What are online research methods?


Today my colleague Vanessa Dodd and I are teaching a session on online research methods to our EdD students. This is what we are planning to do.

What are online research methods?


Careering towards a wall? Career guidance policy and election 2015


I have just published an article in the new issue of Graduate Market Trends. It is called Careering towards a wall? Career guidance policy and election 2015. Since I wrote it the situation has moved on a bit with announcements from Labour and the publication of the manifestos. However, the basic argument still stands, political parties aren’t paying enough attention to career development issues.

Election fever is gripping the nation. The volume of political noise is growing daily. However, so far this noise has focused on issues like Ed Miliband’s two kitchens and the fact that a seagull once stole David Cameron’s sandwich. But, as the election gets closer the main political parties might start to talk more seriously about policy. The question is whether career guidance will be one of the policies being talked about.

Read on…

Using mixed methods


I’ve come to think of myself a working largely within a mixed methods paradigm. Most of the projects that I do combine a number of different methods because I believe that this offers me the best chance of understanding the phenomenon that I’m interested in. I am also constantly surprised by the paramilitary wings of the quantitative and qualitative fields who respectively hold that nothing that can’t be counted is real and that nothing that can be counted has any value. So I try and assert the idea that if researchers are to understand the world they need to approach it in a variety of ways and through a variety of lenses. Some of this will seek to measure, to quantify and to lock down reality, others will seek to describe, explore and open up reality. Ultimately there are huge advantages in combining approaches to combine the insights that both offer.

I’m going to be teaching a session mixed methods to our EdD students on Wednesday. This is what I thought that I might cover.

Using mixed methods in educational research

Arrival in Riyadh


I arrived in Riyadh in the early hours of this morning. 

I will be spending today teaching a class to members of the emergent Saudi career development community. But on Monday and Tuesday I’ll get a bit more of a chance to look around and talk to some people in some of the universities as well as some people at the policy level. 
I’m being hosted by the Arab Institute of Mangement (AIMS) who are hoping to become one of the major players in the career development field in Saudi.  I’ll be looking forward to working with them more.
This is my second visit to Saudi. I visited first in September 2014. At the time a I wrote a number of pieces but none of them have ever seen the light of day. I’m hoping to write more about Saudi because it is such an intriguing place.
I suppose that the big question for me is about the limits of career guidance as an activity. It is such a western concept , bound up with individualism, social mobility and democratic states. How does such a concept transfer to a very different context? Can it work? Will it be able to do any good? How will its assumptions and basis have to change?
I’ll be trying to think more about these things as my engagement with Saudi Arabia continues.



It is possible that we have witnessed one of the defining moments of the 2015 General Election campaign.

Today David Cameron stood up and gave a speech in which he got the name of his football team wrong.

This is at once utterly trivial and unimportant and critical to the way in which David Cameron is seen by the wider population.

Football is very important to a large minority in Britain. They spend their Saturday afternoons fretting about the performance of their team and identify infinitely more with these teams than they do with any politician. Even amongst those who aren’t hard core fans many still have an affection for their favorite team. Given this it is hardly surprising that David Cameron would want to associate himself with this sub-culture. It makes him look normal as if he shares the concerns and interests of ordinary Britons.

I get this. I have almost no interest in sport in general. I’ll watch the World Cup. I’ve been to the odd Leicester City game, but basically most sport leaves me cold. In Australia, where everyone is sport mad, I find this is a crippling defect in my personality. People want to talk to me about the cricket, but I just know nothing about it and do not share in the rise and fall of the English cricket team. In England however I’ve found that it is less of a disability. English people like sport but it isn’t as central to the culture as it is in Australia. So I admit I don’t like football very much and people don’t mind, just as I don’t mind if they don’t know who Howling Wolf is. It’s OK to be different.

The problem is that politics has become so populist that it isn’t OK to be different. Politicians all have to play the part of “ordinary blokes”. Of course they aren’t ordinary blokes, they are a privileged elite who barely leave London and think about nothing other than what goes on in Westminster. This puts them in the awkward position of pretending to care about the things that other people care about. Cameron is usually really good at this. He’s full of the “Sam and I have date night” stories which help people to forget his background, his position and his values. He’s kind of like us we think. On the other hand Ed Miliband is rubbish at this. He is clearly a political nerd.

So far this has played in Cameron’s favour. However, today he made an error. He doesn’t like football, he only pretends to like it. Presumably the selection of Aston Villa as his favourite team was the result of a long forgotten focus group in 2005 and for some reason West Ham popped into his head this morning. He is revealed as inauthentic and he may be punished by the electorate for it. Of course Ed Miliband would love to be as good at faking blokey bonhomie as Cameron, he doesn’t have any moral high ground. But, he is a hopeless actor so by default he’s had to be more authentic. This was a disadvantage, but now Cameron has been caught out it looks like an advantage. Even worse for Cameron this chimes with people’s concerns that he is an out of touch Lord Snooty who probably drinks peasants’ blood for his nightcap. Now we know that he doesn’t even know which football team he supports this looks all the more likely.

Life isn’t fair I’m afraid David. But you live by the sword you have to expect to die by it. I don’t like football either, but then I’ve never tried to get a job by pretending that I do.

International Best Practice in Career Education and Guidance (Riyhad presentation)

international best practice

Today I travel to Riyhad to give a presentation on international best practice in career education and guidance. I will be engaging with the newly developing Saudi career development profession and trying to help them to understand how their practice fits with international practice.

This is what I plan to do.

International Best Practice in Career Education and Guidance (Riyhad presentation)

What’s in the Green Party’s manifesto about careers


In the interest of full disclosure I should admit that I’m a member of the Green Party (albeit a very inactive one). I joined a few years ago because of the parties commitment to social justice. I have concerns about the environment and a particular interest in transport policy, but this isn’t my main thing. However, until writing this blog post I admit that I’ve never really reviewed Green Party policy with my work hat on. So I’ll do my best to be objective.

For the Common Good, the Green Party manifesto opens with a Foreword which positions the party firmly within a redistributive leftist tradition. There was a time when Greens used to claim that they were neither left nor right, but this no longer washes. The Green Party is clearly pitching itself to the left of Labour.

We believe that we can build a society that works for the common good – and that those with the broadest shoulders really should pay their fair share towards it.

The rhetoric in the manifesto is about equality, democracy and social justice.

The first section of the manifesto is about the economy, but the link with jobs and livelihood is made very explicit. The argument is made that looking at wellbeing and equality is more important than looking at the overall growth of GDP. This is then translated into a plan to end austerity, to tax more and to invest more in public services. Following this section there are unsurprisingly a couple of sections on environmental issues where the Greens play into their heartland of environmentalists.

One of the challenging things in analysing the Green’s manifesto for someone like me with wonkish tendancies is that they have not organised it under the main government departments. Rather the world is reorganised through a Green lens in which the environment, equality and so on become the main themes of the manifesto. This is undoubtedly good, but it does make it more difficult to draw direct comparisons.

The party will invest in youth. In particularly in the youth service and the delivery of extra-curricula learning opportunities. They will also improve funding to further education, remove higher education fees, abolish unpaid internships (I suspect that this might prove easier said than done) and expand apprenticeships. In schools they will support the idea of comprehensive schooling and bring schools back into local authorities (including private schools), increase funding and value teachers more highly and end SATs.

On the curriculum they will strengthen PSHE and vocational education (although no explicit mention of career education).  They will also end single faith schools in favour of the pluralist teaching of religion.

On employment the Green Party are strongly focused on job quality. They will increase the minimum wage, support trade unions and other forms of workplace democracy, reduce the length of the working week and reform the tax and benefit system. In the welfare to work space they would end benefit conditionality.

This is radical stuff. There are lots of big changes proposed here. Many of them would have a big impact on individual’s lives and careers. However in terms of specific careers policies the Green Party manifesto is underdeveloped. There is nothing on career education and guidance in schools, very limited attention to adult career development, no mention of the National Careers Service and no ideas for the reform of the Jobcentre and Work Programme other than a welcome move away from benefit conditionality. There is clearly a need for the party to engage more seriously with these issues in the future.