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Kate Duffy: How studying Education can help you change lives

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We caught up with Kate Duffy, Senior Lecturer in Education Studies at the University of Sunderland, to find out why Education is a great subject to study at degree level.

Schoolchildren in a classroom

What do you teach and what is your academic background?

“I’m a Senior Lecturer in Education Studies. My special interest is in the ethical and philosophical aspects of education and the research approaches into these areas. I’m currently undertaking a PhD in Education and exploring the moral dimensions of educational practice.”

What do you enjoy most about the subject area of Education and why should students study it?

“I love the multidisciplinary nature of education. The sheer complexity of an educational practice fascinates me (and scares me). As a good educator, you need to have a sound awareness of the disciplines of philosophy, sociology and psychology, as well as an understanding of how these fit historically and politically into any decision you make.

"As an educator, you can have a profound effect on someone else’s life and it is so important that those of us studying education always reflect upon this. Each area of the Education Studies programme works on teasing out these issues, so when students are ready to enter employment in a range of educational situations, they feel confident to make the best decisions they can for the people they work with and for.”

What skills do Education courses give you, and how can they help students in their careers?

“All of our Education programmes, whether it be Education Studies or professional teaching programmes, give you the skills of research in the first instance. Being a confident professional who is knowledgeable about research and the complexity of it shows your ability to demonstrate your creativity, independence and trustworthiness. These skills and dispositions are essential for an educator.

“The programmes also give you the practical skills of reflection and criticality – knowing how to make a decision and what decision to make in a difficult situation is crucial as no two situations will be the same. This ability to be adaptable in a wide range of situations is a disposition that all employers are looking for."

What kind of careers can students look forward to after graduating in a course in Education?

“The ability to view situations from a range of perspectives and demonstrate creativity and autonomy is essential in any career that requires you to work with people. The majority of students are studying education as they want to go into teaching, but education is much more than this.

“Educational decisions affect the life chances of us all and how we live our lives and engage with others. Having a secure understanding of this can help you in any careers that are engaged with managing social and educational projects, research and journalism into social and educational issues, developing and designing curriculum for alternative and community provision, human resources and personal development areas.”


Claire Rushworth, primary education graduate
BA (Hons) Primary Education graduate, and local primary school teacher, Claire Rushworth

What areas of Education can students specialise in across the courses?

“The key factors that affect life chances are the ability to be numerate and literate. Without this knowledge, people are limited in what they can achieve. There is a need for educators in all phases and contexts to be knowledgeable about these areas and how to teach and support others in them. Mathematics and English modules are threaded through the programmes and you can specialise in one of these subjects in the final year of Education Studies.”

What kinds of opportunities are there for students whilst they are studying?

“Students are encouraged to take on a volunteering placement in an educational context as this ensures that your experience is current and you are demonstrating some application of the skills and knowledge you are developing. In addition to this practical experience, you will be invited to national education research conferences and to engage with our research centres. If you are studying BA (Hons) Education Studies, you are also guaranteed an interview for our Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) if you are planning to train to be a teacher.

"We also offer flexible learning opportunities - for example the BA (Hons) Education Studies course is available on a part-time basis and allows students to complete the course in two years, effectively fast-tracking you into your career. It's ideal for those who are already working or have worked in a relevant educational context. Teaching takes place on evenings and weekends, with a proportion of teaching through distance learning. Typical applicants include teaching assistants, vocational teachers, trainers in public and third sector, lecturers, curriculum designers and policy makers."

Why is the University of Sunderland a great place to study Education?

“With Sunderland Teacher Training College opening in 1908, the University has over 100 years’ experience in teacher training.

“Many of the academics teaching on the programmes are also researchers into education across a range of disciplines and you get to hear first-hand the results and impact of this.”

What resources and facilities do students studying Education have access to?

“Murray Library has extensive access to up to date and cutting-edge research into education practice. The Education Department has strong connections and partnerships with local education establishments and many of them have helped to shape our programmes so that students are ready for the posts that they are applying for.”

What positive advice would you give to students thinking about studying Education?

“Try to get some hands-on experience within a range of educational contexts. For example, you may want to volunteer in your local primary or secondary school, or out of school club. You should also consider volunteering or visiting youth clubs or getting involved with leadership and mentoring programmes.”


Published: 11 September 2017