Anna Robinson-Pant

Professor, UNESCO Chair in Adult Literacy and Learning for Social Transformation

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Personal profile


Anna Robinson-Pant is Professor of Education at the School of Education and Lifelong Learning, and holds the UNESCO Chair in Adult Literacy and Learning for Social Transformation (  She began her career in Nepal, working in adult literacy and development with a range of NGO and Government programmes. Her ethnographic research in Nepal - Why eat green cucumber at the time of dying? Exploring the link between women’s literacy and development - received the UNESCO International Award for Literacy Research in 2001. She has since collaborated with UNESCO and other international development agencies on research and policy initiatives in the Global South. Within UK higher education, she has been active in developing methodological approaches to researching across languages and cultures, and received the BMW Group Award for Intercultural Learning (Theory Category) 2007 for her contribution to this field. Her current research focuses on adult literacy, gender and sustainable development; the geopolitics of academic writing and the internationalisation of higher education. In recognition of her research in international education, she was invited to be President of the British Association of International and Comparative Education (BAICE) for 2018-19.  As former editor of the journal Compare, she set up the BAICE/Compare Writing for Publication Programme and is still developing this initiative in new directions.  She was a trustee of the UK Forum for International Education and Training and on the editorial boards for Compare, International Journal of Educational Development and Studies in the Education of Adults.  

Key Research Interests

Anna Robinson-Pant has conducted ethnographic studies and policy-focused research in the field of adult literacy, informal learning, gender and international development - including for over three decades in Nepal. In the UK context, she has led several action-orientated research projects with international students on their experiences in higher education, and with children and teachers in Norfolk primary schools on participation and voice. She is committed to finding ways of developing a more inclusive research community both within UEA and more broadly to address North-South inequalities in academic publishing and research.  This has included exploring ways of engaging practitioners and policy makers in research processes, ensuring research outputs are accessible and developing approaches for working collaboratively across disciplines, cultures and languages.

1. Adult learning, literacy, sustainable development and social change: exploring the synergies

Building on her long-established contribution to adult literacy and international development, Anna aims to raise the profile of participatory and ethnographic research approaches in the international development policy arena. She has undertaken regular commissioned research and advisory roles for NGOs and international development agencies (particularly UNESCO). At UEA, she set up the Literacy and Development Group (LDG) in 2003 with colleagues from the School of International Development, to enhance research and teaching in this area.  The group helped to take forward theoretical debates on literacy and development through facilitating conversations across disciplinary boundaries and within a wider community of researchers through international conferences and linked publications. In 2016, the UNESCO Chair in Adult Literacy and Learning for Social Transformation was established at UEA in collaboration with partner universities in Ethiopia, Nepal, Egypt, Malawi and the Philippines. The UNESCO Chair aims to develop understanding about how adult learning – particularly for women and young adults – can help address inequalities in the poorest communities of the world.

Research projects (selected)

January 2023: Training of Trainers REFLECT manual development, University of Malawi workshops, Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and Newton Consolidated Account (GNCA)

January 2023: Youth-led policy workshops with Centre for Social Research, University of Malawi, UEA Impact Fund

2020: ‘Adult literacy and learning for social change: innovation, influence and the role of non-state actors’, UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report Background Paper (Research Co-ordinator of case studies)
2019 – 2022: UKRI GCRF Global Research Translation Award: ‘Meeting the SDGs: creating innovative infrastructures and policy solutions to support sustainable development in Global South communities (GS-DEV)’ - Family literacy, indigenous learning and sustainable development:
2019 – 2020: ‘Family literacy and capacity building in Ethiopia, Nepal and the Philippines’, GCRF-UEA Rapid Response Fund
2019: ‘Adult literacy and learning for sustainable development in Ethiopia’, GCRF-UEA Rapid Response Fund
2018 – 2019: ‘Inclusive Education Systems’ (British Association for International and Comparative Education (BAICE)-funded Project with partners in Nepal, Ethiopia and the Philippines),
2018 – 19:  ‘Intercultural learning and gender relations among migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking populations: a participatory action research project’ (UEA/ESRC Rapid Response Impact Fund, with NGO partners in Norwich, UK)
2018: ‘Adult Literacy and Learning for Social Transformation’ (UEA HEIF-funded) to develop the impact and dissemination strategies of UNESCO Chair research projects with UNESCO Paris and UIL Hamburg.
2016: UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), ‘Literacy programmes focusing on health and gender equality’ (commissioned paper for UN International Literacy Day 2016):
2015-2016: ‘Bridging the gap in women’s literacy’, BAICE-funded capacity development grant
2014-2018: Co-Investigator (for Adult learning theme) on ESRC-funded ‘What Works Wellbeing evidence programme: Work, Learning and Wellbeing/ (P.I. Daniels)
2014: UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning commissioned research paper on ‘Literacy programmes for sustainable development and the empowerment of women’:
2013-14: Global Research Coordinator for IFAD-UNESCO study on ‘Learning knowledge and skills for improving rural livelihoods’ in Egypt, Cambodia and Ethiopia:
2009: ‘Literacy Inequalities’ (British Academy conference grant, with Aikman, Maddox and Rao, see Basu, Maddox and Robinson-Pant, 2010)
2008: Research paper for the Mid-term Review of UN Literacy Decade, published as part of: Literacy in the World Today, Paris, UNESCO [Report of the Director-General of UNESCO on the Implementation of the International Plan of Action for the United Nations Literacy Decade])
2005: Commissioned set of papers on ‘The Benefits of Literacy’ for the UNESCO EFA Global Monitoring Report 2006 (see also Robinson-Pant, 2008. ‘Why literacy matters’)
2003: Commissioned UNESCO policy briefing report on ‘Adult Education and Indigenous Peoples’ for presentation at the CONFINTEA Mid Term Review, Bangkok (with Nitya Rao)
2003: Commissioned research on ‘Overview of learning programmes for literacy and vocational skills for women’ for Gender and Education for All: The Leap to Equality, UNESCO EFA Global Monitoring Report 2003/4 (UNESCO)
2003: Research Co-ordinator for series of case studies on NGO literacy programmes for indigenous groups in Malaysia, Nepal, India, Thailand and New Zealand (Asian and South Pacific Bureau for Adult Education)

2. Intercultural learning, academic literacies and the internationalisation of higher education

Anna’s research has focused on deepening theoretical understanding and methodological debate around internationalisation through comparative analysis of the assumptions and methods in applied linguistics, anthropology and education. Through her editorial roles and her university teaching, she became interested in researching academic literacies, intercultural perspectives on learning and teaching and the geopolitics of academic publishing and knowledge production. As Editor of the journal Compare (2004-2009), she was particularly keen to find ways of overcoming the discursive and practical barriers faced by writers in the Global South. With funding from the British Association for International and Comparative Education, she established a mentoring programme based on academic literacies approaches for new contributors to Compare (see Lillis, Magyar and Robinson-Pant 2010).  She also conducted research with international research students on their academic experiences in the UK, including several action-orientated research projects with Dr. Anna Magyar (see Magyar and Robinson-Pant, 2011) and leading to a study on recruitment agents as ‘literacy mediators’ (Magyar and Robinson-Pant, 2017).  Her first book based on research with international students in a UK university, Cross-cultural Perspectives on Educational Research (Open University Press), won the BMW Group Award for Intercultural Learning 2007 (Theory Category). Researching across Languages and Cultures (co-authored with Dr. Alain Wolf, 2017) developed these ideas further through research with doctoral students and researchers in universities outside the UK.  As with her research on literacy and development, Anna has taken a social practice lens to analyse academic literacies and educational research practices in the university context, with a view to enhancing supervision practice, and developing new dialogic spaces.

Research projects (selected)

2014: ‘The role of recruitment agents in the internationalisation of higher education’ (Society for Research in Higher Education)
2012-13: UEA Teaching Fellowship on ‘Preparing for academic study in a second language: how can we improve the experience and engagement of international Masters students in the Faculty of Social Science?’ (with Anna Magyar)
2009: ‘Internationalising educational research cultures and graduate trainin’g (BAICE funding, with Madeleine Arnot, CEID Cambridge)
2008-9: UEA Teaching Fellowship on ‘Addressing the needs of first year international research students and their supervisors: an academic literacies approach' (with Anna Magyar)
2007- current: Compare/BAICE Supporting new writers’ programme development and implementation, including holding ‘Writing Champion’ symposia for journal editors and established academics, and workshop/mentoring programme for junior scholars in the UK and countries of the Global South (with Magyar and Compare editors)
2005-6: UEA Teaching Fellowship on ‘Improving the experiences of international research students’ (with Nalini Boodhoo).

3. Children’s participation in educational decision making

Aiming to bring her experience of participatory research on communicative practices in development into the UK context, Anna co-directed action research projects with children and teachers in Norfolk primary schools on participation and voice with Sue Cox. ‘Children Decide: Power, participation and purpose in the primary classroom’ involved children conducting action research with their class teachers on decision-making. This project built on findings from an action-oriented project on school councils: ‘Empowering Children through Visual Communication’. Both projects were funded by CFBT Educational Trust.  An ESRC seminar series on ‘Children as Decision Makers’ brought together educators, activists and researchers working in countries in the Global South and North to share and reflect on approaches to facilitating children’s participation in educational contexts: Cox, S., Dyer, C., Robinson-Pant, A. and M. Schweisfurth (2010) Children as Decision Makers in Education: Sharing Experiences Across Cultures, Continuum: London (edited volume).

Areas of Expertise

Literacy and development; adult learning in Asia; gender and education in Nepal; health and education (esp. Nepal); participatory research approaches; international research students; school councils in UK primary schools.

Teaching Interests

Anna convenes an optional MA module on ‘Literacy, development and adult learning: an introduction to the concepts’ which is popular with students from the School of Education and Lifelong Learning and School of International Development.   She regularly run sessions for doctoral students on participatory research approaches, ethnography, researching across languages and cultures, and academic literacies - as part of the Faculty Advanced Doctoral Training programme. She has supervised and examined many doctoral students in the areas of international education, ethnography, gender and education and adult literacy and is a member of the Ethics Committee of the School of Education and Lifelong Learning. She contributes to University induction sessions for doctoral students and staff development initiatives, particularly in areas related to the internationalisation of higher education and academic literacies on the MA in Higher Education Practice.

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 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or