Colleges Action Inquiry Research Network


Welcome to the first edition of the College Action Inquiry Research Network (CAIRN) online journal.  The value and vitality of CAIRN will be sustained by it’s commitment and ability to reach out and offer new insights and understanding for teaching practitioners, managers, administrators, educational developers and leaders within the Scottish college sector. Publishing articles that offer independent, critical evaluations and engaging reflections on the ways in which the sector operates and interfaces with local, regional and national developments, and policy imperatives will be a fundamental part of the journal’s overall remit. In addition to engaging with, informing and where appropriate, challenging, contemporary thinking and practice within the sector, the hope is that CAIRN will evolve to play a critical role in the fostering and supporting of a vibrant Scottish college researcher network and community. The timing for this new journal is highly appropriate. The post-regionalisation years (since 2012) have ushered in unparalleled cultural and structural change to the Scottish college sector. Under regionalisation, the sector has been increasingly implicated in national and regional socio-economic development and, consequently, it has shifted considerably from its traditional anchor points, becoming increasingly more organic, growing in scope and reach in new directions. Within the regionalisation frame, colleges have been responding and re-aligning (in both similar and idiosyncratic ways) to the emerging socio-economic policies, regional challenges and markets. Through this process they have become increasingly more innovative, complex and multi-layered institutions. In contemporary times our Scottish colleges can be characterised as highly animated in their outreach and outlook; becoming more responsive and receptive to the fast-moving currents of technological innovation and emergent teaching and learning paradigms and trends. They have evolved to become vibrant places and spaces in which learners, cast in the role of discursive consumers with manifold mutable needs and expectations, are socially and academically networked, supported and enriched in a myriad of ways. Ultimately, the sector is more networked and engaged with its stakeholders and, as such, subject to new and evolving levels of accountability. Indeed, the college sector is a highly dynamic and rich field for exploration and research. However, what has been absent is a suitable platform where these progressive and evolving macro and micro level developments experienced by different constituents can be discursively mapped, unpacked, interrogated, critically evaluated, celebrated and disseminated. We hope that CAIRN will create such a platform.   

Aims and Scope

The College Action Inquiry Research Network (CAIRN) online journal aims to be an important voice in the scholarship of the Scottish college education sector. It aims to provide a forum to disseminate innovation, knowledge and critical insights through a variety of scholarly submissions. These will include: featured research articles, personal reflection articles and book reviews. In addition, we also seek short thoughtful descriptive narrative articles highlighting innovative practices aimed at enhancing and supporting educational core activities.

There will be an emphasis on creating a practitioner-orientated publication that is committed to advancing scholarship and knowledge exchange. The intended audience includes those who teach and research within the sector; lead, develop, manage and evaluate delivery provision; and those who create national policy and evaluate sector activities in a variety of settings.

CAIRN welcomes submissions addressing a broad spectrum of contemporary developments, issues and challenges impacting across the sector. Themes may include:

  • Leadership; management and administration
  • Education policy and reform
  • Student learning journey
  • Vocational education and training
  • Teaching, learning and assessment
  • Theoretical and conceptual issues
  • Professional issues
  • Curriculum development
  • Cultural change and structural developments
  •  Technological developments

Also relevant are scholarly articles with international themes that place the Scottish College sector within the wider education policy field. Submissions that place the contemporary college system within a historical context are also welcome.

CAIRN is committed to publishing refereed articles in an accessible and concise style with contributions from staff and practitioners across the sector, including those working with the sector. Featured research articles and personal reflective articles accepted for publication will offer original insights that discuss, scrutinize and debate on a range of contemporary contextual issues, policy matters and professional and structural trends within the sector.

All manuscripts will be submitted electronically. See Write for CAIRN for more information on submission guidelines and for specific questions or inquiries, contact 

Patrick O’Donnell at,

Christine Calder at or

Kevin Brosnan at


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.