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Dr Rupert Higham
IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society
20 Bedford Way
Tel: 020 7311 5146
Dr Rupert Higham profile picture
  • Associate Professor
  • IOE - Learning & Leadership
  • UCL Institute of Education

How do we challenge and support young people to act in accordance with their values?

This question underpins my research and teaching, and is lent urgency by multiple threats to our climate and to democratic governance.

I completed my PhD at the University of Exeter, then worked in a range of teaching and research roles at the University of Cambridge. I led a project evaluating the 'IDEALS' of an international network of 180 schools. I was also Research Coordinator for the Index for Inclusion network, which worked with over 100 schools across an English county, and in four post-Soviet countries. 

I co-founded the Cambridge Educational Dialogue Research group (CEDiR), now with 70 local members and over 25 international partners, and a range of active research projects. I also convened a centenary conference on John Dewey's 'Democracy and Education', which attracted over 150 academics, practitioners and students from around the world.

I moved at the UCL Institute of Education in July 2017. I am currently leading a bespoke M-level programme for a charitable school network, and am Co-I on a major ESRC-funded project on whole-child education in South African primary schools.

Research Summary

My research aims to understand and increase teachers' and students' agency - which I summarise as 'acting in accordance with your values' as a humane response to different people and situations. This work has 3 themes:

Values-led school improvement. People's actions in schools are shaped not only by their personal values, but also by those of their institutions and wider society. Often these come into conflict. When left implicit and unexamined, personal values can be overridden or contradicted without recognition. I have researched the use of values-explicit frameworks - especially the Index for Inclusion - to inform school improvement: holding open a space for leaders, teachers and students to discuss whether and how they put their values into action.

Student leadership. Leadership can be understood as operating within formal roles, or as taking a lead in response to motivating challenges. I have explored the latter through pragmatist and existentialist philosophy, creating a model for developing 'responsible leadership' in teenagers in extracurricular contexts. This, I argue, is at the core of democratic education.

Educational dialogue. Dialogic theory proposes that meanings emerge from the gap that opens up when differing perspectives meet. The attempt to cross that gap to understand another is 'dialogue' - which is distinct from chat, or even instruction. It is an ethical, relational theory of living and learning. With colleagues from around the world I have studied how this is best promoted within and beyond classroom contexts, among students and adults. We have created a coding scheme, SEDA, to categorise and evaluate dialogue in talk.

Teaching Summary

I am Programme Leader for the MA Applied Educational Leadership, which I have substantially revised since 2017. I lead and teach on the Values, Vision and Moral Purpose module, which I rewrote entirely in 2020 to reflect changing realities and research.

I have taught on, designed and coordinated a range of courses at undergraduate and Master's level in the fields of educational leadership, practitioner research, philosophy of education, educational dialogue, recent history of education, and educational futures.

I am supervising several doctoral students in the fields of values-led school improvement, student leadership and educational dialogue. I currently have no capacity to take on further students, but am always willing to talk about future possibilities.

I was awarded Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) in July 2020.

01-JUL-2017 Lecturer in Educational Leadership London Centre for Leadership in Learning UCL Institute of Education, United Kingdom
01-SEP-2014 – 30-JUN-2017 Lecturer in Educational Leadership Faculty of Education University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Academic Background
2012   Doctor of Philosophy University of Exeter
2008   Master of Science University of Exeter
2002   Bachelor of Arts Goldsmiths College
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