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Manchester Institute of Education


Find out more about our current and past research projects.

If you would like more information about any of these research projects, please get in touch with the academic staff involved.

Consultancy and Knowledge Production in Education

Funded by the British Academy and Leverhulme

This pilot project is currently underway and will focus on beginning to map consultants, consultancy and consultocracy in education policymaking in England. Modernisation of education by recent governments has been through commissioning business consultants to devise and deliver new products for the curriculum, organisation and workforce. Undertaking a policy scholarship using primary documents and interviews the project will map the consultancy industry in England and use a conceptual framework to describe, understand, and explain how individuals and networks use and produce knowledge through exchange.

Contact: Professor Helen Gunter (

Distributed leadership and the Social Practices of School Organisation in England (SPSO) project


Modernisation of public service provision has generated a set of leadership imperatives for the delivery of reform in schools. The project has developed the existing knowledge base relating to how school leaders, teachers and other educational practitioners are handling this major intervention in their working lives through a focus upon distributed leadership. The research undertook case study analysis in five secondary schools using interviews, questionnaires, observations, and Q sort. By knowing more about the distributed school leadership the intention of the Project is to contribute to debates and the development of strategies about how organisational arrangements might be created to support and enable learners. It is also intended to contribute to debates and strategies relating to the leadership of teachers and to better understand the limits and possibilities for distributed leadership.

Contact: Professor David Hall (

Articles and chapters

Hall, D. (2013) Drawing a Veil over Managerialism: Leadership and the Discursive Disguise of the New Public Management, Journal of Educational Administration and History, DOI:10.1080/00220620.2013.771154

Gunter, H., Hall, D., and Bragg, J. (2013) Distributed Leadership: a study in knowledge production,Educational Management, Administration and Leadership. In press

Hall, D., Gunter, H., and Bragg, J. (2012) The strange case of the emergence of distributed leadership in schools in England, Educational Review, DOI:10.1080/00131911.2012.718257.

Hall, D., Gunter, H., and Bragg, J. (2012) Leadership, New Public Management and the re-modelling and regulation of teacher identities, International Journal of Leadership in Education, DOI: 10.1080/13603124.2012.688875.

Hall, D., Gunter, H., and Bragg, J. (2011) The Discursive Performance of Leadership in Schools, Management in Education, 25(1), 32-36.

Gunter, H., and Hall, D. (2013) Public Trust and Education: teachers and their work, in Llewellyn, S., Brookes, S. and Mahon, A. (eds) Trust and Confidence in Government and Public Services. Abingdon: Routledge. 

Gunter, H., and Hall, D. (2013) Using Arendt to think about Educational Leadership Management and Administration: the vita contemplativa, in Gunter, H.M. Hannah Arendt and Educational Leadership. Abingdon: Routledge.

Examining Concepts and Practices of Quality: Higher Education in Developing Countries

Dr Miguel Antonio Lim, Dr Sylvie Lomer, Mr Christopher Millora

This project is supported by the University of Manchester (UK) through the SEED Strategic Research Fund. It examines how quality in higher education is understood and what the practices of quality enhancement are on an institutional and national level.

Quality is becoming increasingly important in higher education in developing countries, particularly lower middle income countries, as enrolment in higher education grows and higher education sectors expand. For the first time, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) include higher education in SDG 4: providing equitable access to quality education at all levels.
Quality is thus identified as a key development and equity issue. For many countries, quality in higher education can be a political resource and a sign of influence. However, developing countries with expanding higher education sectors face a number of challenges in quality assurance and enhancement on the level of the nation, the institution and the individual teacher in the classroom.

The project conducted a pilot in the Philippines in June 2017 to find out how quality is understood and how people practice quality assurance and enhancement through a series of interviews with university leaders, industry representatives, legislators, and the national regulator. The overall goal is to find practices of quality assurance and development that are overlooked and to collect and highlight best practices.

HEFCE Learning Gain project

Dr Maria Pampaka, Dr Steven Jones, Prof Julian Williams, Martyn Edwards

This project investigates ways of standardising entry and exit qualifications in (and out of) HE, designing and validating new measures of dispositions and critical skills, and modelling change in learning outcomes. The goal is to develop robust measurement of the ‘distance travelled’ by undergraduate students so that opportunities to maximise the progress of all students can be taken.

Knowledge Production in Educational Leadership (KPEL) Project


This Project investigated the coalitions of interests and regulation of knowledge, knowers and knowing in educational leadership. The state has drawn upon, sustained and developed a form of knowledge, a network of knowers, and a preferred approach to knowing, in order to bring about change in the public domain. Attention is focused in the research on the primacy of school leadership as (a) a form of knowledge designed to deliver improvement and effectiveness; (b) underpinned by a network of knowers; and (c) ways of knowing as required attributes and behaviours structured by national standards. There is evidence there are other types of knowledge, knowing and knowers within the field in England. The Project collected the professional biographies of a sample of those involved: experts in research in the UK and internationally, practitioners in schools, policy makers, and private sector consultants.

Contact: Professor Helen Gunter (


Gunter, H.M. (2014) Educational Leadership and Hannah Arendt. Abingdon: Routledge.

Gunter, H.M. (2012) Leadership and the Reform of Education. Bristol: The Policy Press.

Articles and chapters

Forrester, G. and Gunter, H.M. (2008) "School Leaders: meeting the challenge of change" in: Chapman, C. and Gunter, H.M. (eds) Radical Reforms: public policy and a decade of educational reform. London: Routledge.

Gunter, H.M. (2012) Le leadership scolaire: restructuration managériale de l’établissement scolaire, Éducation et Sociétés 30, 59-74

Gunter, H.M. (2012) The Field of Educational Administration. British Journal of Educational Studies.60 (4), 337-356.

Gunter, H.M. (2011) Governance and education in England. Italian Journal of Sociology of Education. 8 (2), 31-45.

Gunter, H.M. and Forrester, G. (2010) New Labour and the logic of practice in educational reform. Critical Studies in Education. 51 (1), 1-15.

Gunter, H.M. and Forrester, G. (2009) Institutionalised Governance: the case of the National College for School Leadership. International Journal of Public Administration. 32 (5), 349-369. 

Gunter, H.M. and Forrester, G. (2009) School Leadership and Policymaking in England. Policy Studies 31 (5), 495-511.

Gunter, H.M. (2008) Modernisation and the field of educational administration. Journal of Educational Administration and History. 40 (2), 161-172.

Gunter, H.M. and Fitzgerald, T. (2008) The future of leadership research. School Leadership and Management. 28 (3), 263-280.

Gunter, H.M. and Forrester, G. (2008) New Labour and School Leadership 1997-2007. British Journal of Educational Studies. 55 (2), 144-162.

Raffo, C. and Gunter, H.M. (2008) Leading schools to promote social inclusion: developing a conceptual framework for analysing research, policy and practice. Journal of Education Policy. 23 (4), 363-380.

Localised policymaking projects

The Kingswood High School Project

The Kingswood High School Project has gone through a number of phases:

Educational improvement and students as researchers project: working with Professor Pat Thomson a project was developed and funded by the Innovation Unit that investigated educational improvement at Kingswood High School. Following this a students as researchers project was developed, and this enabled a team of students to design and deliver a research project over a period of four years. 


Gunter, H.M. and Thomson, P. (2008) Learning about Student Voice Support for Learning. 22 (4).

Gunter, H.M. and Thomson, P. (2007) But, where are the children? Management in Education. 21 (2), 23-28.

Hollins, K., Gunter, H.M. and Thomson, P. (2006) Living Improvement: a case study of a secondary school in England Improving Schools. 9 (2), 141-152.

Thomson, P. and Gunter, H.M. (2011) Inside, outside, upside down: The fluidity of academic researcher ‘identity’ in working with/in school. International Journal of Research and Method in Education. 34 (1), 17-30.

Thomson, P. and Gunter, H.M. (2008) Researching bullying with students: a lens on everyday life in an innovative school. International Journal of Inclusive Education. 12 (2), 185-200.

Thomson, P. and Gunter, H. (2008) Student's participation in school change: action research on the ground, in: Somekh, B. and Noffke, S. (eds) Handbook of Educational Action Research. London: SAGE.

Thomson, P. and Gunter, H.M. (2007) The Methodology of Students-as-Researchers: Valuing and using experience and expertise to develop methods Discourse. 28 (3), 327-342.

Thomson, P. and Gunter, H.M. (2006) From 'consulting pupils' to 'pupils as researchers': a situated case narrative British Educational Research Journal. 32 (6), 839-856. 


The Middle Leadership Project

The Middle Leadership Project: funded by the National College for School Leadership. Professor Tanya Fitzgerald (La Trobe University, Australia, and Joy Eaton (Principal, Auckland, New Zealand) and Helen Gunter undertook a comparative study into the middle leadership and the relationship with learning. Contact: Professor Helen Gunter.


Fitzgerald, T. and Gunter, H.M. (2006) Teacher leadership: A new form of managerialism? New Zealand Journal of Educational Leadership. 21 (2), 43-56.

Fitzgerald, T. and Gunter, H.M., with Eaton, J. (2006) The missing link? Middle Leadership in Schools in New Zealand and England. New Zealand Journal of Educational Leadership. 21 (1), 29-43

Fitzgerald, T. and Gunter, H.M. (2006) Leading learning: middle leadership in schools in England and New Zealand. Management in Education, 20 (3), 6-8.

Gunter, H.M. and Fitzgerald, T. (2007) Leading learning and leading teachers: Challenges for schools in the 21st century Leading and Managing. 13 (1), 1-15.

Modernisation Through Personalized Public Services Project(funded by the ESRC CASE Studentship and Kingswood High School)

Ruth McGinity was appointed to an ESRC CASE studentship in 2010 as a ‘researcher in residence’ at Kingswood High School. Her doctoral project has built on previous studies, but focused specifically on the development of the school’s learning policy and cultural change strategy. During that time the school undertook academy conversion and is in the process of setting up a studio school.

McGinity, R. and Gunter, H.M. (2012) Living improvement 2: a case study of a secondary school in England. Improving Schools.15 (3), 228-244. 


Academies project

This work is ongoing and has been funded by the British Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society (BELMAS) and by the British Academy. The British Academy project was a case study of a city academy in the early phases of the programme:Entrepreneurialism, leadership and organisational reform in the public sector: the case of an independent state school in the inner city Project Directors: Professor Philip Woods and Professor Helen Gunter. Contact: Professor Helen M Gunter


Gunter, H.M. (ed) (2011) The State and Education Policy: the Academies Programme. London: Continuum.

Woods, P., Woods, G. and Gunter, H.M. (2007) Academy schools and entrepreneurialism in education. Journal of Education Policy. 22, (2) 263-285.

Multi-academisation and its leadership

Dr Steve Courtney (with Dr Ruth McGinity of UCL)

This project is supported by the University of Manchester (UK) through the SEED Strategic Research Fund. It takes a case-study approach in a single multi-academy trust to explore motivations for and experiences of multi-academisation from a range of perspectives from professionals designated as ‘leaders’. The project’s aim is to aid development of new understandings of ‘multi-academisation’, where change processes targeting school structure, how education is understood and provided, and professional identities are deeply interwoven with notions of leadership and of government-mandated reform.

Privatisation in education across Europe: New forms in a changing context

Dr Steve Courtney

This BA-funded event is a research symposium which will map the changing relationship across Europe between privatisation and public education, whose provision has experienced multiple and significant interventions by nation states as part of a global reform agenda privileging markets, competition and corporate actors. These reforms now face a new context: a global paradigm shift where Europe is starting to confront the failure of these approaches, evident in, inter alia, the rise of anti-establishment politics.

For this project, the British Academy is funding up to 30 researchers to come to Manchester to discuss these issues, helped by insights from distinguished keynote and invited speakers.

Professional learning through reflection promoted by feedback and coaching

Educational reformers and researchers seem to agree on the significant role of school leaders as key agents of change and improvement in schools. Providers of continuous professional development (CPD) for school leaders in Europe and elsewhere have over the last decades increased their efforts to create effective learning contexts for both aspiring and experienced school leaders in order to develop knowledge and skills. However, finding ways to sustain learning beyond the period of participation in a CPD programme has proved to be a challenge.

Most often the participants vary according to professional background and experiences and the groups participating in a course are therefore very heterogeneous. The approaches to professional development for school leaders in Europe involve the completion of university course, or governmental programmes by state-run training institutions. Professional mentoring for new teachers or newly promoted staff has shown the most promise, but relies on the availability of willing and experienced colleagues to act locally as mentors; and the one-to-one format makes this an expensive strategy.

The primary objective of this project is to develop needs-oriented programmes which move away from the traditional “one size fits all” model. The project explores the potential of an ICT-based self-assessment instrument integrated as part of CPD-programmes for school leaders in the participating countries. The self-assessment exercise generates a personalised feedback report in a very structured form. This feedback helps the participants to identify their individual strengths and weaknesses and suggests areas for improvement and will set the agenda for workshops and group coaching activities. This is expected to promote reflection and personal leadership development which focuses on improving the participants’ motivation and competencies with respect to exercise leadership.

This project is a European Collaboration and the University of Manchester representative is Professor Mel West (

School Business Manager projects (National College for School Leadership)

Research and consultancy work led by Dr Charlotte Woods and in partnership with the National College for Teaching and Leadership (formerly the National College for School Leadership) has contributed to knowledge about, and helped shape the professional development of, a little-researched group of senior support staff: school business managers (SBMs). Research and thinking in school leadership has focused almost exclusively on educational professional members of the workforce.  And yet within an education system where schools are expected to be increasingly ‘business-like’, and commerce plays an ever more prominent role, school business managers are powerful actors. The research is documenting the interplay between headteacher and SBM perspectives highlights a gap in scholarly thinking about school leadership, and underscores that recognition of this ‘new’ reality is overdue. 

Contact: Dr Charlotte Woods (


Woods C. E. (2014) The Professionalization of the School Business Manager London: Bloomsbury

Articles and chapters

Woods C. E., Armstrong P., Pearson D. and Bragg J.  (2013) ‘Perfect partners or uneasy bedfellows? Competing understandings of the place of business management within contemporary education partnerships’, Educational Management Administration and Leadership 41(6) (in press).

Woods C. E., Armstrong P. and Pearson D. (2012) ‘Facilitating primary headteacher succession in England: the role of the School Business Manager’, School Leadership and Management (32)2 pp141-157.

Woods C. E. (2011) ‘Leadership and the school business manager: an illustration of Q methodology’, International Journal of Leadership in Education 14(3) pp 317-335.

Woods C. E., Armstrong P. and Pearson D. (2011) ‘Partnerships for improvement: learning to share in English primary schools’, ICSEI Digest, 2(1).

Gunter H. M., Rogers S. and Woods C. (2010) ‘Personalisation: the individual, trust, and education in a neoliberal world’ in Samier, E. and Schmidt, M. (Eds.) Critical perspectives on trust and betrayal in educational administration and leadership London: Routledge, pp 199-215.

Woods C. (2008) ‘Remodelling and Distributed Leadership: The Case of the School Business Manager’ in Chapman, C. and Gunter, H. (eds) Radical Reforms: perspectives on an era of educational change London: Routledge, pp 80-90.