Dr Muir Houston
- Senior Lecturer (People, Place & Social Change)
Chair of the College of Social Sciences Ethics Committee; Member of the University Ethics Committee
Muir entered higher education as a mature student in 1993. Having left school at 16 he completed an apprenticeship as a Motor Vehicle Technician. Having served his time he moved to the West Highlands and in between periods of contemplation he worked as a motor vehicle technician, a prawn fisherman, a fish factory operative and handyman, a quarry worker and HGV driver; and, started his own business under the infamous Enterprise Allowance scheme.
He returned to education by completing an HNC Social Sciences at Reid Kerr College and achieved enough merits that he was allowed direct entry to Second year at the University of Paisley on the BA Applied Social Studies programme. Graduating with a 2:1 he then entered the M.Phil. in Social Science Research at Glasgow graduating in 1998.
After graduation he secured a part-time research post in the Department of Continuing Education at the University of Paisley where he stayed – on a variety of fixed term contracts until moving to the University of Stirling in 2004. He was awarded his PhD from the University of Paisley in 2006 having managed to complete in less than 4 years part-time, for his study on issues of student progression and its association with performance and diversity with a focus on the trajectories of non-traditional students. At the University of Stirling he worked with Mike Osborne and others on the ESRC funded (£870,000) TLRP project SOMUL: the social and organisational mediation of university learning.
After the end of his contract at Stirling in 2008, he moved to Glasgow to continue his association with Mike Osborne on another series of fixed term contracts in the areas of learning cities and regions, adult and lifelong learning, widening access and participation, and, the role of aspirations in the transitions of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds into employment or education.
He was awarded a permanent post as a lecturer in 2012 and gained promotion to Senior Lecturer in August 2015.
Dr Muir Houston is a Lecturer in the School of Education and a member of the Social Justice, Place and Lifelong Education (SJPLE) Research Group at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, UK. He is also the Ethics Officer for the College of Social Sciences sitting on the University Ethics Committee and an Associate of both PASCAL and CRADALL networks. He has previously held positions in the Institute of Education at the University of Stirling and the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of the West of Scotland and has over 15 years experience in academic research. A sociologist by training, he has research interests in adult and lifelong learning, including the development and implementation of learning cities and regions; aspects of the contemporary student experience including access, retention, progression and performance, and issues of widening participation and inequality of opportunity. In addition, he has research interests in the career and educational motivations and aspirations of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
He is proficient in qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods research often with an emphasis on advanced quantitative techniques including considerable experience of case study comparative research.
A number of coherent strands underpin his research interests as indicated in the list of outputs. The first and perhaps major strand can be said to encompass all aspects of the contemporary student experience - as evinced by my work on the SOMUL project - (built on interests in access, Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning), particularly issues of retention, progression and performance (Doctoral thesis and other outputs); and specifically entry to medicine. This is linked, through my involvement in the WHAN and JRF funded projects to research interests in the career and educational aspirations, motivations and choices of young adults particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Much of this is distinguished by the adoption of advanced quantitative analysis.
The second strand relates to Learning cities/regions and how they can be harnessed to address specific EU priorities in relation to civic engagement, social inclusion, education and training, employability and regional development. These issues relate to ongoing EU funded work and are the focus of current bids noted below.
Finally, he has been able to maintain research interests in Economic and Social History (Foster et al.). Their analysis of the relationship between class formation and sectarianism in Victorian Clydeside adopts a Marxist perspective and confronts conventional wisdom on the relative salience of class and religion; the effects of which are still felt today.
ESRC/TLRP project: What is Learned at University: the social and organisational mediation of university learning (SOMUL). Research Team: J. Brennan (OU), David Jary (OU), Mike Osborne (DACE), John Richardson (OU), Muir Houston (DACE), Yann Lebeau (UEA), Rob Edmunds (OU)
WHAN (Working in Health Access Network) A evaluation and research network working with regional Access fora.
Womens University in Africa (WUA) Zimbabwe - Scoping visit to develop research collaborations with Professor Charles Nherera and colleagues in the areas of gender studies, development studies and comparative education.
I have been involved in projects funded by: the Scottish Funding Council/National Health Service (Scotland), concerned with the selection of students to Medicine, Veterinary Science and the Allied Health Professions (WHAP and WHAN); a major ESRC/TLRP project utilising a case study approach to investigate the social and organisational mediation of university learning (SOMUL); a investigation of the role of aspirations in young people funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (SHAPE); and a number of European Union projects.
At the European level i have been involved in four projects funded under the LLL programme: R3L+ (504475-LLP-1-2009-1-DE-GRUNDTVIG-GMP) Adult education in the light of the European Quality Strategy which involved a case study approach to investigate issues of quality and partnership in the creation of successful learning regions/cities and focused on adult learning partnerships; GINCO (503706-LLP-1-2009-1-BE-GRUNDTVIG-GNW) Grundtvig International Network of Course Organisers which looked at issues of quality in Grundtvig IST courses; the THEMP project (511690-LLP-1-2010-1-ES-KA1-KA1SCR) Tertiary Higher Education for People in Mid Life which again adopted a comparative approach to examine barriers to and opportunities for the participation of mid-life adults in higher education as a response to Europe 2020; and the LETAE project (LETAE: 539382-LLP-1-2013-1-ES-ERASMUS-EQR) which builds on THEMP, but focuses on work-related elements of HE collaborations with employers and trade groups .
Globally I am the Co-Director of the Strengthening Urban Engagement of Universities in Asia and Africa (SUEUAA) project funded by the British Academy under the Cities and Infrastructure programme of its Global Challenges Research Fund. The project, led by the University of Glasgow, includes six international partners from Iran, Iraq, the Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. (http://sueuaa.org )
Muir is currently supervising a number of students on both PhD and EdD doctoral programmes.
Saaed Al Dossary: A study of the factors affecting retention at King Saud University, Saudi Arabia: Structural equation modelling and qualitative methods
Abdullah Abdulqadir Baqadir: A skills gap between industrial education output and manufacturing industry labour needs in the private sector in Saudi Arabia
Mpoki John Mwaikokesya: Undergraduate students' development of lifelong learning attributes in Tanzania
Mama Owusu:Aid for basic education development in Ghana – the recipients’ experience
Grace Poulter: The Learner Identities of Older Adults Engaged in Higher Degree Programmes.
Wenting Wang (Lisa): Factors Influencing Teaching as a Career Choice
Kenneth Gordon MacPherson: An Investigation into Factors that Affect Pupil Engagement in Classrooms
Ralph Cassar: Prepared for the ‘good life’? Higher Education ‘Applied Sciences’ students in a vocational college.
Yvonne Wayne: Exploring possible linkages between political and educational engagement: What lessons can be learned in respect of educational engagement from the political engagement of 16 and 17 year-old first time voters in the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum?
Cameron Graham: The development of criticality in higher education: a case study of masters students in a Russell Group university.
Sean Duffy: Precarious transitions: How education shapes young working class individuals’ perceptions of work in austerity Scotland.
Muir is also interested in supervising students in the following areas:
- All aspects of the student experience including access, progression and performance
- Adult education
- Aspirations of disadvantaged youth
- Learning cities and regions
- Comparative education studies
- Marxist analysis of contemporary issues including the continuing salience of class.
Muir is a sociologist by training and his work in the field of education is informed by his sociological imagination. He teaches at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in the fields of sociology and social research methods. He has also been involved as a tutor on a a number of distance learning modules.
He gained accreditation with the ILTHE in 2003-04, later to become the HEA, of which he is a Fellow and has collaborated with the Academy in a number of activities over the years.
- the organisation of a conference and editing of selected conference papers for the Education Subject Centre (ESCalate) on the teaching/research nexus;
- the production of a review of UK undergraduate provision in the Biosciences with the Biosciences Subject Centre; and,
- more recently as part of the team commissioned to produce a review of the role of flexibility in widening participation to HE.
He has also been involved in reviews commissioned by the Scottish Qualifications Authority in relation to grading and assessment practices.
At present Muir teaches on the following modules and programmes
- Introduction to Social and Educational Research (PG)
- Advanced Educational Research (PG)
- Curriculum Design (PG)
- Community Development (UG)
He has also been a guest lecturer at Queen Margaret University and previously taught at the University of Stirling and the University of the West of Scotland
In addition he has responsibility for organising and delivering Ethics training for both staff and students across the College of Social Sciences
Consulting and advice
Muir has carried out consultancy work for the National Health Service, the Scottish Drugs Forum and Kent County Council in the areas of data analysis and interpretation.
Muir sits on the Academic Advisory Board for ARC (African Resaerch Centre) based in Harare, Zimbabwe which was set up to address the growing need to enhance academic research capacity across all disciplines in Zimbabwe and indeed the whole Southern Africa Development Community Region.
Academic and professional body membership
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
Member of the Association of Institutional Research (US)
Member of Steering Committee: Higher Education Institutional Research (HEIR) Network
PASCAL International Observatory Affiliate
In the course of his career, Muir has gained experience as a member of the organising committee of a number of international conferences. Duties include reviewing and selecting abstracts and papers, scheduling and organising paper and workshop sessions and contributing to general planning and logistics. In addition, he has reviewed bids for the ESRC small grants programme; reviewed books for the Scottish Educational Review; and, reviewed paper submissions for the Journal of Adult and Continuing Education, the British Journal of Educational Research and Higher Education Research and Development.
He has excellent interpersonal, communication and networking skills and has experience of working within multinational, multidisciplinary teams and has coordinated numerous work packages and research strategies including activities in the R3L+, THEMP and GINCO projects. Through the PASCAL and CRADALL networks he has experience of the project dissemination and exploitation; and has published widely in the area of higher education with a focus on access, widening participation, the student experience and the role of flexible practices.