The Faculty's Education and Social Research Institute (ESRI) is one of the leading UK centres for Applied Educational Research and Evaluation with a thriving research community.  67% of our research was rated as ‘internationally excellent’ or ‘world leading’ in the REF 2014, with 100% of our research impact being rated ‘internationally excellent’ or ‘world leading’. 

ESRI is committed to high quality research in the field of education, and aims to offer the best and most innovative approaches to educational research in the UK and internationally, across disciplines and in partnership with a broad range of stakeholders. Teaching within the Faculty is closely informed by research and both Schools work closely with ESRI.

Our aims are:

ESRI is led by a professorial team of international distinction, including Tony Brown, Liz de Freitas, Rachel Holmes, Gabrielle Ivinson, Cathy Lewin, Maggie MacLure, Ricardo  Nemirovsky, Yvette Solomon, Kate Pahl (Director) Harry Torrance and Nicola Whitton.

The Institute has an outstanding portfolio of research grants and publications, regularly organises national and international seminars and workshops and other services to research, and offers several studentship awards annually. Our work includes a Biosocial Research Laboratory and workshops on Arts Methodologies.

ESRI is part of the White Rose Doctoral Training Programme which involves a number of collaborative doctoral awards and programmes funded through the ESRC.

Advancing theory and methodology in social research is a long-standing interest, alongside the ways in which knowledge is produced, used and controlled, and in the complicated relationships that exist between research, policy, professional practice and the public interest.

Our research activities comprise a wide range of research interests, that are led by world leading researchers with a focus on theory and practice and underpinned by our Theory and Methodology group.

We have six research centres:


Discover more about research at Manchester Metropolitan University.


Our Departments, Research Centres and Groups

Research Group

Children and Childhood

The Children and Childhood RKE group comprises researchers and practitioners spanning a range of academic disciplines across nursery and early years education, arts education, parenting, and the nature of contemporary childhood. The research is funded by a range of funders including Department for Education, ESRC, AHRC, various charities, local authorities including Sure Start and similar social service evaluations, and local museums and art galleries

Group Contacts

Professor Rachel Holmes

Research Group

Youth and Community

The Youth and Community RKE group comprises expertise in informal and intergenerational learning, youth work and community development. The research is funded by a range of funders including Department for Education, ESRC, AHRC, the European Union, various charities including the Cooperative Foundation, local authorities including local museums and art galleries.

Research Group

STEM Education and Learning Technologies

The STEM Education research group comprises researchers across the Faculty of Education with a variety of foci including curriculum conceptualisations of mathematical and scientific knowledge, the development of learner identities including the role of gender in STEM Education, teachers’ understandings of science and the nature of science learning, informal learning in science, the role and use of ICT in education, algorithms and the development of big data analysis. The research is funded by the European Union, charities including Nuffield, The Education Endowment Fund and Wellcome, HEFCE and the Norwegian Research Council

Research Group

Theory and Methodology

The Theory and Methodology Research Group operates across and underpins much of the work of ESRI's other research groups. Core membership and substantive activity overlaps with groups above. Theory and Methodology was highlighted in REF 2014 Panel feedback “The sub-panel judged that the work of the cross-cutting research group Theory, Methodology and Knowledge Production underpinned the production of a significant number of world-leading and internationally excellent outputs”.

Research Group

Teacher Education, Leadership and Curriculum

The Teacher Education, Leadership and Curriculum RKE group includes research on teacher education, school leadership, curriculum, assessment and SEN/inclusion. It combines world leading research with the work of a very large and highly successful teacher education Faculty. Much of its activity overlaps with and contributes to substantive research in the STEM Education group. Special Needs and Inclusion is another area of expertise. The group produces research to inform and develop teacher education across the region and the field of teacher education internationally. Research funders include the National College for Teaching and Learning (NCTL), England, the National Council for Special Education, (NCSE), Ireland, the Higher Education Academy, the Co-operative College, and charities such as Nuffield and the Book Trust.

Research Group

Play and Learning

This group is interested in exploring the potential of games and playful approaches in all aspects of learning and education. While we have a particular focus in playful learning in adulthood the group is also open to those with interest in play in childhood, and those with a wider interest in the sociology and psychology of play. This core expertise in adult play makes this group unique in UK academia.

Key areas of interest include:

  • The potential of digital games and play for learning;
  • Theorising play in adulthood as a critical pedagogy;
  • Learning through game design;
  • Creativity, playfulness, and learner engagement.
Our Research