London Metropolitan University Research Institutes


An Exploration of University Support Staff's Relationships to Education and Learning: a pilot study


February 2008- August 2008


This small pilot project explores the experiences and perceptions of opportunities for learning/ career progression among catering, reception and security staff at a post 1992 university.

Catering staff, Security, Receptionists and Cleaners form an integral part of the university. They not only contribute to the functioning of the university, but also play other important roles within the everyday practices of the university and contribute to more informal institutional cultures. However, due to the privatisation of such services these workers are mainly employed by external agencies and work under very different conditions (sometimes experiencing low pay, poor skills, and poor career development).

As such, they are in many ways on the periphery of the university. It is this ambiguous and complex positioning of these individuals - as both integral to and separate from the cultures of learning - which we wish to explore.

This project is also motivated by recent policy changes in relation to life-long learning and the government’s Skills Strategy (Leitch, 2006), in particular an emphasis on the training and education for low skilled groups, and the complexities of this agenda.

The key area we wish to examine within this project is subjects’ relationship to education and learning, and to consider this in the context of their work within an educational institution.

We believe that this is an interesting and neglected area which demands critical investigation. This study is a pilot study to identify key issues and themes to be researched in more depth across the higher and further education sectors.


We will carry out one-to-one interviews with 6 members of staff working at a post 1992 university. These will be semi-structured, informal discussions lasting around 1 hour. We aim to interview:

  • 2 members of security
  • 1 Receptionist
  • 3 members of catering staff

We will explore a number of areas within the histories/ narratives of each individual which may include:

  • Their educational histories and experiences
  • Their perceptions of education, learning and/or career development and how they position themselves in relation to these.
  • Their perceptions of working within an educational organisation and whether this impacts on their views of learning, education etc.
  • Their experiences and understandings of opportunities for education, training and career development within the university or at other educational/training institutions (motivations, hopes, barriers, challenges, support from university/ employer)

We will attend to how these experiences relate to subject’s location in terms of gender, class and race.

Project Team

Carole Leathwood

Kim Allen

Sumi Hollingworth

Sarah Minty


   Company Information    Page last updated 21 October 2009     Contact Page Owner (Angela Kamara)