Making a difference – in theory – in Sweden and the UK

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This article considers the place of theory within education in two contexts – Sweden and the UK – and advances the argument that both governments and academics themselves have contributed to a ‘theoryless’ education. Examples are offered from the fate of education science in Sweden and, in the UK, from responses to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and from the actions of a group of independent academics charged with producing guidelines for assessing qualitative research. Work with the Council of Europe in which theory was used to guide discussions with Government Ministers is described and the paper ends with some proposals for enabling academics to engage more fruitfully with theory. These involve a framework of ethics, informed by Levinas, and a ‘creative ontology’, developed by Simons and Masschelein.
Original languageEnglish
Article number24609
Pages (from-to)319–335
Number of pages17
JournalEducation Inquiry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, © 2014 Julie Allan.


  • educational theory
  • difference
  • ethics
  • Levinas
  • Derrida

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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