Annette Coburn

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Community Education, Community Resilience, Critical/Alternative Pedagogies, Equalities and Equality Work, Sustainable Assessment, Wellbeing Economy, Youth work.


Research activity per year

Personal profile


I am a Snr Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and following a 23-year career in Community Education, I have been a full-time HE lecturer in Community Education since 2003. My practice has focussed on transformational Community and Youth Work, Community Regeneration and Health Improvement and this has continued in my academic career. At my previous institution, I was Convenor of the Faculty of Education Teaching and Learning Quality Improvement Committee (TALQIC), and a member of the Faculty of Sport and Health Ethics Committee and Faculty of Education, Academic Committee.

Since coming to UWS in 2012, I have taken Programme Leader roles in the BA (Hons) in Community Education and in the MSc in Critical Youth and Community Studies. I have also been Vice-Chair of the School of Education Ethics Committee, and was a member of the University Assessment Committee and the communication and engagement group, in regard to Lanarkshire Campus Development. I was also involved in a Recruitment, Admissions and Conversion (RAC) working group that sought to enhance student transitions from application to alumnus. Outside of the Academy, I have been involved in the Policy Forum at YouthLink Scotland and at UK level, as a founder member of the Professional Association of Lectureres in Youth and Community Work and a member of benchmarking and review groups for the Subject Benchmark Statement for Youth and Community Work (QAA, 2017).

Area of academic expertise - outline

My research expertise is located in community education, equality studies and positive psychology. My PhD examined how young people learn about equality in youth work and for my Masters in Advanced Professional Studies I examined young women’s participation in physical fitness activity. My expertise is grounded in my experience and understanding of educational community and youth work practice and wider engagement in community well-being and health improvement. I am committed to undertaking funded and non-funded research that furthers the cause of equality and social justice through on-going analysis of power and its impacts on communities. My starting point for research is salutogenic in valuing people as resources or assets within communities, which is distinct from a pathogenic discourse of blame that labels people as problematic and marginal to the rest of society.

As a Community Educator and Community Learning and Development (CLD) pracitioner, who advocates for social change, my published research outputs examine the processes of community and youth work practice, health and wellbeing, and equality work. This has included longitudinal impact studies on grassroots support for families and the experiences of independent care-givers (with David Wallace) and the negotiated nature of relationships and boundaries in youth work, and community processes of social change (with Sinead Gormally).

Current research activities

I am a member of the Scottish Youth Work Research Steering Group and also serve on a number of our CLD Standards Council Committees, and on the CLD Equalities Reference Group. I am also a member of the Insititute for Youth and Community Research, here at UWS.

My current research interests are informed by my areas of expertise and framed in transformative methodologies that examine how critical, social and psychological perspectives contribute to knowledge and understanding of community and youth work practices.

Drawing on qualitative, case study and ethnographic methodologies, my most recent research has included: youth work and the extent to which Community Education student’s experiences of study in HE contributes to emancipatory practice (with Eddie Beggan and Sinead Gormally), the impact of Critical Community Education and youth work recovery from the impact of Covid (with David Wallace). I have also recently completed a three year resaerch project on, finding and appreciating community in care homes (with Belinda Dewar, Tamsin MacBride, Edel Roddy, and Anna Jack-Waugh).

Desired research direction

I am interested in research that adds to knowledge and understanding of Community Education (known as CLD in Scotland) which includes adult education, community development, literacies work, TESOL and youth work, by engaging with people in communities to improve their lived experiences, enhance wellbeing and of course...change the world!

While I have a track record in securing funding for small-scale research in my areas of research expertise and interest. I am keen to collaborate with local and international partners who share similar interests, to secure a larger grant for more in-depth research.

I am currently supervising seven PhD students, some of whom are involved in an alternative more active supervision expereince, and would like to research the pros and cons of this, ‘walking pedagogy’, in PhD supervision.

Target collaborative organisations

The Carnegie Trust for Universities of Scotland

YouthLink Scotland



Other areas of expertise available for knowledge exchange

In addition to KE activity in topics within the area of equality and social justice, I am also an accomplished trainer in areas of Community Empowerment, Leadership, Reflective Practice, Positivity/Positive Psychology, Resilient Communties, Community Based and Participatory Research Methods, Community Evaluation, Engagment and Cohesion.

I have over 40 years of experience as an informal community educator, and university tutor across all aspects of Community Education, Commuinty Learning and Development and Youth and Community Work.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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