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Research bodies

Research bodies are wide ranging in their remits. They may be commissioned to carry out professional research by organisations, and/or may have their own organisational objectives. Their focus may be on gathering data, investigating specific areas of educational practice, or producing publications. They present data that may be too expensive or time consuming for a practitioner researcher to gather. Many run conferences, provide libraries of resources and ethical guidelines. Research bodies are sometimes referred to as research and innovation organisations or public research institutions, and include not-for-profit institutions, which are not administered by the higher education sector, and cover many types of organisations. One definition from DBIS was that they are:

‘... non-profit and non-higher education organisations that perform research and development as their main activity, whose existence depends on some degree of public funding, and whose work serves some public policy purpose.'

Many research bodies also carry out academic research, and so the lines can become blurred, but it is useful for us to know about those whose outputs influence education, because the reports they produce sometimes follow large-scale and longitudinal - sometimes very extensive and expensive - pieces of research from which we (and academic researchers) can learn and reference. Research is, of course, also carried out by the Government, the DfE, Ofqual and others - including research bodies. Indeed the Government has committed to spending £22 billion per year by 2024 on research and development. Again such research can be extremely useful to practitioner researchers. 

Examples of research bodies

Research at Department for Education (DfE)

The DfE social research aims to provide high-quality evidence to inform policy development and delivery. The DfE aims to raise awareness amongst the research community of their priorities, for example, how issues of access or choice affect disadvantaged learners. 

A taste of research example (research reports published since May2010): Research and statistics

Education Endowment Foundation (EEF)

EEF was established in 2011 by The Sutton Trust and provides evidence summaries of research, as well as providing useful toolkits. Their work is developed in collaboration with teachers and leaders, and is independently evaluated.

A taste of research example:  Post16-Improving level 2 English and maths outcomes for 16 to 18 year olds

Twitter handle @EducEndowFoundn

Education Policy Institute

The Education Policy Institute aims to raise standards in education. Much of its work focuses on schools, but there are some useful post-16 reports too.

A taste of research example:  Measuring the disadvantage gap in 16-19 education

Such a piece of research will give you Key Findings, so that you can read this and decide if you would like to find out more. These documents also have detailed reference lists which can take your reading further.

Twitter handle @EduPolicyInst

The Education Training Foundation (ETF) 

The Foundation carries out and publishes research for use by - and in support of - the sector. The work includes: workforce data, training needs analyses, data on initial teacher training, and career progression research.

A taste of research example: Professional Standards Survey Report

National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER)

The mission of NFER is to generate evidence and insights that can be used to improve outcomes for future generations everywhere, and to support positive change across education systems. Anyone can sign up for the NFER monthly newsletter and their blog notifications. You may find their research guides particularly useful.

Twitter handle @TheNFER

A taste of research example: What are the implications of Covid-19 for Student recruitment to T levels?

Nuffield Foundation

The Nuffield Foundation provides independent evidence on topics that affect people’s daily lives and their well-being. This includes education - often working in partnerships with other organisations, e.g. the Education Policy Institute. Twitter handle @NuffieldFound

A taste of research example:  Post-16 further education


The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organisation working on establishing evidence-informed international standards, and finding solutions to a range of social, economic and environmental challenges. The OECDiLibrary is a membership service to which many universities subscribe. Much of the OECD’s work however is linked to policy. PISA is the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment, and its outputs have informed the policy of governments around the world. PISA measures 15-year-olds’ ability to use their reading, mathematics and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges. The UK government publishes the PISA national report for England, enabling it to benchmark education policy and performance.

Twitter handle @OECD

A taste of research example: Achievement of 15- year-olds in England: PISA 2018 results

Office for National Statistics (ONS)

The main responsibilities of the ONS are collecting, analysing and disseminating statistics about the UK’s economy, society and population. It is responsible for planning and carrying out the census for England and Wales, and provides a wealth of information about educational attainment and household composition, e.g. within the Growing up in England (GUIE) dataset.

Twitter handle @statisticsONS

A taste of research example: Disability and education, UK: 2019

UK Parliament

The Commons Library publishes politically impartial research in a variety of formats.  You can browse by topic and access research briefings (e.g. Special Educational needs: support in England).

A taste of research example: 16-19 education funding in England since 2010