Prachi Srivastava

I was a student of what was then, the Oxford University Department of Educational Studies (OUDES), and member of Green College (now Green-Templeton).

I matriculated in 2001, and graduated with a DPhil in 2005.

I was awarded the ESRC Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship, which I held at OUDES from 2005-2006 and appointed as Lecturer with the Centre for International Education, University of Sussex in 2006. In 2008, I left that post and moved back to Canada to take up a post as Assistant Professor at the School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa. In May 2011, I was granted promotion and tenure as Associate Professor. Prior to attending the University of Oxford, I worked with international NGOs in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo as education programme manager immediately following the conflict in Kosovo, and served with the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo as Civil Affairs Officer.

What was your first degree and where did you study?

My first two degrees were at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. The first was a Bachelor of Education (Elementary Education) with teacher certification for the province of Québec. The second was a Master of Arts (Policy and Administration Studies in Education). At McGill, I conducted fieldwork in India on education policy and international development for my master’s study, investigating the concept of developing country partner ownership in a successful CIDA-funded project in technical education.

Why did you choose to study at OUDE?

I applied to two universities for my doctorate, was accepted, and chose Oxford. At OUDES I read for a Doctor of Philosophy and specialised in education policy and international development. At the time of applying to Oxford I had to decide between our department and Queen Elizabeth House. I chose to apply to OUDES because of the focus on comparative and international education, and because my research topic was the privatisation of education, which was also one of the main foci of my supervisor, Geoffrey Walford (albeit in a different context). I was stationed in Kosovo at the time, but before making my application, I visited the Department and met with Geoffrey to discuss research interests. While it was not my first visit to the University, this time, as a potential doctoral student, I paid much more attention to the research activities and seminars, facilities and research resources, libraries, and departmental and college faculty. My visit to the Department convinced me that there would be a strong research focus in my area of interest, and given the relatively small size of the Department, it would be a warm and supportive environment to engage with other students and academic faculty.

What is your favourite memory from your time at OUDE?

There are many, but going to the Rose and Crown with departmental fellows and faculty for a drink after the Monday night seminars tops the list. Many a candid conversation was had about the ideas of Bertrand Russell and Emile Durkheim, the false (or in some people’s mind, real) qualitative/quantitative methodological divide, college food, and running marathons (though, I must confess, I have never run one!). Of course, my shared office in the attic of 15 Norham Gardens, which became my second home, holds a special place.

Who in your professional life has inspired you?

My main sources of inspiration have come from the conflict-affected communities in which I previously worked, and the poor communities in India where I continue to conduct research. In particular, I am thinking of the poor parents who sacrifice to send their children to school, the mothers who fight for their daughters’ rights to complete their schooling, the bureaucrats who make tough decisions to promote equity of schooling access in times of conflict or political volatility, the social activists who campaign for the right to education at personal risk, and the teachers and principals who often work under less than ideal conditions.

Looking back at your professional achievements, what are you most proud of?

I don’t think I’m there yet—at least I hope not! As clumsy as it sounds, the road ahead is longer than the track left behind. However, a few points stick out. In Kosovo I planned, managed, and established the first minority integration education programme for Roma and Ashkalia groups. A few years ago, one of my students at Sussex informed me that the programme was one of the few to be in existence after the conflict, and has since expanded in scope. It is also personally fulfilling to see that the area of research that I pursued my doctorate in, which I termed ‘low-fee private schooling’, has become a growing area of research for scholars and students. When I started my study, there were no other published studies on the topic at the time. Owing to the research efforts of many, this is becoming a concerted topic of research in education on and in developing countries.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of taking up a career in education today? And perhaps especially what advice would you give to a young researcher who is finishing their doctorate in education in our department?

It might seem clichéd, but I would advise them to ‘think globally’ no matter where they are teaching or what area of education research they pursue. Thinking globally doesn’t necessarily mean working internationally. It means being open-minded, informed, and aware of the interconnectedness of the world, and the impact your work has on the wider world and vice-versa. For young researchers in academe it’s a challenging time. There have been some major changes to higher education in many countries and there are associated funding cuts to universities and researchers. In this context, it’s important to be creative and collaborative, and open to different types and avenues of research.