Education research network reaches major milestone

Dec 7, 2023 | PEER News

PEER network group photo in Istanbul

The Political Economy of Education Research Network (PEER Network), a joint project between Ulster, Sussex, Cape Town and Nazarbayev Universities, held its eagerly anticipated project inter-hub symposium this month in Istanbul, Turkey.

The £1.6 million GCRF funded network-plus project has sought to promote more socially just outcomes in education, by promoting the use of locally grounded Political Economy theoretical frameworks by early career education researchers in contexts affected by conflict and crises. Political Economy analysis seeks to understand the political, economic and cultural processes that impact societies and education systems and processes.

The network, which supports 26 research fellows across Africa and Central Asia, gathered to share research findings from across the two regional hubs. Fellows shared their academic traditions, regional contexts and educational contexts and challenges, during the week-long event. 

The event marked the first time the entire PEER team, and research fellows, had met all-together in person since the project’s inception three years-ago. 

The fellows presented an extensive range of topics relating to education, from the imposition of English as a language in formerly colonised countries in Africa, to a forgotten generation, impacted by nuclear weapons testing in Kazakhstan during the era of The Soviet Union.

The presentations sparked vigorous academic discussion throughout the week, fuelling the continued development of Political Economy as a research framework in different international contexts.

The event was the culmination of three years’ work which has included one to one mentoring, regional workshops, and seminars to foster early career researchers with enhanced theoretical understanding of the challenges facing education in countries impacted by conflict or crisis. The fellows have also been supported with resources and guidance from senior education researchers. 

A number of discussions were held throughout the week at The Richmond Hotel in the Taksim area of Istanbul. History, and the Turkish societal context was also an area of focus. The group heard an in-depth discussion between leading Turkish academics of education and political economy. Attendees were also taken on a historic walking tour of Istanbul.

Mario Novelli, Professor in Political Economy of Education at the University of Sussex and Co-Principal Investigator of the PEER project praised the inspiring standard of research and profound intellectual curiosity among all in attendance. 

He said: “I feel very proud of what we have achieved during this week. The impact of meeting in person to discuss ideas has been invaluable and I am very excited about the future development of the work conducted so far.”

Co- Principal Investigator, Kelsey Shanks, Professor of Education in Conflict and Crisis at Ulster University agreed, noting that it had “been a privilege to learn from all the PEER fellows and to see the valuable contribution that the network has had.” Professor Shanks added: “I am excited to see the possibilities for future collaborations.”

Kelvin Mubiana Katukula, a research fellow from the Africa hub said: “The event was very useful to me as an early researcher as it exposed me to various interesting contexts in education across different participants and their geographical countries.”

Further information on the PEER Network can be found at