From 20 to 24 January 2020 we held our first international doctoral winter conference on public education. The conference provided an opportunity for doctoral students whose work focuses on questions concerning public education to share their work. A group of 12 students from Spain, Malta, the UK, Sweden, Norway, Poland, the USA and Australia worked together with Carl-Anders Säfström and Gert Biesta from the Centre for Public Education and Pedagogy, Leif Östman, Professor of Didactics, Uppsala University and Visiting Professor at the Centre, and Simone Galea, Professor of Education, University of Malta. The conference was organised around presentations from students, discussions and groupwork, and input from Säfström, Biesta, Östman and Galea. In addition, students attended a public lecture by Dr Lea O’Toole and Dr Suzanne O’Keeffe from the Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education at Maynooth University. The scale of the conference allowed for focused conversation and discussion, which was welcomed by all participants. Although students presented on a wide range of topics and interests from very different national settings and contexts, it allowed for an in-depth exploration of key questions about contemporary education in school and non-school settings, its relationships to society, the public mission of education, historical continuity and change regarding public education, the present and future of public education, the role of the ‘private,’ the physicality of public spaces, educational ideologies and ambitions, and underlying theoretical, philosophical and political assumptions. We are beginning the planning of the second doctoral winter conference, which will most likely take place from 18 to 22 January 2021.