Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Dr Ursula McKenna

Ursula McKenna BA(QTS), MA, EdD

Senior Research Fellow, Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit (WRERU)
Department of Education Studies
University of Warwick
Coventry CV4 7AL



Ursula McKenna is senior research fellow, in education and the social significance of religion, within the Department of Education Studies. Upon completion of her BA (QTS) she was awarded an Economic and Social Research Council MA studentship and was awarded her MA (with distinction) in 1999. While combining a part-time research post in WRERU with a job-share class teaching position in a primary school she then completed her doctorate. Her research was an evaluation of the Building E-Bridges programme, a project which advocated the use of email in primary schools to promote interfaith dialogue amongst pupils across the UK. She now engages both qualitative and quantitative research methods within the empirical science of religious education where her research interests focus on young peoples’ values including their attitudes to religious diversity and to human rights. She has contributed to a number of National and European research projects and has published in both books and journals. She co-authored ten chapters in the recently published book: G. Byrne & Leslie J. Francis (Eds) (2019). Religion and Education: The voices of young people in Ireland. Dublin: Veritas Publications.

Research Projects

She has recently worked on the following UK projects:

(with Professor Leslie Francis and Dr Tania ap Sion) Embedding attitudes to religious diversity
research findings in the school curriculum

(with Professor Leslie Francis and Dr David Lankshear) Assessing the impact on policy and performance of the Student Voice Project: A three-year research programme among year-five and year-six students in Anglican primary schools in Wales

(with Professor Leslie Francis and Dr Ann Casson) Ten leading Schools: The Spiritual Influence of Christian-Ethos Secondary Education (The Douglas Trust and Canterbury Christchurch University)

(with Professor Leslie Francis and The St Mary's Centre, Wales ) The Young People's Values Survey

Alongside Professor Leslie Francis she is involved in collaboration on data collection, data analysis and publications with national and international partners:

Human Rights and Empirical Research with Hans-Georg Ziebertz at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany

Attitudes to Religious Diversity in Eire with Dr Gareth Byrne, Director of the Irish Centre for RE, Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education, Dublin City University

Voluntary Catholic Schools with Professor Andrew McGrady at Dublin City University

The Views of Italians on Life, Religion and Human Rights with Associate Professor Guiseppe Giordan at the University of Padua, Italy

Young People’s Values (Spanish translation of the questionnaire) with Dr Daniel Moulin, University of Navarra, Spain.

She previously worked on the research projects:

(with Professor Robert Jackson and Dr Elisabeth Arweck) A Comparative Study of the Emerging School Subject ‘livskunskap’ (life competences) in Swedish schools and its Equivalent in the Curriculum of English Schools (Swedish Research Council)

(with Professor Robert Jackson and others) Young people's attitudes to religious diversity (AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society programme)

(with Professor Robert Jackson and Dr Sean Neill) Religion in Education. A contribution to dialogue or a factor of conflict in transforming societies of European Countries (follow up survey)

(with Professor Robert Jackson and others) Materials used in schools to teach world religions (Department for Children, Schools and Families)

(with Professor Robert Jackson, Dr Julia Ipgrave and Dr Kevin O'Grady) Religion in Education. A contribution to dialogue or a factor of conflict in transforming societies of European Countries (European Framework 6)

(with Professor Robert Jackson and Dr Julia Ipgrave) Evaluation of The Building E-Bridges-Inter-faith Dialogue using ICT in Primary Schools Project (Westhill Endowment Trust)

(with Professor Robert Jackson) The Dimension of Religious Diversity in Intercultural/Multicultural Education, Citizenship and Cognate Fields (St Peter's Saltley Trust and Gaydon Trust)

Religious Education for children with Special Educational Needs in the Mainstream Classroom (Dulverton and Gaydon Trusts)


For fourteen years Ursula taught across the primary age range. She has contributed to the PGCE Primary and Early Years Religious Education Module and provides support for the MA in Religious Education by distance learning. She undertakes supervision of dissertation students on BA and MA Education Studies degrees.


Ursula undertakes a range of administrative tasks in support of the Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit including the servicing of all Unit and project meetings; the processing of ethical approval for projects; tracking of project income and expenditure; organisation of the WRERU seminar series and maintenance of the website.

She was editorial assistant on the British Journal of Religious Education for twelve years, co-ordinating the refereeing process for all submissions and special issues. In 2013 together with Dr. Kevin O’Grady and Dr. Joyce Miller, she edited a volume of essays illustrating aspects of the history of the research on religion and education undertaken at the University of Warwick, together with a critique of its contemporary relevance.

Selected publications

Trowsdale, J., McKenna, U., & Francis, L. J. (in press). Teacher evaluation of the impact of the Imagineerium learning experience on the creativity of individual students: The Trowsdale Index of Teacher Observation of Student Creativity (TITOSC). Research in Education,

Francis, L. J., Lankshear, D., & McKenna, U. (in press). Comparing the attitudes of Muslim and Christian year 5 and 6 students within four Anglican primary schools in Wales. British Journal of Religious Education,

Erken, H., Francis, L. J., & McKenna, U. (2021). Love for Allah and love for others: Exploring the connection between religious affect and empathy among Muslim adolescents in England. Journal of Beliefs and Values,

Francis, L. J., Athwal, S., & McKenna, U. (2020). Assessing attitude toward Sikhism: The psychometric properties of the Athwal-Francis Scale among Sikh adolescents. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 23 (3-4), 234-244.

Francis, L.J., & McKenna, U., & Arweck, E (2020). Countering anti-Muslim attitudes among Christian and religiously unaffiliated 13- to 15-year-olds in England and Wales: Testing the contact hypothesis. Journal of Beliefs and Values, 41 (3), 342-357.

McKenna, U. & Francis, L. J. (2019). Growing up female and Muslim in the UK: An empirical enquiry into the distinctive religious and social values of young Muslims. British Journal of Religious Education, 41 (4), 388-401.

Francis, L.J., Astley, J. & McKenna, U. (2019). Science disproves the biblical account of creation: Exploring the predictors of perceived conflict between science and religion among 13- to 15-year-old students in the UK. British Journal of Religious Education, 41 (2), 188-201.

Francis, L. J., Casson, A. & McKenna, U. (2018). Christian ethos secondary schools in England and Wales: A common voice or wide diversity? Journal of Beliefs and Values, 39 (4), 445-462.

Francis, L. J. & McKenna, U. (2018). The experience of victimisation among Muslim adolescents in the UK: The effect of psychological and religious factors. Religions (Special Issue: Islamic Education in Contemporary World: Traditions, Rearticulations and Transformation), 9 (8) 243.

Francis, L. J. & McKenna, U. (2017) The religious and social correlates of Muslim identity: an empirical enquiry into religification among male adolescents in the UK. Oxford Review of Education, 43 (5), 550-565.

Jackson, R. and McKenna, U. (2017) The “Young People’s Attitudes to Religious Diversity” Project in the Context of Warwick Religions and Education Research Unit (WRERU) Research. In Elisabeth Arweck (Ed.) Attitudes to Religious Diversity: Young People’s Perspectives (Abingdon, Routledge) pp 3-18.

Francis, L. J., Robbins, M. & McKenna, U. (2016) Women’s socio-economic rights and religion among Christian, Islamic and non-religiously affiliated students in England and Wales. Collected edition. In. Hans-Georg Ziebertz & Ernst H. Ballin (Eds.) Freedom of Religion in the 21st Century. A human rights perspective on the relation between politics and religion (Leiden: Brill) pp 239-256

McKenna, U., Francis, L. J., Neill, S. and Jackson, R (2014) The role of personal religiosity in predicting attitude
toward religious education and attitude toward religious diversity among 14- to 16-year-old students in England, Religious Education Journal of Australia, 30 (2), pp16-24.

Miller, J., O’Grady, K. and McKenna, U. (Eds.) (2013) Religion in Education: Innovation in International Research. New York: Routledge.

Miller, J. and McKenna, U. (2011) Religion and religious education: comparing and contrasting pupils’ and teachers’ views in an English school, British Journal of Religious Education, 33 (2), pp173 - 187

Jackson, R., Ipgrave, J., Hayward, M., Hopkins, P., Fancourt, N., Robbins, M., Francis, L. J. and McKenna, U. (2010) Materials used to Teach about World Religions in Schools in England, London: Department for Children, Families and Schools. Research Report DCSF-RR197ISBN 978 1 84775 634 3 Available at:

McKenna, U., Neill, S., Jackson, R. (2009) Personal worldviews, dialogue and tolerance: students’ views on religious education in England, in: Pille Valk, Gerdien Bertram-Troost, Markus Friederici and Céline Beraud (Eds.) Teenagers’ Perspectives on the Role of Religion in their Lives, Schools and Societies. A European Quantitative Study, Religious Diversity and Education in Europe Series. Münster: Waxmann, pp 49-70.

McKenna, U., Ipgrave, J. and Jackson, R. (2008) Interfaith Dialogue by Email in Primary Schools: An Evaluation of the Building E-Bridges Project. Münster: Waxmann.

Ipgrave, J., and McKenna, U. (2008) Diverse experiences and common vision: English students’ perspectives on religion and religious education, in: T. Knauth, D-P. Jozsa, G. Bertram-Troost and J. Ipgrave, (Eds.) Encountering Religious Pluralism in School and Society. A Qualitative Study of Teenage Perspectives in Europe Religious Diversity and Education in Europe Series. Münster: Waxmann, pp133-147.

Ipgrave, J. and McKenna, U. (2007) Values and Purposes: Teacher perspectives on the ‘Building E-Bridges’ Project for inter faith dialogue between children across the UK, in C. Bakker and H-G Heimbrock (Eds.) Researching RE Teachers. RE Teachers as Researchers, Religion and Education in Europe Series. Munster: Waxmann, pp215-234.

Full publications