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“Cross-cultural learning and studying abroad can be transformative”

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

Brief description of the visit

“Cross-cultural learning and studying abroad can be transformative” (Amal Clooney). That's why I, Jacqueline Kroh, a postdoc at the Leibniz Institute for Educational Pathways in Bamberg, Germany, applied for a COORDINATE Transnational Access Visit to learn more about longitudinal data in the UK and to connect with people who are equally fascinated by longitudinal research focusing on children, adolescents, and young adults. Gratefully, I got the chance to experience a new world at the Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU) at the Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK for 3 weeks.

The project’s topic

During my visit, I worked on a project aiming to compare the relevance of academic competencies for children’s life satisfaction between the UK and Germany, using the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS, UK) and the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS, GER), respectively. So, during the three weeks, I focused on the UK part of the study, working with data from the MCS. The MCS is a comprehensive dataset that includes information on children's educational attainment, well-being, individual characteristics, and family-related factors. Because the MCS contains a large number of important confounding factors, it provides a great opportunity to examine the relationship between academic skill levels and life satisfaction from a more causally guided perspective. Moreover, by collecting similar constructs and information on children from the same birth cohort as the NEPS, the MCS allows for comparisons UK and Germany that go beyond simple mean comparisons. Consequently, the research visit was focused on developing strategies to harmonise relevant information in these two data sets.

Academic collaboration and engagement in further academic activities

Throughout the visit, my host Prof Gary Pollock and his very helpful research associate Lee Bentley provided many opportunities for research-related discussions and exchanges on the data.In addition to the opportunity to work with the data and great guidance from Lee Bentley to get started, the research visit also allowed me to interact with other researchers at the university. I appreciated Prof Stephen Morris' suggestions and comments on causality, the theoretical framework, and the UK education system. I also greatly valued the inspiring conversation with Prof. Cathy Lewin about her insights into the British school system, her knowledge of the digitisation process in British education, and the challenges of scientific research in this area. It was a great honor to present the work in progress and ideas in the monthly department meeting and had a fruitful discussion about the project with all members of PERU.In addition to these formal meetings and discussions about my research and the projects of the members of the PERU department, I was also able to interact with PERU colleagues in more informal settings. The visit to the Sandbar, a cozy pub, offered several opportunities to get to know the colleagues a bit more privately and to philosophize about differences in research culture in different European countries

Sightseeing in Manchester

Manchester is a city shaped by the influence of students and many different nations. The opportunities to experience alternative lifestyles, the variety of exotic cuisine and bars, and the diverse urban scenery invite you to explore. In good weather, it is worth walking around at the river side of the River Mersey and the Chorlton Waterpark. For football fans, it is certainly rewarding to visit the stadium of Manchester United, Old Trafford. Bookworms and those with a fascination for venerable historic buildings will find plenty to enjoy at the John Rylands Library.And people with a penchant for fancy stuff are sure to find something at Afflecks. A highlight is also a visit to the nearby city of Liverpool, which has a lovely dockside setting and the fifth-largest cathedral in the world.

Concluding thoughts

Put it all together, I strongly recommend a visit to the Manchester Metropolitan University. For early career researchers, a visit provides access to valuable longitudinal data and the expertise of knowledgeable professionals who are deeply committed to facilitating access to the datasets available in the UK for research. For recognized researchers, MMU offers several opportunities to network with experts from a variety of disciplines and to collaborate with individuals from different research contexts.


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