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Dr Jane Cullen

Profile summary

Professional biography

I  have worked in Higher Education since 2000, first as a Research Associate/Senior Research Associate at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, then at the Von Hugel Institute, St Edmunds College, Cambridge, and at the Open University since June 2006.

My substantive role at the OU is in educational leadership and global education and development.  My current work is as Academic Director of OpenSTEM Africa, an initiative guided in Ghana by the Ministry of Education to work collaboratively with government organisations and universities  to improve participation in STEM subjects, particularly among girls. I have been associated for the past ten years with the Teacher Education in sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) programme  working with colleagues from universities, colleges of education, regional and local education officials and NGOs in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Republic of Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia. I served as Director of TESSA 2012-2014, concurrently as Director of the Malawi Access into Teaching Scholarships (MATS), and since then I have worked as a key adviser on the T-TEL teacher education project in Ghana, on projects in South America in Colombia and with the Ministry of Education in Peru, and on research projects in Bangladesh, India, Uganda and Ghana.

My current teaching includes leading the Leadership, Management and Development strand of the Professional Doctorate in Education. It also includes chairing the production of two new modules for the Masters in Education (2021-23)  and previously the instigation and co-chairing of the production of the new multi-disciplinary dissertation module for the Masters in Education and Masters in Childhood and Youth (2019-21). From 2016 to 2019, on secondment, I led the M.Ed/MA in C&Y taught postgraduate programme at the OU, a programme which currently attracts about 900 students. 

Before  moving into HE I was a teacher, head of department, senior teacher and then head teacher in various schools, beginning as a young teacher in the Philippines then moving to Sri Lanka, Uruguay, Namibia and to Egypt.

Research interests

I currently co-lead the School, Informal Education, Learning and Learners (SIELL) research hub in the new OU/WELS Centre for the Study of Global Development (CSGD), led by Prof. Kwame Akyeampong. My current research continues a focus on the embedding of large-scale change in schools (via evaluation of the P3 project in Ghana) and on the complexities in developing ICT-based approaches to teachng and learning (via my continued work on OpenSTEM Africa).  Previously as Director of TESSA  (2012-14), I worked on R&D projects on extending the use of digital OERs, the use of OERs in inclusion in francophone Africa, OER use for teachers new to OERs (all Ferguson Trust funding);  the professional development of teaching assistants and the challenges of access to teacher training in Malawi  (DfID/Scottish Government funding); the development of OERs for  teaching lower secondary science (Waterloo Foundation funding) and widening participation through improving teaching in rural areas in Uganda and Zambia (Commonwealth of Learning funding). On the DfID-funded T-TEL project in Ghana (2014-15),  I led work on a critique of the current model of curriculum and assessment in teacher education in Ghana, and on the professional development of teacher educators in the Colleges of Education in Ghana. In 2016 I led on the qualitative strand of a British Council-funded study into the assessment of the secondary school English curriculum in Bangladesh. My research also includes studies of pedagogic leadership in India, the design of initial teacher education in Peru and teacher education through distance learnng in Ghana. Previously as Senior Research Associate at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge and at the Centre for Educational Research and Development (CERD) at the Von Hugel Institute, St Edmunds College, Cambridge (2001-2009) my work included the role of lead researcher in a major DfES evaluation of schools ‘in exceptionally challenging circumstances’ and a UNICEF-funded project researching open and distance learning in basic education for hard-to-reach children in South Asia. My research throughout focuses on issues of access and of quality at scale as they relate to school improvement, teacher education and educational leadership.

Teaching interests

My teaching interests are in postgraduate education: in research methods, in leadership and management and in education in developing countries.  I chair M.Ed modules and  I supervise on both the Ph.D and the Prof. Doc. programmes. On the Prof Doc programme I tend to work with research students whose projects focus on contexts other than the UK - for example I have recently completed supervision of a student based in Cyprus and a student researching the work of head teachers in Ghana. On the Ph.D programme I currently supervise a Ph.D student who is researching the kinds of learning valued by parents in rural communities in Nigeria. For 5 years I also chaired the 'Education for Development' postgraduate module, a course for students interested in education across the developing world. When working at the University of Cambridge I taught research methods on the M.Phil course and I taught and supervised extensively on M.Ed courses, working both with students who were serving teachers and students who were in leadership positions in education.  

Impact and engagement

In 2015 I worked as academic consultant on a BBC TV  three-part series called 'Are our kids tough enough: Chinese School' and produced Open Learn materials to augment the tv programmes. In 2018 I again worked as an academic consultant to a BBC TV series  - the six episode 'School' focusing on the challenges facing staff and students in a multi academy trust, and which aired throughout the Autumn of 2018. 

Through my current research I am collaborating with the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. Through my current work on OpenSTEM Africa, I am collaborating with the the University of Ghana (Legon) and with Kyambogo University, Uganda. Both University of Ghana Legon and Kyambogo University Uganda have signed MoUs with the Open University based on the work with which I am involved. 

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET)CentreFaculty of Education and Language Studies


What Prevents Teacher Educators from Accessing Professional Development OER? Storytelling and Professional Identity in Ugandan Teacher Colleges (2021)
Buckler, Alison; Stutchbury, Kris; Kasule, George; Cullen, Jane and Kaije, Doris
Journal of Learning for Development, 8, Article 1(1) (pp. 10-26)

Teacher educators and OER in East Africa: Interrogating pedagogic change (2017-10-26)
Wolfenden, Freda; Auckloo, Pritee; Buckler, Alison and Cullen, Jane
In: Hodgkinson-Williams, Cheryl and Arinto, Patricia B. eds. Adoption and impact of OER in the Global South (pp. 251-286)
ISBN : 978-1-55250-599-1 | Publisher : ROER4D | Published : Cape Town, South Africa

“… by Seeking Help I Became Equipped, Skilled and Enlightened”: Ugandan Tutors’ Stories, Identities and Spaces for Professional Development in Teacher Colleges. (2019)
Buckler, Alison; Stutchbury, Kris; Kasule, George; Kaiije, Doris and Cullen, Jane
In : Pan Commonwealth Forum (9-12 Sep 2019, Edinburgh, Scotland)

Working with local teachers to support girls’ and women’s education in Malawi (2014-12-10)
Gallastegi, Lore and Cullen, Jane
In : Gender and Education Association Biennial Interim Conference 2014: Gender and Education in the Asia Pacific: Possibilities and Provocations (09-11 Dec 2014, Melbourne, Australia)

We’re improving the quality of teaching”: conceptualising ‘quality’ and ‘change’ using lessons from a current TESSA project (2013-09)
Stutchbury, Kris and Cullen, Jane
In : UKFIET International Conference on Education and Development – Education & Development Post 2015: Reflecting, Reviewing, Re-visioning. (10-12 Sep 2013, Oxford)

The Teacher Education in sub-Saharan Africa Programme (TESSA): Evolving, Extending, Embedding, Reflecting (2013)
Anamuah-Mensah, Jophus and Cullen, Jane
In : DETA: Distance Education and Teacher Education International Conference (30 Jul - 1 Aug 2013, Nairobi, Kenya)

‘I really appreciate you saying that’: the challenges of developing a partnership (2013)
Cullen, Jane and Chitsulo, Joyce
In : UKFIET International Conference on Education and Development – Education & Development Post 2015: Reflecting, Reviewing, Re-visioning (10-12 Sep 2013, Oxford, UK)

Leadership support for school-based professional development for primary school teachers: the use of TESSA OERs in schools in Kenya (2012)
Cullen, Jane; Keraro, Fred and Wamutitu, Joseph
In : ICET international conference - The Changing Global Perspective on the Role of Teacher and Teacher Education (10-12 Jul 2012, University of Cape Coast, Ghana) (pp. 170-182)

The context of using TESSA OERs in Egerton University’s teacher education programmes (2011)
Wamutitu, Joseph M.; Keraro, Fred N.; Changeiywo, Johnson M. and Cullen, Jane
In : DETA distance education and teacher education international pre-conference workshop (01-03 Aug 2011, Maputo, Mozambique)

Addressing 'serial disruption': designing and providing education for children caught up in conflict (2011)
Cullen, Jane
In : UKFIET International Conference on Education and Development Global Challenges for Education: Economics, Environment and Emergency (13-15 Sep 2011, Oxford)

Autonomy and accountability: the cross-hierarchical School Improvement Group in schools 'facing exceptionally challenging circumstances' (2007)
Cullen, Jane and Swaffield, Sue
In : ICSEI Conference: Professional Challenges for School Effectiveness and Improvement in the Era of Accountability (03-06 Jan 2007, Portoroz, Slovenia)

Leadership Development in Struggling Schools (2004)
Cullen, Jane
In : 17th International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI) (06-09 Jan 2004, Rotterdam, Netherlands)

Building capacity in struggling schools (2003)
Cullen, Jane
In : ICSEI Conference (05-08 Jan 2003, Sydney, Australia)

Designing and developing educational resources for teacher education via Open and Distance Learning (ODL), A case study from Ghana
Addae-Kyeremeh, Eric; Cullen, Jane and Abreh, Might Kojo
In : SEDO conference Theme: Promoting Innovative Educational Practices for Sustainable Development (29-30 Jan, Cape Coast, Ghana)

English Speaking and Listening Assessment Project - Baseline. Bangladesh (2016-03)
Power, Tom; Cullen, Jane; Woodward, Clare; Mathew, Rama; Payler, Jane and McCormick, Robert
The British Council, Dhaka.

Open and distance learning for basic education in South Asia: its potential for hard to reach children and children in conflict and disaster areas (2009-11)
Morpeth, Ros; Creed, Charlotte; Cullen, Jane; Page, Elspeth and Raynor, Janet
UNICEF, Nepal: Kathmandu.

Open and Distance Learning for Basic Education in South Asia: its potential for hard-to-reach children and children in conflict and disaster areas: Bangladesh and Sri Lanka Country Studies (2009-11)
Morpeth, Ros; Creed, Charlotte; Cullen, Jane; Page, Elspeth and Raynor, Janet
UNICEF, Nepal: Kathmandu.

Widening participation to higher education in the East of England: a review of recent regional and national research (2006)
Cullen, Jane and Mills, Roger
Association of Universities in the East of England, Cambridge.

Making & Missing Opportunities: Part-Time Higher Education in the East of England (2006)
Watts, Michael; Cullen, Jane and Mills, Roger
Association of Universities in the East of England, Cambridge.