Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Teaching, learning and uses of technology in UK schools: education research programme 2022

Apply for funding to join a research programme exploring:

  • teaching and learning, with a focus on teachers and their training, supply and retention
  • the uses of technology in teaching and learning.

Principal investigators must be based at a UK institution eligible for ESRC funding. Co-investigators can be from other non-academic sectors.

Your project must be social science-led and at least 50% within ESRC’s remit.

The full economic cost (fEC) of your project can be between £400,000 and £850,000. The total fund is up to £6 million at 100% fEC, we will fund at 80% fEC.

Your project must start on 1 December 2022 and can last up to three years.

Who can apply

Principal investigators must be based at a UK institution eligible for ESRC funding. That organisation will be responsible for submitting the grant application to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Collaborations beyond academia are encouraged. UK co-investigators can be from other sectors, including:

  • businesses
  • third sector and non-profit organisations
  • government organisations
  • public sector research establishments.

Standard ESRC eligibility rules apply. Read more about individual and institutional eligibility in the ESRC research funding guide.

What we're looking for

This is an exciting and unique opportunity to be part of an ambitious new programme of research that will strive to make a difference to education in the UK.


This opportunity aims to fund research projects that will collectively build new interdisciplinary research capacity in education, around two interrelated priority themes:

  • teaching and learning, focusing on the role of teachers, their training, supply and retention
  • the uses of technology in teaching and learning.

Your project must:

  • address one or both of these priority themes in the context of compulsory education, within one or more of the UK’s four nations and jurisdictions
  • build partnerships with stakeholders to bridge boundaries between research, policy and practice.

The projects will form a new education research programme, led by Professor Gemma Moss, the Programme Director. Professor Moss was the successful applicant following ESRC’s call for a research director in 2021.

The programme will address key challenges in policy and practice in different parts of the UK.

Projects will make a significant scientific contribution by strengthening the evidence base underpinning research-informed practice in education, leading to improvements in professional and policymaker knowledge.

By developing a more robust understanding of the factors affecting the quality of teaching and learning, project outcomes are intended to have positive impacts on the lives of children and their families over the long term.

To contribute to the broader programme, projects are expected to:

  • involve joint working with practitioners, policymakers and other stakeholders to bridge boundaries between research, policy and practice in new ways
  • consider various aspects of local, regional and national contexts that help determine what works, for whom, in what circumstances and why
  • address issues in policy and practice that are relevant to the devolved nature of primary and secondary education in the UK and the different priorities of the four nations and jurisdictions of the UK.

Projects must be social science-led and at least 50% within ESRC’s remit.

Successful projects must start on 1 December 2022.

ESRC welcomes any methodological approach, whether quantitative, qualitative or mixed method in nature. We also encourage the use of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches.

The sections that follow provide further clarification on the scope and remit of this funding opportunity.

Indicative research topics

Potential areas of research may include, but are not limited to:

  • the local and national factors driving teacher supply, retention and mobility in the four nations and jurisdictions of the UK
  • preparing teachers with the lifelong knowledge and skills to meet the challenges of teaching in diverse contexts
  • the contribution made by different forms of initial teacher education, continuing professional development and research co-partnerships to professional knowledge and the exercise of professional judgement
  • teaching in response to community challenges, for example in contexts that are high poverty, rural or remote, high unemployment, high diversity or marginalised
  • connecting what works with what matters: teachers’ roles in agenda setting for research and knowledge co-production
  • preparing for teaching in a digitally connected world
  • digital inequalities, their impacts on pupils and ways to mitigate them
  • ethical and professional questions posed by ‘big data’ and technology in education
  • teaching for digital citizenship
  • pedagogies and technologies that make a difference in practice
  • practitioner, pupil and family perspectives on the switch to using digital technologies to support learning during COVID-19, and any implications longer term.

The above are examples of research topics that could be pursued within the two interrelated priority themes. Some applicants may wish to situate their proposal within one or more of these research topics. Others may wish to suggest new areas or topics within the two broad priority themes.

Proposals should explain how the research relates to one or both priority themes. They must clearly identify the project’s original contribution to the existing evidence base and its relevance to policy or practice in the light of the programme’s broader aims.

ESRC welcomes projects of varying scope and scale that can demonstrate a direct contribution to the aims of the programme.

Recognising the devolved education systems in the UK

There are important differences between the education systems of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

We welcome projects that will undertake comparative research across the four UK nations and jurisdictions on issues of wide relevance. Equally, we welcome projects that will focus on relevant regional differences within England or one of the devolved administrations (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).

All proposals should explain how their research relates to one or more of the four UK nations and jurisdictions, their research needs, and policy and practice challenges.

Developing partnerships between research, policy and practice

The projects that we fund should have a strong emphasis on finding new ways of working collaboratively with practitioners, policymakers and other stakeholders. These should be appropriate in scope and scale to the project’s research questions and design.

Proposals should specify why the partnerships they seek to develop are appropriate to the aims and objectives of the project.

They should explain how they will develop and nurture these partnerships during the lifecycle of the project by considering factors that may constrain or enable partnership working, and the resources they will need to dedicate to this.

Working collaboratively as part of the research programme

Successful applicants will be expected to work collaboratively with other grant holders and share knowledge, including perspectives on issues that arise from partnership working over the length of the programme.

This collective discussion will be used to develop new approaches to research-informed practice within the education field.

The research director will organise a series of seminars and workshops throughout the programme to support collaboration and coordination. Programme-level activities will be largely funded from the director’s budget.

However, individual project teams should also allocate additional resources to support their participation in programme-level events and to enable collaborative activities with other grant holders in the programme.

Applicants should specify how they plan to work collaboratively as part of the programme, and the resources and mechanisms they will put in place to ensure this.

Ineligible costs and activity

We will not fund:

  • projects that do not focus predominantly on issues relevant to the UK
  • proposals that are deemed to be less than 50% social science
  • PhD studentships.

How to apply

Applications must be made through the Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S).

To be able to do this, your host organisation must be registered for Je-S, and you must hold a Je-S account. If you are unsure about this, you should contact your research organisation’s research office for further guidance.

Please read the attached Je-S guidance for in-depth information about the application process.

Proposals will need to show 100% of the full economic cost of the proposed research. ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

When applying, select ‘new document’, then:

  • council: ESRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: research programme
  • call/type/mode: education research programme 2022.

Your application must include the following attachments:

  • case for support
  • justification of resources
  • data management plan (for grants planning to generate data)
  • CV or CVs.

Other attachments should be included where necessary. Please see the attached Je-S guidance for details.

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

How we will assess your application

Proposals will be reviewed by a pool of experts covering a range of relevant disciplinary areas.

Your proposal will be sent to a minimum of three reviewers. You can nominate up to two academic and two non-academic reviewers. We will only invite one nominee to assess your research proposal and may decide not to approach any of your nominated reviewers.

Reviewers are invited to assess each proposal based on its individual merit.

If a proposal meets the standard ESRC minimum quality threshold, the principal investigator is given the opportunity to respond to the reviewers’ comments.

Proposals are then assessed by a specially convened expert commissioning panel, taking into consideration the scores and comments of the reviewers. This panel includes non-academic experts.

The panel will evaluate proposals on their individual merits, in addition to providing a comparative assessment of all the proposals. The panel will make a final funding recommendation to ESRC.

ESRC will then make a final decision on which proposals to support, selecting those proposals rated highly against the assessment criteria outlined below.

Funded grants will be considered as part of a programme of awards that will collectively deliver ESRC’s education research programme 2022 under the leadership of the programme director.

Assessment criteria

All proposals are assessed using the standard ESRC peer reviewer scoring system against the following assessment criteria.

Fit to the scope of the opportunity

This includes whether the proposal:

  • addresses one or both of the priority themes outlined
  • provides a clear account of how the research relates to one or more of the four UK nations or jurisdictions, their research needs, and policy and practice challenges
  • specifies what partnerships the project will develop, why these are appropriate to the aims and objectives of the project, and how these will be developed and nurtured during the lifecycle of the project, considering factors that may constrain or enable partnership working
  • sets out plans to work collaboratively with other grant holders as part of the programme and under the overall direction of the programme director, including any appropriate resources and mechanisms needed
  • is for a project that takes place within the timeframe required.

Research excellence and scientific impact

This includes:

  • compelling plans for new research within the remit of this programme that has the potential to generate new knowledge and lead to new insights
  • clearly described and justified research methods and research design
  • clearly described and justified data management and access plans that identify the risks to, and mitigations for, accessing, managing and sharing data, if data management is part of the proposal.

Outcomes, impact and engagement

This includes whether:

  • the proposal sets out clear and achievable outcomes that demonstrate evidence of the research’s planned impact and that go beyond a list of outputs
  • the project has practical outcomes, a policy impact or both
  • there is evidence of carefully considered and realistic plans for engagement and knowledge exchange, which maximise opportunities for academic, societal, economic and user impact
  • there is a clear commitment to work constructively and proactively with other grant holders from this funding opportunity, in order to maximise the impact of the programme as a whole.

Value for money

This includes whether:

  • the funds requested are essential for the work
  • the importance and scientific potential of the project justify funding on the scale requested
  • there is a clear allocation of duties and responsibilities, if your proposal includes more than one person
  • the proposal represents good value for money.

Contact details

Ask a question about this opportunity

Please address all queries to the ESRC commissioning team (not the programme director) by emailing:

Please consult the document additional information for applicants (PDF, 104KB) in the first instance.

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Get help with applying through Je-S

Telephone: 01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info


In our delivery plan 2019, ESRC committed to build research capacity that would inform the design and implementation of the next generation of public services for the UK government and its devolved administrations. This included a commitment to invest core funding in a new programme of research in education.

Supporting documents

Additional information for applicants (PDF, 104KB)
Equality impact assessment (PDF, 161KB)
Je-S guidance for applicants (PDF, 284KB)

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