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CERRL is custodian of St Mary’s strong research tradition in Catholic Education.

Conjoining the work of the Aquinas Centre for Theological Literacy and the Centre for Research and Development in Catholic Education, CERRL aims to build on an existing inventory of research conducted by Centre members.

Research students

The CERRL team are responsible for over 25 research students across PhD, EdD and MPhil programmes studying a range of topics from Catholic educational leadership through racial issues in schools to ‘fuzzy epistemology’ in the Book of Ezekiel! One of our most recent applicants is Joey Oliva who is researching how Catholic schools have contributed to the formation of female leaders in the Philippines. Joey is one of our two Global Researchers Advancing Catholic Education (GRACE) scholars and recently arrived in London to begin her studies on campus


The Professional Doctoral in Education award requires submission of an eventual dissertation of some 60,000 words including appendices. As the web pages state, students are part of a vibrant research culture where the focus is on the process of development as a researcher in relation to personal and professional concerns and practices.


The Doctor of Philosophy is usually completed within 3 years full-time or 6 years part-time and normally entails a submission in the region of 80,000 words and no more than 100,000 words. It can be done on time – just ask Abigail Maguire who is the most recent to complete her submission. The M.Phil. is 2 years full time, 4 years part time and entails a dissertation submission of 60,000 words. Before application, it is sometimes helpful to talk through research avenues with one of the CERRL supervisors but formal application can be made here in good time for our two start dates in October and February

All students are required to undertake an agreed programme of research skills training and development. This will be agreed at entry and reviewed regularly. Your thesis will be scrutinized by internal and external experts culminating in a viva voce examination – but don’t worry, you will be well prepared!



Annually, CERRL allocate scholarships to post-doctoral candidates eligible for the Catholic Educational Researchers in Africa Network (‘CERIAN’). 

CERIAN is a global research group whose purpose is to work collaboratively to nurture postdoctoral research with the aim of improving the provision of Catholic education in Africa. Catholic Education in Africa is an under-researched area and the first step to enhance the wellbeing of children, is to understand the current context.  CERIAN provides mentoring for early post-doctoral scholars in research projects in African contexts that aim to understand better the successes and challenges faced by Catholic schools, colleges, and universities. 

Each scholar who passes successfully through St Mary’s African Post-Doctoral Research Programme, becomes a CERIAN member thereby ready to make their contribution to a global network to advance scholarship, research, publication, and dissemination of new understandings.

Faith Education/ Conspiracy Analytics

Among recent initiatives, the appointment of Aidan Cottrell-Boyce, a full-time Post-Doctoral fellow in Catholic Educational Research has allowed CERRL to investigate the efficacy of Catholic Education in the face of Conspiracy Theories, the hostility to Catholic immigration in the 19th Century and aspects of liturgy in Catholic schools.

As well as being a qualified teacher and former Head of RE, Aidan is a skilled writer and communicator [as can be seen via his presentation on Conspiracy Theories.