La Trobe University ranks ‘at world standard’ for its research in Education and Specialist Studies in Education (ERA 2015-2016 assessment).

Our staff combine experience, expertise and passion to create an active community of researchers working on the complex issues shaping education policy and practice. We pride ourselves on research that disrupts conventional thinking, engages with industry and is relevant to the ongoing pursuit of the best ways of understanding, designing and implementing educational activities in communities, institutions and the outdoors.

Student and teacher learning is a major theme in our research. We specialise in areas such as adult learning, cross-cultural communication, educational leadership and management, innovative curriculum and effective classrooms, diversity and well-being, outdoor and environmental education and learning and teaching in contemporary and digital settings.

We have a large number of Masters and Doctoral students studying at our Melbourne and Bendigo Campuses. They come from all over the world and pursue a wide variety of topics.

Karen O’Reilly-Briggs

Karen O’Reilly-Briggs

Graduate; Alumni; Student ambassador, Doctor of Education

“My teachers and supervisors were outstanding.”


I am a qualified metal engineering tradesperson with many years of experience working as a metal fabricator and pressure vessel welder. After honing my craft over many years, I decided to become a teacher and teach my trade to tradespeople and apprentices at TAFE.

Some of my lecturers and supervisors at La Trobe are also qualified tradespeople, and this was an important factor for me in deciding to study education. I completed an apprenticeship after leaving secondary school, and I hadn’t been to university before enrolling at La Trobe as a mature student. Eventually, I would like to achieve a position that would enable me to use my research and industry knowledge to improve both the trade and apprenticeship education system and the professional opportunities available for tradespeople in Australia.

My PhD research investigated the quality of metal engineering trade vocational education, and how education provision for tradespeople and apprentices has changed in response to ongoing reform in the VET sector, such as the adoption of competency-based training, training packages, marketisation, and other policy changes. My research revealed a noticeable deterioration of the quality and substance of the educational provision offered to metal trade apprentices over the past three decades. This finding has inspired me to pursue a direction aimed at rectifying the current deficiencies in provision for the purposes of improving the professional opportunities of tradespeople, restoring concepts of craftsmanship, and elevating the status of tradespeople and artisans in society.