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Ulster University’s Lecturer Dr Priyank Shukla has been awarded a British Association for International and Comparative Education research network grant to set up and lead the Comparative and Interdisciplinary Education Research Network, an interdisciplinary education and life and health sciences partnership focused on research into inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Working alongside co-investigators Dr Una O’Connor Bones, Deputy Director of the UNESCO Centre based in the School of Education and Professor Stephen McClean, Head of the School of Biomedical Sciences at Ulster University, the group will also utilise the expertise of Dr Elizabeth Hidson from University of Sunderland, Dr Sara Ganassin from Newcastle University and Professor Patrizia Fattori from University of Bologna.

Together, the experts in education and biomedical sciences will collaborate to promote a strong interaction between early-career and experienced researchers and facilitate interdisciplinary joint efforts across geographical borders.

Principal Investigator Dr Priyank Shukla, Lecturer in Stratified Medicine at Ulster University commented: “It’s our aim to focus our research efforts around the vitally important United Nations Sustainable Development Goal-4, which hinges on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030. Education will play a key role in allowing several other UN Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved, so it is imperative that it receives the attention it deserves.

The initial meeting of the research networking group took place virtually on 29th of Sep 2021 where collectively we agreed to proceed from a working hypothesis that unfortunately the Covid-19 pandemic has not only interrupted education, but may have reversed progress that was being made towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal-4. Initial exploratory data from nine countries across four continents highlight themes of educational inequality and digital poverty significantly affecting education.”

Co-investigator Dr Elizabeth Hidson from University of Sunderland commented: “Going forward, we will report on additional data from education stakeholders around the world. This work will provide a deeper understanding of the challenges faced in post-Covid education and contribute to the discussion about how to build back better and more equitably”.