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Manchester Institute of Education

Disadvantage and Poverty (DP)

The education systems of many affluent countries contain a paradox. Although education is seen as the way out of poverty, learners from poorer backgrounds consistently do badly in the education system and are educationally disadvantaged.

This enduring challenge has led affluent countries, in their different ways and based on different types of research, to advocate particular policies and implement a plethora of targeted intervention strategies to deal with the challenge. Growing evidence, however, suggests that these interventions have, in large measure, failed to deliver systemic change and greater equity in terms of educational outcomes and experiences.

The challenge is to explain why education systems, which might reasonably be expected to overcome the effect of poverty and disadvantage, seem so often simply to reproduce it.

The focus of our Disadvantaged and Poverty Research theme is in examining how educational policy and practice, in the context of wider challenges of poverty, can become more equitable for those educationally disadvantaged.

The research of the thematic research group can, therefore, be seen as a response to three questions:

  1. Who is disadvantaged in education systems, and in what ways?
  2. Why and how does educational disadvantage arise and how is poverty implicated?
  3. What can be done to overcome educational disadvantage?

In response to these questions contributions from this research group are located in: (a) conceptualisations of equity, (b) major research projects and (c) methodological innovation through the use of development and research collaborative projects with professional partners. 

Finally, the work of this thematic programme of research, more generally, is making a key contribution to the School of Environment, Education and Development core research theme of Poverty and Inequality.

The research group’s intellectual and empirical agenda is being predominately addressed through a number of current and previous projects that include those funded by research councils (eg research review for the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Connected Communities Programme), major commissioned studies (eg Department for Education (DfE): Evaluation of Extended Services), close-to-practice projects (eg The Manchester Parenting Strategy: Evaluating Schools’ Work with Parents), and work for charities (eg Joseph Rowntree Foundation: A review of adult and tertiary education and poverty) (see links for details of all individual projects).

Staff involved in this research include:

Networks and priority development areas 

Major research networks include national collaborations with the University of Newcastle and international collaborations with the University of Gothenburg.

Priority developmental areas for the research group include the Save the Children UK project on Children’s Zones; work on the equity of Higher Education admission’s processes; and methodological and data sets work on poverty and education.