Barbara Merrill

Barbara Merrill

Hall of Fame Class of 2019

Barbara Merrill has made major contributions to social justice goals in higher education relative to understanding the intersectionality of class and gender discrimination as it shapes the lives of working-class women in the UK and beyond. Her scholarship has focused on working-class adults, especially women, who enter higher education without traditional qualifications. Through her use of biographical feminist research methods and a collaborative orientation, her research and advocacy has brought attention to higher education policies and practices that unintentionally limit access and create barriers to success among marginalized populations.

In the late 1990s, Merrill was a co-founder of the Popular Education Network (PEN), an international network of university teachers and researchers that advocates for social justice through collaborations between academics and marginalized community groups and social movements in civil society.

Merrill contributed to the development of a specific social studies degree for local working-class adults and became the director of the 2+2 Social Studies degree. Through this initiative, she worked with management and lecturers at the university and local further education colleges—where the first two years of the degree are taught—to develop a collaborative working partnership, advocating for teaching, learning, and support practices and policies which enhance the learning experiences of working-class adults.

As an associate professor, director of research and director of graduate research at the University of Warwick, she has raised awareness of the importance of widening participation and attending to the needs of adult students through her leadership at the Centre of Lifelong Learning, within the Faculty of Social Sciences, and across the university. She established a Ph.D. in adult education and continues to impact policy and practice through her doctoral supervision.

Merrill has created opportunities for adult education scholars to share their work and learn from each other through conferences and journal publications, as past Chair of SCUTREA, a member of the ESREA Steering Committee, founder of the ESREA Access, Learning Careers and Identities Network, co-founder of the ESREA Gender Network, as an editorial board member of Studies in the Education of Adultsand RELA, and as editor and co-editor of special editions of Research into the Education and Learning of Adults, Studies in the Education of Adults, Research on Ageing and Social Theory, Revista Inverstigar em Educação, and Social Sciences.

Merrill has presented 52 papers in the UK, Europe, and Canada at a range of adult education conferences. She has developed and facilitated cross-European collaboration which resulted in several EU-funded projects

She is a member of the British Sociological Association, a member of the steering committee for the European Society for Research in the Education of Adults, and an officer and council member for the Standing Conference on University Teaching and Research in the Education of Adults, the International Society for Comparison in Adult Education, and the Global University Network for Innovation with UNESCO.