An International Comparative Study of Shared Education

An International Comparative Study of Shared Education

Duration: 2015-2018

Funder: Atlantic Philanthropies

Research Team: Prof Joanne Hughes (Principal Investigator); Dr Rebecca Loader; Dr Danielle Blaylock; Mr Michael Arlow; Professor Ruth Leitch; Dr Caitlin Donnelly


The international research programme will support the further translation of a shared education model in Macedonia, where staff from the Centre have worked previously, as well as facilitate the implementation of new shared education models in other international regions, such as for example Cyprus and South Africa. The focus will be not only on the potential linkages for children of compulsory school age in shared activities, but also exploring how teachers and educationalists can be linked across sectoral divisions.

Research objectives
This systematic review seeks to answer the following key questions:

  1. Do inter-school collaborations improve educational and social outcomes for students?
  2. Do differing types of inter-school collaboration lead to different effects on educational and social outcomes for students? If so, which types of inter-school collaboration are most effective?
  3. For each core type of inter-school collaboration, is it possible to identify whether there are key characteristics that optimise their effectiveness on educational and social outcomes for students?
  4. Do inter-school collaborations have differing effects for students depending on their initial levels of attaining, their socio-economic backgrounds, their gender, their ethnicity and/or their minority status? If so, do these differential effects vary in relation to differing types of inter-school collaboration?

Research aims

One of the purposes of this work is to enhance our understanding of educational and political arenas in international contexts and to identify the barriers and enablers that might be encountered in implementing shared education within them.

Where new models of shared education have been established internationally, the research will also seek to ascertain the experiences of pupils, teachers and other participants to examine the benefits and challenges that such collaborations have brought, as well as motivations for collaborating. Drawing on contact and identity theories, the work also seeks to understand potential educational and reconciliation outcomes.  This aspect of the project will focus on pupils' intergroup encounters via shared classes and activities, exploring their perspectives on contact and their responses to others. The research will also consider the range of influences on pupils' experiences of shared education, both within and beyond the school environment.

It is also hoped that existing shared education collaborations in Northern Ireland will connect with projects internationally. Such linkages will provide important and rich additional insights that will help feed into the further development of shared education in Northern Ireland; in addition, they will lead to the establishment of new models of shared education internationally. This will, in turn, help raise the profile of shared education internationally and develop a broader international network of initiatives.

The overarching aim is to therefore to both support the gathering and dissemination of high quality research evidence but also, in practical terms, to enable the Centre for Shared Education to support new initiatives in Northern Ireland and internationally. In theoretical terms, the research also aims to enhance our understanding of the influence of social context on contact processes and outcomes, which has hitherto been under-specified in the literature, and to bring a more theoretical lens to the study of school collaboration.


Capacity building and development work will be facilitated by the Centre to support the establishment of new shared education initiatives in international contexts and to support existing initiatives as they seek to progress to new levels of sharing. Juxtaposed with this, a largely qualitative, action oriented, research programme will explore the implementation/development process and the experiences of participants. The methods to be employed include interviews, focus groups, observations of shared activities, and creative methods such as photography and map-making, as well as a survey of participating pupils.


Please direct any queries about the research to Dr Rebecca Loader (phone: +44 (0)28 9097 1363; email:

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