Department of Educational Research at Lancaster University

Oliver Fulton

Dean for the Associated Institutions


Vice Chancellor's Office
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YL

Tel:+44 (0) 1524 592862
Fax:+44 (0) 1524 525240
Room: C15 University House 


Career Details

I am the University’s Dean for the Associated Institutions, which include Lancaster’s Accredited College partners, Edge Hill and St Martin’s Colleges, and its Associate Colleges, Blackburn College and Blackpool and the Fylde College.  As Dean I have responsibility for a number of the University's regional activities, and in August 2003, I joined the Vice-Chancellor’s Office with the task of developing the University’s role in Cumbria, while continuing my work as Dean.

I have been Professor of Higher Education in the Centre for the Study of Education and Training (CSET) since 1991. I was Director of CSET’s predecessor Institute for Post Compulsory Education from 1984-1990, and Acting Director of CSET in 2000-2001. I have been Head of the Department of Educational Research, and have held a number of other elected and appointed posts in the University. I am a member of the Board of Governors of Edge Hill College and of the Corporation Board of Blackburn College. From 1997-2003 I was an elected Senate representative on Lancaster University’s Council.

Until summer 2003 I taught and contributed to courses at all levels within the Department of Educational Research, including the Doctoral Programme in Higher Education, for which I was Programme Director for several years and supervised a number of successful students.

I have qualifications from Oxford (BA Literae Humaniores), the University of California, Berkeley (MA Sociology) and Lancaster (PhD Educational Research). I have held research posts at Edinburgh University and the University of California, Berkeley, and have been a visiting fellow or lecturer at Exeter University; the University of California, Berkeley; Peking University; Beijing Science and Technology University; and the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research, Vienna.

Research Interests

Research areas:

- Organisational change in higher education
- Higher education and its environment
- Policy formation and implementation, especially in higher education
- The academic profession
- Comparative higher education
- Access to higher education
- Higher education and work

My research interests centre on the adaptation and resistance of higher education institutions to external constraints. My early research and publications concerned the formal and emergent structures, and the values and practices, of the academic profession in British and American higher education (projects included surveys of the British and American academic profession, with Carnegie Council funding from 1974-76). Returning to the UK in the mid-1970s, I developed a research focus on access to higher education in the UK, first examining the social demand for higher education and the experience of 'non-traditional groups' (Social Science Research Council, 1976-81; UK Department of Education and Science 1980-82) and then turning to higher education institutions’ capacity or willingness to develop or modify the supply of places, their access and admissions policies and their curricular and teaching practice in response to government policy and/or to changing patterns of demand and the changing qualifications of the applicant pool (Leverhulme Foundation 1981-83 and UK Department of Employment, 1988-89). During the 1980s I also became interested in the ways in which universities were responding to pressures to reformulate the connections between higher education and work: first acting as local evaluator for the Enterprise in Higher Education Initiative at Lancaster, and then, with Murray Saunders and Gillian McHugh, carrying out an evaluative study for the Department for Education and Employment of its Work-Based Learning in Higher Education Initiative. Further work on the academic profession in comparative perspective, in collaboration with researchers from other European countries, was funded by the Carnegie and Mellon Foundations, and recently by the German Trade Union for Education and Science and the Hans Bockler Foundation. I am now writing up the results of two recently-completed large-scale qualitative research projects – a European Union-funded eight-country study (under the Framework IV Targeted Socio-Economic Research Programme) of Higher Education in the National Economy [‘HEINE’] and an ESRC-funded study with colleagues, all formerly at Lancaster, of ‘new managerialism’ in universities. I am a consultant member of the team of researchers from the Department who are evaluating the HEFC(E) funded Learning and Teaching Subject Network, and the SHEFC strategy for quality enhancement.

Selected Recent Publications

Fulton O (1994) “Consuming Education” in Keat R., Whitely N and Abercrombie N (eds.) The Authority of the Consumer. London: Routledge.

Fulton O (1996) “Differentiation and Diversity in a Newly Unitary System: the case of the United Kingdom” in Meek V L, Goedegebuure L, Kivinen O and Rinne R (eds.) The Mockers and Mocked: Comparative Perspectives on Differentiation, Convergence and Diversity in Higher Education. Oxford: Pergamon.

Fulton O (1996) “Which profession do you belong to?” in Cuthbert R (ed.) Working in Higher Education. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Fulton O (1997) “Mass Access and the End of Diversity? The Academic Profession in England on the Eve of Structural Reform” in Altbach P (ed.) The International Academic Profession: Portraits from Fourteen Countries. Princeton: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Fulton O (1998) “Unity or fragmentation, convergence or diversity? The academic profession in comparative perspective in the era of mass higher education” in Bowen W G and Shapiro H (eds.) Universities and their Leadership. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Fulton O with Holland C (2001) “Academic Staff in the United Kingdom” in Enders J (ed.) Academic Staff in Europe: Changing Contexts and Conditions. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

Enders J and Fulton O (eds.) (2002) Higher Education in a Globalising World: International Trends and Mutual Observations. A Festschrift in Honour of Ulrich Teichler. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Includes (by JE & OF) Preface and Chapter 1 "Blurring Boundaries and Blistering Institutions"

Fulton O (2002) "Higher Education Governance in the UK: Change and Continuity" in Amaral A, Jones G and Karseth B (eds.) Governing Higher Education: Comparing National Perspectives. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 205-229.

Fulton O (2003) "Managerialism in UK universities: unstable hybridity and the complications of implementation" in Amaral A, Meek V L and Larsen I M (eds.) The Higher Education Managerial Revolution? Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 155-178.

Amaral A, Fulton O & Larsen I M (2003) "A Managerial Revolution?" in Amaral A, Meek V L & Larsen I M The Higher Education Managerial Revolution? Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 275-296.

Fulton O and McHugh G (forthcoming) “Change and continuity in policy and practice: developing UK universities’ economic and social roles” Higher Education Policy.


Until December 2003 I was a Council member of the (UK) Society for Research into Higher Education, of which I was Vice-Chair 1994-95 and Chair 1996-97. From 1997-2001 I was Chair of the Board of Governors of the (European) Consortium of Higher Education Researchers [CHER], of which I am a founder-member. I am General Editor of Higher Education Quarterly, whose editorial work is administered from Lancaster [email].

I have been a consultant/steering committee member for the Economic and Social Research Council and OECD, and an adviser on research and policy to the UK Council for National Academic Awards. I was Conference Director for the Annual Conferences of the Society for Research into Higher Education (Lancaster, 1998), and of the Consortium of Higher Education Researchers (Bowness on Windermere, 2000) and have served on the organising committees of numerous other conferences.

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