Research in global and sustainable education

The Department’s research on sustainable development creates knowledge and influences practices to shape sustainable futures.

The strand members’ research incorporates sustainable development questions about diverse local, national and global contexts. For example: how can society approach responsible and ethical consumption; why are there inequalities in global education; what approaches can counter sexual violence?

UWE Bristol recognises the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The core purpose of this research strand is advancing knowledge in three dimensions (the economic, social and environmental), to solve future challenges, create opportunities and shape our communities across the region and beyond as set out in the UWE Bristol Strategy 2030.

Strand conveners

The research expertise of the strand covers a range of research areas including, but not limited to:

  • Sustainable futures
  • Science education
  • Food production and consumption in schools
  • Anti-sexual violence on campus
  • Responsible and ethical production and consumption
  • Global educational practices.

Our staff have experience in examining and supervising research students in the area of global and sustainable education. We welcome new postgraduate research students to conduct research with us.

Research projects


Exploring children and parents’ changing perceptions of entomophagy (or, how do we get kids to eat insects)

The aim of this initial project is to:

  • identify the key mechanisms which impact on children’s food choices when faced with new novel foods in order to plan for sustainable futures
  • design and review pedagogical strategies and tools to develop a healthier, more sustainable future population through teaching and lJearning in the primary and secondary school context.

In 2016, the UK government launched their first Childhood Obesity Plan in order to combat the growing numbers of overweight and obese young people. In 2017, the Government noted that sustainable change will only be achieved through the active engagement of schools, communities and families (UK Government 2017). Meanwhile, there has been recurring calls for us to reconsider what we eat with concerns about the environmental impact of beef and other meat production. Insects have been considered a possible alternative.

In light of this, Bug Farm Foods have proposed that a shift to the use of insect based proteins in school meals, coupled with targeted learning in schools may offer a positive, long term outcome to achieve these goals. This research aims to evaluate this programme and consider the future for entomophagy in UK schools.


Project contact: Dr Verity Jones.
Funder: Welsh Assembly Government.

Approaches to filling the STEM gap in Wales

The gap between number of students taking science and the need for STEM employees is growing. Working with a family of schools in Pembrokeshire, this four year project looks at how a long term commitment to STEM by public, private and charity sectors might be used as a future model; one which will enable both pupils and teachers to grow in confidence, skills, understanding and enjoyment of STEM.

Project contact: Dr Verity Jones.
Funder: Dragon LNG and Pembrokeshire County Council.

Approaches to sustainable food development in schools

Project contact: Dr Verity Jones.
Funder: SBRI and Innovative UK.

Using MOOCs for social change

The Who Made My Clothes? Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) has been running for the last two years. In the three week periods that it runs each summer, over 16,000 people have taken part. Supported by Exeter University and international charity Fashion Revolution, this free course aims to inspire and enable people to take a closer look at the supply chains involved with their clothes and consider ways they can actively support garment workers around the world. The research looks at how the MOOC does this and the impact it has on learners understandings and practices.


Project duration: Three years.
Project contact: Dr Verity Jones.
Funder: University of Exeter and in collaboration with Fashion Revolution.

Project Zulu

Project Zulu is a charitable educational development initiative run by UWE Bristol in support of schools in and around Madadeni township in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. The University currently works in partnership with ten schools in the region, running a range of educational projects including teaching and learning, ICT development, physical infrastructure and sports coaching.

Projects involve UWE Bristol student volunteers and academic staff working jointly with pupils, teachers and school leaders to improve facilities, share innovative practice and develop resources and strategies to improve educational opportunities. Project Zulu also facilitates a biennial UK fundraising tour for children’s choirs from these partner schools.

The research arm of Project Zulu aims to evaluate the impact of these initiatives, eliciting the views of all stakeholders, including those of the local education department. Researching with partners on the ground in Madadeni, we evaluate the strengths and weaknesses, benefits and drawbacks for UK and South African partners in order to develop the quality and usefulness of the projects.

Examples of this include:

Project Zulu 'Reading in English Acceleration Project’ (REAP).
Dr Jane Carter, Karan Vickers-Hulse and Ben Knight are collaborating with colleagues from the Departments of Computer Science and Creative Technologies, and Psychology at UWE Bristol and Education faculty colleagues at the University of Zululand in South Africa to develop and pilot a mobile application for assisting in the classification of school reading books based on text complexity indicators. Combining knowledge about the teaching and learning of reading, artificial intelligence machine learning and local expertise, the project aims to support teachers in township, rural and remote regions to create graded schemes from the discrete range of books in schools.

Project Zulu ICT Champions action research project.
Dr David Wyatt from UWE Bristol's Department of Computer Science and Creative Technologies has been running an ICT action research project among a cluster of township primary schools since 2017. The project has involved training of ICT Champions among the school staff, digital literacy for staff and pupils and infrastructure development. The project has evolved to create a community of practice made up of ICT Champions from six schools. Data has been gathered and analysed on the impact of the project from the perspective of the Champions and other school staff, and is being written up by Dr Wyatt along with Ben Knight (UWE Bristol) and Dr Mshyeni Gina (University of Zululand). It is hoped that findings from this work will illuminate new pathways to develop teacher confidence and expertise in the teaching of ICT in rural and township settings.

Project Zulu Township Teaching research.
Dr Marcus Witt, Dr Fay Lewis and Ben Knight (UWE Bristol, Department of Education and Childhood) have been analysing data from second year UWE Bristol undergraduate teacher education students about their experiences of professional development arising from their volunteer teaching work in Project Zulu township schools between 2016 and 2019. The aim of this research is to determine whether, how and to what extent overseas teaching placements in contrasting contexts support professional development in ways that domestic UK school placements do not, and if there are any transferable lessons.

Project Zulu Maths Teaching research.
Dr Marcus Witt and Dr Fay Lewis have been exploring the experiences of UWE Bristol undergraduate teacher education students when teaching maths in a context where mathematical learning resources are not readily available. The research aims to examine the impact that this has on the educational choices that the students make in the classroom, how this influences their thoughts about the use and purpose of resources and how these experiences influence their longer term thinking and practice once back in the UK.

Project contact: Ben Knight.
Funder: UWE Bristol Global Centre.

Recently completed

Inclusive Campus #SpeakUp @ UWE Bristol anti-sexual violence social norms campaign

This 18 month inter-disciplinary academic project (April 2017 to October 2018) comprises two projects:

Project 1: Bystander initiative evaluation and development

Methods: Evaluate Bystander through pre/post questionnaires to 86 students followed by focus groups with 15 students.

Aim: Produce modified Bystander initiative training programme materials and academic papers.

Project 2: Bystander social norms campaign

Methods: Work collaboratively with staff and students to embed the outputs from Project 1 evaluation into a university social norms campaign.

Aim: Develop pro-social norms refined from Project 1 evaluation and ensure these are embedded in the University's #SpeakUp marketing campaign to be launched from September 2018. The pro-social norms would be evident in the elements of the campaign including an animated film, posters and webpages.

HEFCE Catalyst Funding: £50,000

The project team comprises:

UWE Bristol staff

and external experts

  • Lisa Benjamin, Somerset & Avon Rape & Sexual Abuse Support (SARSAS)
  • Rueben Chatterjee, Stand Against Racism and Inequality (SARI)
  • Charlotte Gage (Bristol Zero Tolerance).

Project contacts: Dr Helen Bovill with Dr Richard Waller and Professor Kieran McCartan.
Funder: HEFCE.

Imagining the future after Brexit: Academics tell their stories

This project was undertaken whilst Dr Cristina Costa was Associate Professor at UWE Bristol. She has since joined Durham University.

A collaborative project with Dr Mark Murphy (University of Glasgow), Dr Rille Raaper (University of Durham); Dr Jenna Condie (Western Sydney University) and Dr Cristina Costa (UWE Bristol).

Project duration: 4 June 2018 to 3 June 2019.
Project contact: Dr Cristina Costa.

Awareness and confidence to intervene of first year undergraduates in relation to sexual and domestic abuse on campus

This research involved closed surveys being sent to all first year students in a UK university at the start of semester one and then again at the start of semester two. It received n = 1,604 responses across the two surveys which used evidence based scales of awareness, confidence to intervene, and intervention opportunities and action regarding sexual and domestic abuse on campus. It also included an evaluation survey for first year students who received a two hour bystander programme, receiving 86 responses.

The research took place between 2018 and 2019 and was conducted by Dr Helen Bovill. The research received no external funding, and was funded internally through a research support scheme and conducted through this combined with scholarly leave.


Project contact: Dr Helen Bovill.


For further information about the strand, please contact any members above by following their staff profile links.

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