Principal Investigator: Dr Alice Butler-Warke
Co-Investigators: Dr Mark Liddiard
This project examines how resource-based economies that experience cycles of ‘boom and bust’ impact on education in terms of recruitment, retention and experience. Cycles of ‘boom and bust’ are a feature of resource-based economies and derive from natural resource availability and the economic viability of resource extraction. Our project is based on an understanding of boom and bust cycles inherent in natural resource extraction, but specifically considers the social, urban and educational impacts of these periods of expansion and contraction. Anecdotal evidence appears to suggest that social work recruitment and retention is especially vulnerable to the vagaries of such economic expansion and contraction. Both universities included in this study have prominent undergraduate social work programmes and we are keen to understand how social work student recruitment, retention, experience and attainment are impacted by perceptions of and actual bust periods. We further elected to consider the impact on social work students as their education and training will prepare them for frontline interaction with the direct effects of economic decline and contraction in a myriad of settings. The study aims to:
- Critically interrogate why students have made the decision to study for a professional degree (recruitment).
- Examine what factors play into students deciding whether or not to continue with their course of study in a time of boom or a time of bust (retention).
- Investigate how the student experience is connected to wider social, political and economic contexts (experience).
The seedcorn funds from BAICE are proving invaluable as Dr Mark Liddiard (Curtin University) and I delve into a collaborative project that we hope to grow over the coming years. I am based at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, a city famed for its oil and gas extraction while Curtin University is located in Perth, Western Australia, a region known for its iron ore and mineral extraction. Both cities and their respective regions have experienced a recent decline in the natural resource sector, which in turn has cascaded into many other aspects of their economies.
We are conducting focus groups with students to understand how their decision to enrol or unenrol into a social work degree programme may have been influenced by the broader dynamics of the local economy and resultant social effects. We are also interviewing social work lecturers to similarly explore their perspective, as well as understand how they might adapt social work programmes within the confines of the nationally-regulated curriculum to meet the demands of local and national economic contraction. As two cities known for their ‘remoteness’ and isolation, we shall also consider the urban experience of students in these cities though photographic elicitation methods to build an understanding of student urban experience in times of economic contraction.
The BAICE seedcorn funds will allow us to conduct thorough preliminary research and gather rich empirical data that we anticipate informing further research. Already, we are discussing with colleagues in Finland and Japan the possibilities of further comparative work. We would like to extend our thanks to BAICE for their generous funding and for the opportunity to explore this under-researched but critically important area, which is likely to have broader implications for educational delivery in the context of economic uncertainty.
If you have further questions about our project and would like to share ideas, please do feel free to get in touch with us.
Dr Alice Butler-Warke
Tel: 01224 263376