UNSW School of Education has a strong research program exploring the sociology of education. The Systems, Structures and Social Justice Research Community studies the role of education, broadly construed, in the creation, maintenance and/or disruption of social difference and inequality. 

With a view of education through the prism of sociology, the research focuses on:

  • The equitable operation of primary, secondary and higher education systems
  • How educational institutions socialise young people within broader society 
  • The ways in which teachers’ work can operate to both reinforce and disrupt patterns of inequality
  • Teachers as subject to, as well as constructing, social, cultural and political dynamics in education systems.

Research aims

The Systems, Structures and Social Justice Research Community engages with issues of inequitable provision and unequal outcomes across early childhood, school and higher education, as well as adult and other lifelong learning contexts. The community brings expertise in the analysis of power relations including issues of social class, race, gender and geographic inequalities. It's these shifting, yet enduring concerns with which the sociology of education research community engages.

Current projects

The Systems, Structures and Social Justice Research Community is a newly formed group so we’re yet to launch collective projects. However, ongoing activities include regular meetings (virtually and face-to-face post COVID-19) for sharing and progressing research activity with the view to develop collaborative research projects within and beyond the group. 

In addition, within the group and extending outside of the school are a range of collaborative projects supporting the interests of the sociology of education community. Please see our staff member profiles listed below for further details on these projects and associated publications.

  • A small collaborative research project is ongoing between Scientia Fellow Kevin Lowe and Dr Sally Baker. This project on Indigenous students and their experiences of higher education will investigate issues impacting on students’ capacity to complete undergraduate courses at university. It plans to investigate issues such as teaching styles, curriculum and university structures. It's intended that this work will complement a broader bodywork undertaken by Sally Baker on higher education and equity, as well as inform the development and thinking behind a recently submitted ARC grant.

  • Kevin Lowe is also working with Dr Rose Amazan and Shanna Langdon (EdD candidate) and external collaborators including Dr Greg Vass, Dr Christine Grice and Dr Cathie Burgess to help develop the Aboriginal Voices project. This project has been developed over four years to affect the whole school development and management of education for Aboriginal students. Its key features include:

    • Transformative leadership
    • School and community engagement
    • Pedagogic change 
    • Student voice.
  • External to the school, Dr Meghan Stacey has been working collaboratively with cross-institutional researchers from the University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney and Curtin University considering teacher workload in contexts of devolution and across variously advantaged schooling sites. Currently this team have a project planned to consider these issues in the context of COVID-19. Stacey also works collaboratively with Associate Professor Nicole Mockler from the University of Sydney in relation to teacher subjectivity within regimes of evidence and data, and has a current ARC Linkage on ‘Time-use, Time Poverty and the Intensification of Teachers’ Work’ with A/Prof Mockler as well as Dr Anna Hogan (UQ) and Prof Greg Thompson (QUT).

  • A/Prof Scott Eacott and A/Prof Richard Niesche are collaborating with researchers from Deakin, Monash and Curtin Universities on an ARC DP that examines whether greater school autonomy has increased inequalities in the education system. 

    For more information, see School Autonomy Reform and Social Justice in Australian Public Education.

Who we are