Conference Archive

Conference 2023

Stranmillis College
ESAI Conference 2023 took place in Belfast from March 30th to April 1st 2023 at Stranmillis University College. This was the first face-to-face conference since 2019 and ESAI looked forward to meeting all attendees and presenters in person at this exciting event.


Conference Registration

Registration for ESAI Conference 2023 is available through the online submission system.

Rates are as follows:

Conference fee: €90
Conference for Early Career Researchers: €45
Conference & Membership: €160 (€90 +€70)
Conference & Membership for Early Career Researchers: €70 (€45 + €25)
Membership and registration may be purchased through the online submission system.


Conference Theme

Education, Change and Democratic Societies: New imperatives and creative responses

In these times of war, rising anti-democratic politics, increased social and economic inequality, growing consequences of climate change and widespread social disruption there is a need to encourage education for democracy and change, to explore new imperatives and creative responses. Education for democracy raises awareness of ourselves and others, how we act in society, our freedom and ‘the limits that our living together poses to our own freedom’ (Biesta, 2020, p.96). Across the education sectors, from early childhood education through to higher education, there is much work to be done in exploring our capabilities as democratic citizens and how we might more fully realise our capacities to work with others in collaborative and sustainable ways (Riddle et al, 2022a).

Education plays an important role in the production and reproduction of rational communities and there is a need for more explicit attention to be paid to the ethical, political, and democratic dimensions of education (Biesta, 2010).  Both formal and informal sites of education, across the lifecycle, provide microcosms for social change and political action (Riddle et al, 2022b). They provide contexts in which to explore how education can help to generate democratic interactions between people, enabling them to explore different ways of working with and relating to others, and promoting tolerance and understanding. They can create a deeper awareness of the ways in which individual actions and structural forces interact to promote positive responses and change.

A democratic education has at its core the building and nurturing of relationships. Relationality is central to both education and democracy and can often be witnessed in the interactions and collaborations between teachers and students and between students themselves. Our shared obligation to one another is central to both democratic citizenship and an education that fosters care, change and creative responses.

What is the potential of education in equipping young people to develop creative responses to the growing challenges and complexities of the twenty-first century? How can educational experiences support students to develop a disposition toward active, resilient citizenship to enable them to respond with increased confidence to uncertain futures? What new imperatives should guide our leadership of change in our societies? What role can education play in supporting and encouraging us to take active roles in initiating change for the better in society? What creative responses are currently being implemented to lead social and climate justice? What steps are being taken to nurture relationships, care and tolerance in education?

The Educational Studies Association of Ireland invites scholars, practitioners, policymakers, emerging researchers and interested others from Ireland and internationally to come together at our face-to-face conference on March 30th to April 1st inclusive, and to reflect upon, debate and discuss the possibilities in education.

The conference theme Education, Change and Democratic societies: New imperatives and creative responses welcomes broad interpretation, interrogation, and a diverse range of responses. We invite papers, presentations and posters that consider the concept through a variety of lenses which include (but are not limited to) sociological, pedagogical, historical, religious, ethical, technological, philosophical, political and economic.

Hosted by Stranmillis University College, Belfast, the ESAI annual Conference 2023 will continue our strong tradition of providing a forum for the dissemination of research that considers past, present and potential contributions and influences at local, national and international levels.



  • Biesta, G.J.J. 2010. Good Education in an Age of Measurement. Ethics, Politics, Democracy. New York and London: Routledge.
  • Biesta, G.J.J. 2020. ‘Risking Ourselves in Education: Qualification, Socialisation, and Subjectification Revisited’ in Educational Theory, Vol 70, Issue 1, pp 89-104
  • Riddle, S., Bright, D. and Heffernan, A. (eds) 2022a. ‘Education, policy and democracy: Contemporary challenges and possibilities’ Editorial in Journal of Educational Administration and History, Vol 54, Issue 3, pp 241-244
  • Riddle, S., Heffernan, A., Bright, D. 2022b. ‘On the Need for a New Democracy of Education in a Post-Pandemic World’ in Riddle, S., Heffernan, A., Bright, D. (eds) New Perspectives on Education for Democracy: Creative Responses to Local and Global Challenges. New York and London: Routledge.

Call for Proposals

The call for proposals is now closed.

 Presentation Formats

  • Paper: Individual papers will be timed for 20 minutes (15 minutes presentation and 5 minutes for Q&A).
  • Symposium: Symposia will typically contain 3 papers based around a central theme and will be timed for 60 minutes.
  • Early Career Researcher: ECR papers will be timed for 15 minutes: 10 minutes presentation plus 5 minutes feedback from an experienced mentor, plus a brief open discussion at the end of the session.

Keynote speakers

ESAI welcomes three keynote speakers to its Annual Conference, March 30th to April 1st 2023 at Stranmillis University College, Belfast.

Joanne HUghesJoanne Hughes is Professor of Education in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, and Director of the Centre for Shared Education in the School. She also holds a UNESCO Chair in education. Her main research interests are in the role of education in divided societies, and inter-group relations in conflict and post-conflict societies. In recent years she has led a number of research projects on the implementation of the shared education model in Northern Ireland, and worked with academics and educational stakeholders in regions across the world to explore the potential for adapted shared education models in other divided contexts. She has also advised Government Officials and Ministers nationally and internationally on the development of policies and interventions to promote good relations in schools. In 2019, her work along with that of colleagues at Queen’s, was recognised by Her Majesty the Queen in an Anniversary Prize, awarded to Queen’s University for Shared Education.


Karl Kitching

Karl Kitching is Professor of Public Education at University of Birmingham. His research focuses primarily on matters of race, faith, childhood, and sexuality in education. He has published two books and numerous articles, including Childhood, Religion and School Injustice and The Politics of Compulsive Education: Racism and Learner-Citizenship. Karl is currently leading a 2.5 year research project titled ‘Free Expression in School? The Making of Youth Engagement with Race and Faith’, funded by the Leverhulme Trust. This project maps the political, geographic, affective and cultural conditions that ‘make’ young people’s expression on race and faith equality issues in and out of schools across England.



Gry Paulgaard Gry Paulgaard is Professor at the Department of Education and Dr.Polit. in Pedagogics and UiT, The Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø, Northern Norway.  Her scholarly interests include geography of education;  implying the importance of contextualization of educational research, globalization and uneven development between center and periphery; particularly focusing on how young people growing up in northern areas live their lives, experience their opportunities for education and work, and the ‘choices’ they have.  In recent years, after 2015, much of her research has focused on migration, refugee education and integration of young people and families in rural places, particularly in the rural north of Norway. She is also the head of the research group ICred – Intercultural Relations in Education – at UiT the Arctic University of Norway.

ESAI Environmental Sustainability Statement

The Educational Studies Association of Ireland (ESAI) embraces and promotes environmental protection and sustainability in all of its activities.

As part of ESAI’s commitment to reduce its environmental impact, the Irish Educational Studies journal has already removed all plastic packaging from journal mailing,  a feature which is termed “naked mailing”. It has also removed the plastic lamination (both gloss and matte) from the outside covers of print issues of Irish Educational Studies.

Our commitment to sustainability is also reflected in our planning for the ESAI Conference 2023. ESAI Conference catering aims to choose local, seasonal produce where possible, providing vegetarian and vegan dishes so as to reduce the environmental impact and benefit communities. We will endeavour to prevent food waste by confirming the number of delegates as precisely as possible in advance of each meal and refreshment break. Disposable, non-recyclable items (cups, plates, cutlery, etc.) will be avoided.

There will be no printed programmes available at the conference. The ESAI 2023 Conference app will be available for all attendees and the Conference schedule will be available on a large screen for all attendees. The conference schedule, information packs and meeting documents will be provided via the ESAI 2023 Conference app or available for download, if necessary, prior to the event.

We make the following recommendations as part of our efforts towards holding a conference which will be an environmentally-friendly event:

  • We request that all participants use public transport or car-pool where possible, please.
  • As the grounds at Stranmillis University College are a designated conservation area and have been awarded EcoCampus status, we advise that delegates should dispose of litter in an ethical manner and recycle waste where possible.
  • Water dispensers will be available in Stranmillis University College and we ask attendees to bring their own water bottles/cups/flasks.

Clicking on this link will enable you to discover the attractions in Belfast and beyond which have been Green Tourism accredited.