Featured Publications

‘Your U-Well-Being Journal is due today’: on some possible intersections between surveillance and student wellbeing in the future university

In the latest paper to emerge from their collaboration looking at surveillance practices in Higher Education, CR&DALL Deputy Director Anna Wilson and Jen Ross (University of Edinburgh) use Participatory Speculative Fiction to explore the convergence of two important dynamics that are currently at play within the Higher Education sectors in the UK, North America and elsewhere: digital surveillance capacities and student wellbeing. We use short stories that were contributed and published anonymously through the Telling Data Stories website to show how their authors spontaneously connected surveillance capacities and potentials with contemporary concerns about student wellbeing. In the fictions they created, our contributors imagine how current and proximal future technologies might be enrolled in increasingly intrusive and interventionist neuro-psycho-bio-surveillance employed at all stages of the student journey. The stories problematise the relationship between visibility and wellbeing, expose complex assemblages of people, technologies and discourses and suggest possible outcomes ranging from embrace and perhaps enculturation to subversion and even inversion of power. We suggest that these possible futures are important signals of the need for wise decisions in the present.

Wilson, A., & Ross, J. (2024). ‘Your U-Well-Being Journal is due today’: on some possible intersections between surveillance and student wellbeing in the future university. Studies in Higher Education, 1–15.


The benefits of university adult learning

In his latest article, CR&DALL Director, Michael Osborne considers debates that has been discussed over many decades concerning the benefits of lifelong learning that have been expressed both in economic and non-economic terms, the latter often expressed in terms of contributions to health and well-being, and to civic solidarity. The extent to which these benefits can be evidenced however remains somewhat elusive and at best mixed. In this paper, he traces the ways in which lifelong learning has emerged in policy discourse in the UK since the 1980s, the arguments and evidence for its benefits and the means by which it has been supported and implemented. In particular, the paper is concerned with the role of the higher education sector in the UK with a particular focus on Scotland. The paper is available open access.

Osborne, M. (2024) The benefits of university adult learning. International Review of Applied Economics, (doi: 10.1080/02692171.2024.2362130)

Surveillance practices, risks and responses in the post pandemic university

This paper identifies, describes and critiques the ways in which surveillance practices are increasingly embedded within the routine functioning of the Higher Education sector. It was written by a group of authors, including CR&DALL core member, Anna Wilson, who are members of Higher Education After Surveillance, an international network of researchers, educators, educational technologists and university leaders who are working together to develop new approaches to surveillance futures for higher education. The primary motivation for this work was a collective sense that the increasing capacities for surveillance of work, learning and research that come with intensifying datafication and transitions to more remote, digitally mediated work are changing the higher education landscape in both overt and subtle ways. The authors believe it is essential that these growing surveillance capacities and practices are noticed, critiqued and challenged, before the transformations they are bringing about become irreversible.

Drawing on scholarship and their own experiences within university settings in Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, the authors  argue that practices of datafication and monitoring in universities echo those in broader society and thus largely reinforce inequalities and economic models of extraction. They describe how surveillance brings risks to the values of creativity, collegiality, openness and honesty that underpin learning relationships and academic and work practices within universities. They also describe a range of current responses to surveillance practices, including resistance, advocacy and awareness-raising.

The paper provides an in-depth overview of this topic for people in university settings including those in leadership positions, learning technology roles, educators and students. The aim is not only to raise awareness and critique current practices, but to make those making decisions about which technologies to purchase, deploy and use stop and think about possible implications and unintended consequences.

Beetham, H., Collier, A., Czerniewicz, L., Lamb, B., Li, Y., Ross, J., Scott, A.-M. and Wilson, A.  (2022) Surveillance practices, risks and responses in the post pandemic university. Digital Culture and Education, 14(1), pp. 16-37.



Surveillance: Learning from Participatory Speculative Fiction

This subsequent paper from Anna Wilson describes an attempt to use participatory speculative fiction to enable people embedded in Higher Education (HE) to recognise and articulate hopes, fears and possible futures relating to growing surveillance capacities and cultures. It grew out of the authors’ work within the Higher Education After Surveillance Network.

Surveillance practices have become increasingly widespread in Higher Education. Students and staff are monitored both physically and digitally, using a range of technologies and for a variety of purposes. Many technologies and systems introduced for other reasons (e.g., for resource sharing, communication or collaborative work) offer additional surveillance capacities, either as designed-in or incidental features. These surveillance practices, whether already realised or present as possibilities, have the potential to profoundly change HE both as a sector and as a process. There is thus a need for those working (and studying) in the sector to recognise and thus have the opportunity to question or resist these changes.

The research reported here uses anonymous speculative fiction, contributed by participants working and/or studying in HE, via an online story-creating tool, to explore visions of possible HE futures. The surveillance imaginaries we present suggest that anonymity, attributability, identity, ownership of knowledge and power are important elements in both the presents and futures experienced and anticipated by our participants. Together, they highlight an important tension at the heart of twenty-first-century academic work: an absolutist agenda of attribution and transparency introduced in the name of fairness that is morphing into a tool for the suppression of critique and academic freedom.

Wilson, Anna and Ross, Jen. (2023) Surveillance Imaginaries: Learning from Participatory Speculative Fiction. Surveillance and Society, 21(3), pp. 304-316.




Unpacking PIAAC’s cognitive skills measurements through engagement with Bloom’s taxonomy

This article was published by CR&DALL member Ellen Boeren together with Iniguez-Berrozpe from the University of Zaragoza (Spain) and started from their common interest in the OECD’s Programme for International Assessment for Adult Competencies (PIAAC). Results of PIAAC analyses report on skills competencies in literacy, numeracy and problem-solving in technology rich environments and ranks these according to ‘levels’. The study presented in this article delves deeper into the conceptual meaning of these cognitive skills and does this through engagement with Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. This taxonomy argues that cognitive skills are hierarchical in nature, ranging from low order skills such as ‘remembering’ to high order skills such as ‘evaluating’. Throughout the years, scholars have critiqued this hierarchical construct and Bloom’s work has not been referenced in the OECD’s background papers on PIAAC. Through comparing the PIAAC skills descriptors with Bloom’s taxonomy applying a direct content analysis framework, we found that higher levels of PIAAC scores do not necessarily match Bloom’s hierarchy but are more related to adults’ abilities to apply cognitive strategies to contexts that are unfamiliar to adults’ daily routines. This paper makes a novel contribution to the further understanding of PIAAC’s conceptual constructs and adds to critiques on Bloom’s work.

Boeren, E. and Íñiguez-Berrozpe, T (2022). Unpacking PIAAC’s cognitive skills measurements through engagement with Bloom’s taxonomy, Studies in Educational Evaluation, 73, 101151.




Transitioning Vocational Education and Training in Africa

The transition to more just and sustainable development requires radical change across a wide range of areas and particularly within the nexus between learning and work. This book is authored collectively by 20, predominantly African, authors, and arises out of a UKRI GCRF project led by CR&DALL core member, Simon McGrath It draws on a wide range of data, organised in four case studies across rural and urban settings in Uganda and South Africa, to offer a new way of seeing VET policy and practice through an exploration of the multiple ways in which people learn to have better livelihoods. It takes an expansive view of vocational education and training that goes beyond the narrow focus of much of the current literature and policy debate. Crucially, it explores learning that takes place informally online, within farmers’ groups, and in public and private educational institutions, as well as in formal and informal enterprises. Offering new insights and ways of thinking about this field, the book draws out clear implications for theory, policy and practice in adult, community and vocational education in Africa and beyond.

McGrath, Openjuru, Lotz-Sisitka, Allais, Zeelen, Wedekind, Ramsarup, Monk, Metelerkamp, Russon, Kyaligonja, Robbins, Adrupio, Ocan, Nyeko, Adoye, Molebatsi, Tshabalala, Muhangi, Openjuru  (2021) Transitioning Vocational Education and Training in Africa - A Social Skills Ecosystem Perspective. Bristol: Bristol University Press




Localizing SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

This chapter, written by CR&DALL Director, Mike Osborne, is part of a report by United Cities and Local Government to the UN’s High Level Political Platform on the SDGs assesses approaches that have been undertaken by Local and Regional Governments (LRGs) before and during the COVID-19 pandemic to actively ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all (SDG 4). Specifically, it provides examples of actions with regard to the seven targets of SDG 4, focusing on instances in which LRGs take a leading role in initiating and implementing change. Their actions may happen in tandem with higher levels of government or with one or more intergovernmental, non-governmental, civil society or private organizations. The chapter learns from – and builds on – the manifold international initiatives that focus on educational provision and learning in urban settings, such as the Educating Cities approach and UNESCO’s learning city model.  As will be seen throughout the section, principles of good governance enshrined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – such as strong political will and commitment; governance and participation of all stakeholders; mobilization and utilization of resources; multilevel coordination; horizontal cooperation; and policy mechanisms for mainstreaming, monitoring and reviewing – are key to ensure successful learning and educating cities.

Osborne, M. (2022) Localizing SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Local and Regional Governments’ Report to the 2022 UN High Level Political Forum. In: Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments: Towards the Localization of the SDGs - Local and Regional Governments Breaking through for a Just and Sustainable Recovery. Series: Local and Regional Governments’ Report to the 2022 UN High Level Political Forum. United Cities and Local Governments: Barcelona, pp. 86-98.




Hidden youth? A new perspective on the sociality of young people 'withdrawn' in the bedroom in a digital age

This article was written by CR&DALL member, Mark Wong, published in one of the top two journals in media and communication studies, New Media and Society. The paper makes a novel contribution to development of new thinking on sociality and social connectedness in the digital age. It applies an innovative comparative case study design and critically examines “hidden” young people who shut themselves in the bedroom—who are typically assumed as withdrawn. This paper challenges this reclusive depiction and generates significant qualitative evidence from the first study on this topic in Scotland/UK, while studying comparatively with Hong Kong, presenting significant findings about the importance of connections online, particularly for marginalised young people.

This article has the potential to be instrumental to advance understanding of online spaces and challenges previous assumptions in the literature, and in public discourses, of digital interaction being less authentic and less important to people’s sense of connection compared to face-to-face. This paper makes a major contribution to the forefront of this area and adds novel insights to an emerging body of literature, underlining the nuances and positive influence of online interactions on young people.

This work has the potential to serve as an essential point of reference, as it adds new understandings of the importance of online social networks, especially for young people who are marginalised in society. It offers a timely contribution to debates on the nature of online connections and how they relate to experiences of marginalisation and precarity in the “offline” world. This paper, hence, has the potential to make a major contribution and a formative influence on the intellectual agenda in research on digital society and online social networks.

Wong, M. (2020) Hidden youth? A new perspective on the sociality of young people 'withdrawn' in the bedroom in a digital age. New Media and Society, 22(7), pp. 1227-1244.




Colonial legacies and the barriers to educational justice for Indigenous peoples in Taiwan

This article was published by CR&DALL member Yulia Nesterova. The research for this paper started in 2013 when Yulia first moved to Taiwan to work with its Indigenous communities and intensified in 2015-2019 when she conducted her doctoral research with these Indigenous groups exploring Indigenous education provision and implementation in the context of transitional and historical justice. Taiwan has a very powerful policy and legal framework to support Indigenous rights and development, including in and through education. In education, this includes a range of provisions to support access to quality education at all levels, ensure cultural sensitivity and responsiveness of the curriculum and pedagogies, incorporate Indigenous languages, and establish Indigenous schools, to name just a few. Yet, Indigenous peoples remain the most disadvantaged and vulnerable group on the island - in terms of educational achievement, health, employment, community and cultural sustainability, and other aspects. Relying on in-depth interviews with Indigenous leaders, academics, and educators, this article showcases how very little has changed despite these policies and laws. In particular, the article explains that education has not gone through a comprehensive transformation in compliance with standards and regulations that were put in place, and only cosmetic and symbolic changes were made. Yulia suggests that the remnants and legacies of colonialism and nationalism in particular prevent efforts to redress injustices and achieve equality and justice for Indigenous peoples. The article thus proposes that decolonisation of education should become a central purpose of policymakers, schools, and other education actors.

Nesterova, Y. (2023) Colonial legacies and the barriers to educational justice for Indigenous peoples in Taiwan.  Comparative Education. 

Online at https://doi.org/10.1080/03050068.2023.2185355



My Child the Hero: How a collaborative writing project changes prisoners' self-concept and family connection

This article was written by CR&DALL member, Yvonne Skipper, published in the Journal of Offender Rehabilitation.  Dr Skipper leads the White Water Writers project, a project which gives groups of people the opportunity to collaboratively write and publish a full length novel in just one week. A group of 8-10 writers plan the novel on Monday.  On Tuesday and Wednesday they collaboratively write their novel, using specialised software. On Thursday and Friday, they proofread the novel, and a professional artist produces a cover.  The book is then put up for sale online with any royalties going to the authors and we also host a book signing event where authors receive professionally printed copies of their novel.  While this project was developed in schools, and has facilitated more than 3000 young writers to become published authors, in this paper we ran the project in a prison. 

There is a strong link between engaging in educational activities while in prison, and positive outcomes such as coping better with imprisonment, feeling hopeful and reduced recidivism.  However, engagement with education in prison is often low, and is decreasing. Furthermore, opportunities for meaningful contact between family members and prisoners can also lead to positive outcomes but creating these can be challenging. Therefore, we used White Water Writers to engage the learners in an interactive activity to improve their literacy and soft skills, but also asked them to produce the novel for their children. We felt that this would increase engagement with the project and enhance family connections.  This paper discusses the impact that the project had by thematically analysing the novel alongside interview data from the writers (N=8), their families (N=15) and prison staff (N=3).  

Results suggested that the novel had two main themes of ‘people not being inherently ‘bad’’ and ‘people changing for the better’, suggesting the men were trying to help the children understand their circumstances.  Interview data suggested that the intervention helped writers feel a stronger connection to their family.  Family members discussed feeling more connected to the person in prison and a sense of pride in what the writers had achieved. The writers did not expect to succeed in completing the novel, but their success led them to feel more positive about themselves and their literacy skills.  The project also led writers to form new friendships within the prison led them to develop soft skills such as teamwork. Staff also discussed how the project had benefited their teaching approach. 

Taken together, this suggests that the project was an effective tool to enhance engagement in learning both hard and soft skills and relationships between family members. We also discuss specific elements of the project which led to its’ success to help others who are developing similar interventions.

Skipper, Y. (2023) My child the hero: How a collaborative writing project changes prisoners’ self-concept and family connection, Journal of Offender Rehabilitation.

DOI: 10.1080/10509674.2023.2193435



How dare you call that playground banter?!’: Service provider perspectives on coercive control and young people

This article was published by CR&DALL member Sinéad Gormally together with Victoria Burton from the University of Hull.  It presents service provider perspectives on young people and coercive control. It draws on interviews undertaken with 35 service providers extracted from a broader study commissioned by a Criminal Justice Board in England and offers unique insights to address the gap in this research area whilst highlighting challenges and tensions for service providers, identifying good practice and signalling areas for future development. Findings illustrate that young people need help from service providers to identify coercive control whilst simultaneously, some service providers minimise young people's experiences using an adult focused frame of reference. This has the potential to deny their agency and render young people's experiences invisible. We highlight the need for education on the specific issues young people face including how that might differ from adults. Finally, we examine the paradoxical role of social media as having transformative possibilities yet in a parallel process, creating opportunities for continued abuse.

Burton, V and Gormally, S. (2023) ‘How dare you call that playground banter?!’: Service provider perspectives on coercive control and young people. Children & Society. 

Online at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/chso.12724


A ‘doctoral compass’: strategic reflection, self-assessment and recalibration for navigating the ‘twin’ doctoral journey

This paper, published in Studies in Higher Education in 2022 by Dely Elliot, continues to attract a lot of interest. It makes a critical contribution to a broader perspective on doctoral experience by offering a synthesis of several crucial concepts during the doctoral journey – leading to a conceptualisation of a ‘doctoral compass’. Firstly, this paper has drawn from psychological concepts and initially focused on the core challenges emanating from the distinct PhD genre. This is then complemented by a discussion on metacognition – arguably central to doctoral knowledge creation – explored further using the stages of competence development and against the competing notions that conventionally confront doctoral scholars, i.e., the Imposter Syndrome and the Dunning-Kruger Effect. By employing metacognitive concepts, this paper also highlighted a range of available tools, resources and skillsets that can crucially assist not only in these scholars’ transitional period, but also in their doctoral learning progression and eventual completion. Unifying these complementary doctoral experience concepts led to proposing a conceptual framework for a doctoral self-management strategy. This framework serves as a metaphorical ‘doctoral compass’, i.e., a form of metacognitive scaffolding geared towards navigating the two PhD landscapes –research and doctoral development – arguably comprising the ‘twin’ doctoral journey. Such a conceptual model aims to empower doctoral scholars to manage a potentially complex experience by identifying essential praxes to scaffold the entire doctoral process through iterative cycles of reflection, calibration and recalibration of strategic reflection and personal evaluation of one’s progress.

Elliot, D. L. (2022). A ‘doctoral compass’: Strategic reflection, self-assessment and recalibration for navigating the ‘twin’ doctoral journey. Studies in Higher Education, 47(8), pp. 1652-1665. (doi: 10.1080/03075079.2021.1946033).

*This paper is key in expanding the concepts, ideas and conceptual frameworks presented in the author’s book ‘Navigating your International Doctoral Experience (and Beyond’ – https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/mono/10.4324/9781003271000/navigating-international-doctoral-experience-beyond-dely-lazarte-elliot

Stories of the canon (stories of the self): towards an intra-active decolonisation of higher education

This article was published by CR&DALL member Lisa Bradley and offers a vital contribution to decolonisation theory and ‘decolonising the curriculum’ debates in Higher Education (HE). Drawing on research originally undertaken to explore a perceived naturalisation of time within the disciplinary canon of Urban Studies, the work thinks from and beyond the common decolonisation response of diversifying subject reading lists. In doing so the work also extends a timely provocation for readers to (re)imagine their own practices within HE and seek out more-than-textual possibilities for anti-colonial futures. 

Using a method of autoethnographic rhizoanalysis, the article navigates the ways in which texts’ meanings are intertextually established through hegemonic processes of canonisation that centre white-settler, colonial-capitalist experiences and logics. Animating the textual, discursive, material, and affective routes by which meanings are maintained and subjugated, the article also confirms readers’ inseparability from such processes, and develops from thinking the canon intertextually (as per the work of Julia Kristeva), towards imagining it intra-actively (following Karen Barad). That is, it illustrates the ways in which texts’ meanings are forged through a dynamism of human-text(-more-than-text) encounters, which simultaneously ‘write’ readers in the process. This thinking reveals that it is not only texts’ meanings that are vulnerable to the colonising tendencies of the curricular assemblage, but readers’ imaginations. 

By developing this original theoretical perspective, the article offers a more detailed picture of the underpinning frames in which current decolonisation practices and imaginaries are embedded. It argues that responses which fail to attend to underlying logics will be insufficient at best; and may in effect perpetuate further harms by edging out more radical possibilities. Far from leaving us inert to the cause, Lisa foregrounds the anti-colonial practices that this new theorisation makes possible, advocating for the potency of decolonising the curriculum responses that exceed text. Such an approach, she argues, also redirects questions of decoloniality from the products ‘out there’, to academics' own imaginations and practices, and the means by which we might feel out, reimagine, and perform the curriculum otherwise, from within.

Bradley, L. (2023). ‘Stories of the canon (stories of the self): towards an intra-active decolonisation of higher education’, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education.

DOI: 10.1080/01596306.2023.2202898