This review is written by Ana Sofia Ribeiro dos Santos. She is a graduate of the Hedda Master programme, and currently undertaking her PhD dissertation research at the Bielefeld Center for Education and Capability Research and Instituto de Ciências Sociais at the University of Lisboa. Her research is undertaken as a part of EduWel, a Marie Curie Initial Training Network funded by the EU. Her dissertation is titled: Mapping vulnerability through a capabilities approach: a biographical study of first generation students in Portuguese Higher Education.
The European Conference of Educational Researchers (ECER) is easily the largest conference on education in Europe, both by the high number of participants and its comprehensive approach of the educational field. The Conference is an initiative of the European Educational Research Association (EERA), and its 2014 edition gathered in Oporto around 2500 participants, and I was among them. Although the ECER is not a specialised higher education conference, one of its largest networks is the higher education one, and for that reason the ECER has become a relevant meeting point for the field.
This year’s conference theme was “The past, present and future of educational research in Europe”, a self reflexive call for the need to evaluate the field’s evolution and its challenges, that range from budget cuts to interdisciplinarity demands. The theme also celebrated the 20th anniversary of EERA, and to this effect a specific event was held at Casa da Música, where Prof. Lejf Moos, from Aarhus University, delivered the Presidency of the Association to Prof.Theo Wubbles, from the University of Utrecht.
For those who never been to the ECER, I will explain its organisation. The Conference is divided in 2 sections: the Emerging Researchers conference, where PhD candidates present their on-going research projects, and the Main Conference, where the 31 research networks have their presentations, what generally means that there are over 20 parallel sessions from which to choose from! The variety of the sessions in one of the strongest points of the conference, since there are tracks about vocational training, pedagogies, history of education, assessment, ICT in education, you name it. Having said that, researchers interested in higher education can not only follow its track of expertise, but also take a look at other areas and topics that may match their own research. From my own experience, network sessions from Sociology of Education and Policy Studies and Politics of Education were very inspiring, namely a symposium about Early School Leaving in Europe, whose discussant was Roger Dale, from the University of Bristol. This year, the Higher Education Network (Network 22) presented 121 papers, 9 posters, 8 symposia and 1 workshop. The contributions were divided into 5 topics