen, University of Aalborg and IASH-SPS Visiting fellow, who will discuss his paper on:

The high-stakes sorting of children into remedial education at the municipality of Frederiksberg from 1930-1943, based on standardised intelligence testing


24th of February, at 12:00
in conference room 2.15, CMB



His paper investigates the rise of educational psychology in Denmark from the 1920s onward, and it is the very first case of high-stakes standardised intelligence tests being institutionalised and systematically applied in the Danish public school system. A clear high-stakes element can be discerned in this case. Intelligence testing was a significant component in the sorting and documenting of children, specifically in the selection of “disabled” bodies, transferred from “normal school” into “remedial school”. The institutionalised practice of intelligence testing at Frederiksberg culminated in 1934 with the employment of the first educational psychologist in Scandinavia, Henning Emil Meyer (1885-1967). Because of Meyer’s energetic influence, the educational psychology practice at Frederiksberg came to function as a role model for establishing such practices countrywide in the ensuing years. The Frederiksberg case displays a complex and somewhat paradoxical course of events leading up to the embedding of high-stakes standardised intelligence tests – events that include international, national, and local dimensions. Temporally, the case treats the practice of employing high-stakes intelligence tests at Frederiksberg in the period between 1930 when Meyer began his educational psychology work at Frederiksberg, and 1943 when Henning Meyer, a Jew, fled to Sweden in response to Nazi pogroms in Denmark.

A paper will be circulated few days in advance of meeting , so as to allow more time for discussion – due to room booking restrictions, the meeting will last for an hour 12:00- 13:00.

We would love to see as many of you there as possible!

Presenting a research project application: Shaping a Global Education Space – A Comparative Analysis of the OECD’s Role in Education, 1958–2020

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Happy new year!

We’re happy to announce that our research group will be joined by Dr Christian Ydesen, Associate Professor at the Department for Learning and Philosophy at University of Aalborg, who is currently Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.

He will be speaking on 27th January (1-2 pm, IASH) on a topic that might be of interest to many of you:

Presenting a research project application: Shaping a Global Education Space – A Comparative Analysis of the OECD’s Role in Education, 1958–2020


The importance of attracting external funding in research is on the rise as a global trend. This development holds true in terms of career management, securing proper time for research and in terms of university funding. The purpose of this talk is two-fold. Firstly, I will take the audience into the very engine room of writing a research application. In this respect I will pass on my experiences gathered from writing a research project application to the Danish research council which was submitted last autumn. Secondly, I will present the academic content of the application with the ambition of getting feedback for further development of refinement of the application in the event that it is unsuccessful in the first round making its chances of success higher in the second round in 2016.

Venue: Venue: The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, The University of Edinburgh, 2 Hope Park Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9NW, UK

About the event:



Phd presentation: The relation of the “Social” and the “Self”

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Meeting of 26 November 2015

Mark Wong, final year PhD student in Social Policy discussed aspects of his research on socially withdrawn young people in Hong Kong and Scotland.

How Should Universities Be Funded?

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13 November 2015, open event by the Ethics Forum


  • Rob Henthorn, Vice President Education of NUS Scotland
  • Prof. Sheila Riddell, Professor of Inclusion and Diversity / Director of CREID at the University of Edinburgh
  • Tracey Slaven, Deputy Secretary, Strategic Planning, University of Edinburgh

From data, to analysis, to argument: how to make theory work

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Meeting on 29 October 2015

In our meeting in October we discussed about how to link theoretical resources to the analysis of field data. This idea emerged from collective discussions with some Phd students working in education policy topics in the School, who are currently faced with mountains of data and a range of theoretical tools to choose from.

We had a lively debate among experienced scholars and Phd students reporting on how they’re facing these issues in their own work – lot’s of interesting suggestions!

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