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Research examining the impact of school choice awarded funding

7 September 2021

UCL Institute of Education (IOE) academic Dr Susanne Wiborg has been awarded £1 million funding for a research project examining school choice in European cities.

Secondary school students walking through a corridor. Photo by Phil Meech for IOE.

The four-year project will begin in October 2021 and will be based at Bergen University. Dr Wiborg will be the project’s Research Director with Principal Investigator Professor Thomas Lorentzen, Dr Katharina Sass (both University of Bergen) and Dr Karin Edmark (Stockholm University) making up the research team.

School choice is a fundamental right for parents to have access to schools that best suit their children’s educational and social needs. However, many parents’ choice of schools is impacted by existing inequalities. For example, some parents with greater economic means may to move to an area with high-quality public schools or enrol their children in private schools. These choices may be inaccessible for parents without such economic means. Instead, they must send their children to schools assigned to them by municipalities regardless of the school’s quality or appropriateness.

In this project, the researchers will analyse different governments’ school choice policies across Western Europe and look at the outcomes from how these policies are implemented.

Dr Wiborg said: “Governments seek to devise policies which will meet parental demands for school choice without increasing segregation and inequality. However, there is little consensus among policy makers or researchers as to what policies might achieve both objectives. Research has thus far failed to take account of how national choice policies are implemented at the local level and how variations in this may affect outcomes both locally and nationally.

“Our research will address this problem through comparative analysis of the policy process and the outcomes of school choice implementation in fourteen cities in Western Europe.”

The project ‘Admission Impossible? School Choice in European Cities’ was funded by the Norwegian Research Council (NFR).

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Phil Meech for UCL Institute of Education