CEER Staff

Professor Alan Smithers, BSc, PhD, MSc, PhD, MEd, CPsychol

Alan Smithers-579b250Alan Smithers is the Director. He has been previously Sydney Jones Professor of Education at the University of Liverpool (1998-2004), Professor of Policy Research at Brunel University (1996-1998), and Professor of Education at the University of Manchester (1976-1996). He was first a lecturer in biological sciences at London University, from where he was recruited to the emerging field of research in education.

His research has embraced, among other things, pupil and student exam performance; teacher training, recruitment and retention; gender differences in education; different types of school, including independent schools; further, technical and vocational education; and international comparisons. He has so far published over a hundred refereed papers in biology, psychology and education, four books, 81 research reports, as well as preparing 45 confidential briefing reports.

He has served on national committees including the National Curriculum Council, the Beaumont Review of National Vocational Qualifications and the Royal Society Committee on Teacher Supply. From 1997-2015 he was standing adviser to the House of Commons Education Committee. The Centre specializes in issues of current concern and is often called upon for comment by the media.

Professor Smithers’ contact details can be found here.

Dr Pamela Robinson, BA, PGCE, MSc, PhD

Pamela Robinson

Pamela Robinson is the Deputy Director. Following extensive experience in teaching and teacher training she was appointed to a research fellowship at the University of Manchester in 1984. She moved to a lectureship at Brunel University in 1996 where she set up the doctoral education programme. She returned to full-time research on her appointment to Liverpool University in 1998 and moved to Buckingham in 2004.  She has been a co-researcher with Alan Smithers since 1984 and has published widely in the fields of international education, teacher provision, flows into science and technology, gender and education, and further and higher education.

Email: pamela.robinson@buckingham.ac.uk

Dr John Williams, BSc, PhD, FRSC, CChem, Csci


John Williams is Senior Research Fellow in CEER with particular reference to science and engineering education. He has wide experience of education, scientific research and promoting research in education. After a chemistry degree and qualifying as a teacher he taught for five years. He then became a research chemist for the Burmah Oil Company, obtaining a PhD while there. After a period in local authority education management he became Senior Executive (General Education) in the Engineering Council. More recently he has been Senior Executive (Science and Engineering Education) at the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and Head of Gatsby Technical Education Projects Ltd.

He has published a number of research papers in chemistry, particularly on phosphetans, some of which led to patents. He is also co-author of the book Quality in Learning: A Capability Approach in Higher Education (London: Kogan Page, 1992).

Ben Nicholls, MA (Cantab.), FRSA


Ben Nicholls is Honorary Research Fellow. He began his career in the Civil Service, where amongst other appointments, he was Aide to Lord Laming during his 2010 review of child protection practice, before becoming an in-house specialist of the House of Commons Education Committee. In 2013 he was appointed Head of Policy & Communications at Newham College, and joined CEER in 2014. He is currently the first Director of Social Responsibility at Charterhouse School.

As well as articles and chapters for the Guardian, TES, Huffington Post, FE Week, CAF/ACEVO and other outlets, he recently authored a report on extended schooling for CentreForum. He holds a number of voluntary roles, notably as founder and chair of the award-winning youth charity RicNic, and was a Parliamentary candidate in the 2015 General Election.

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