Artistic DirectorAdrian Horan is a second year Undergraduate in the Department of Education, currently studying the module ‘Education Policy and Society: Past and Present’. Throughout the module there have been several guest speakers from the ‘real world’ of education policy, providing insight into the ways in which it is developed and implemented and the impact it has on various stakeholders. Here Adrian shares his thoughts on the session on social mobility and H.E., delivered by Nik Miller from The Bridge Group. 

Throughout this module, a prominent theme has been the role of research in informing the policy making process. One difficulty with this is creating a sustained bridge between the two, and recognising that both areas should not be viewed as distinct from one another.

So who is working to build that bridge? Well, according to a recent guest lecturer for the module, Nik Miller, there’s one group in particular working to do just that: The Bridge Group, a quasi-political organisation and designated researcher-policy bridge builder. As stated on their ‘About’ page, The Bridge Group are ‘independent, not for profit, policy association promoting social mobility through higher education’, often done through the use of public reports, events and, in this case, seminars.

As director of The Bridge Group, not only did Nik need to convince the class that they were the best for the job, but he also had to show that The Bridge Group were concerned with, and working to increase, social mobility. Quite the task, it seemed.

For the most part, Nik did an impressive job of showing both the impact of groups like The Bridge Group on the policy-making process, and also how best to inform educationalists like ourselves, and also the politicians The Bridge Group aims to serve, about the difficulties faced in tackling the problem of social mobility.

Nik did this in a fairly learner-centred way, focusing on social mobility in the first half of the lecture, and policy-informing in the second half. Nik also made sure to engage and challenge the class throughout the lesson, whilst informing us about the two issues. The ‘competence vs knowledge’ debate has reared its head numerous times throughout the module (and in others, too), so it was refreshing to see someone working in practise with a healthy dose of both.

As much as both Nik and The Bridge Group admirably work to bridge that age-old gap between the researcher and the politician, there was considerably less focus on closing that gap, and more on how the research can get to politicians. What would have made the lecture more insightful is if he placed equal emphasis on the role of the researcher in informing the policy-making process, and not just the politician.  Researchers too need to be tuned in with politics. In doing so, less pressure may be put on organisations such as The Bridge Group to ensure that both researcher and politician alike contribute to these aims.

Overall, Nik did an impressive job in explaining how best groups in society can work to address these two prevalent issues in higher education policy, and how the theories and models discussed in the module’s lectures ring true to real-life situations.

How do you view the role of research/ the researcher in policy making?