Chris Downey currently serves as Associate Dean Education for the Faculty of Social Sciences and as Professor of Education at the Southampton Education School.
In his role as Associate Dean Education, Chris supports colleagues leading our education provision across five Schools:
- Southampton Business School
- Southampton Education School
- Southampton Law School
- School of Mathematical Sciences
- School of Economic, Social and Political Sciences
Chris works with the Dean, a team of Deputy Heads of School (Education) and elected student representatives to develop, implement and review our Faculty Education Strategy. He is also engaged in University-wide committees and projects, especially those focusing on access and particpation, educational enhancement and academic quality and standards.
- The relational capital of students and educators
- Collaborative networks in the work of educational leaders
- Educators' use of and attitudes toward data in their professional practice
- Higher education quality assurance and quality enhancement
- Access and participation in Higher Education
Chris' current research interests centre around the social context of education, developing our understanding of the relational capital of students, educators and educational leaders. He uses network theoretical perspectives to develop models of realtional capital and social network analysis (SNA) to evaluate and visulaise the relational networks that form the fabric of so much of our educational endeavour.
Chris is especially interested in researching the role of the support networks of students around key transition points in their studies and also the collaborative networks of leaders within and acorss organisational boundaries. Chris is particularly fascinated by the roles of those who span the boundaries that exist between groups and communities. Chris finds it a joy to be supervising a group of doctoral students conducting research in these areas.
If you are interested in the work of the team please do get in touch with Chris.
Chris also has a background in educational effectiveness and improvement research, with a keen interest in the role that data and evidence plays in informing educational practice and decision-making. He likes to work with all sorts of educational metrics, all the while appreciating the personal and social impact that such measures can have. Chris tends to keep Hans Rosling's "Factfulness" close to hand.
Current PhD Students
Chris enjoys teaching research methods across all phases of the programmes in Southampton Education School.
He also teaches aspects of Education Leadership and Management to BSc and MSc students.
External roles and responsibilities
I think I benefitted hugely from being a late arrival to my family, as having two older sisters usually meant there was someone to read a book or play a game when my parents were either working, occupied or just needed a break.
I maintained through most of my time at school that I wasn't interested in going to University. There was no one in the family to spark my curiosity, but some quietly determined teachers sowed seeds of enquiry in my mind and a sponsored "university taster week" finally dealt with my remaining resistance. I studied Chemistry at the Univerity of London and graduated with a job in industry. After two years I did a spell of volunteer work in Austria before returning to the UK to undertake a postgraduate initial teacher education programme (PGCE) here at the University of Southampton.
Despite that choice being more one of expediency than a sense of vocation, I fell for teaching in a big way. I spent the next twelve years teaching science in two secondary schools along the south coast of England, also gaining experience of middle and senior leadership as a Head of Department and an Assistant Headteacher. I got a tremendous kick out of seeing students grapple with and conquer complex concepts. I even set some of those challenging concpets to music after recognising that singing has a remarkable way of developing memory and aiding recall. While on the job as a teacher I was studying for masters degrees through distance education with the Open University and eventually worked part time as an Associate Lecturer for the OU on UG science modules while also assessing and writing A-level exam papers for a national exam board.
In 2006 I took up an opportunity to work as a Research Assistant on a two year Knowledge Transfer Partnership project between Southampton Education School and a Local Authority Education Service on the use of data for school improvement. This formed the context for my doctoral research and in 2008 I joined the staff of Education School as a Lecturer here at the University of Southampton.