13 new projects will attempt to tackle persistent inequalities that create barriers for black, Asian and minority ethnic students to access and take part in postgraduate research (PGR).
The projects, worth nearly £8 million, are innovative in scope, scale and focus to an extent that has not been seen in England before. Delivered over the next four years, they will improve access into research, enhance research culture and the experience for Black, Asian and minority ethnic PGR students, and diversify and enhance routes into a range of careers.
The investment, by Research England – part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – and the Office for Students (OfS), is well spread geographically, across English higher education providers and their partners.
The projects range from targeting recruitment, admissions and transition to increasing the number of Black, Asian and minority ethnic female professors, and generating new admissions practices to creating longitudinal, systemic, and structural change at various English universities.
Panel co-Chairs, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and Maisha Islam, said:
'Over the course of 2020-21, the longstanding urgency for racial equality was incredibly obvious. We are confident that this competition will be a significant step of tangible action, investment and commitment to support these aims in the context of English Higher Education.
'The 13 projects will work collectively to support the entire PGR lifecycle using innovative methods and approaches. This includes reviewing admissions processes to tackling offer rate gaps, and plans to extend routes into doctoral study via professional doctorates and partnering with the NHS. Other projects will focus specifically on intersectional inequalities related to Black female students, and prioritise the mental health of their PGR students of colour.
'We have sought to back projects that have demonstrated authentic engagement and partnership work with their students and staff of colour, and a commitment to continue this as part of their own ongoing evaluations.
'This is only one of many first steps, as systemic inequalities will not disappear overnight. We are acutely aware of how much further the sector needs to travel to be in a position to allow people of all backgrounds to flourish and establish the most outstanding research and innovation sector with a formidable research culture to match.'
A full list of project summaries can be found on the Research England website.
Research England’s Director Research, Steven Hill, said:
'Persistent inequalities occur throughout higher education for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students.
'Some of the inequalities that exist for Black, Asian and minority ethnic undergraduate students – such as the current gap in degree outcomes between white students and Black students of 18.3 percentage points are reflected in the underrepresentation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic students in postgraduate research (PGR) students.
'PGR students are also researchers and teachers, and play an important role in supporting the research and academic talent pipeline.
'Supporting access and successful participation for Black, Asian and minority ethnic PGR students through these 13 innovate projects is crucial – both to improve opportunities for current generations, and to increase the diversity of talent into academic careers, which has been identified as important to addressing attainment gaps.'
Director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students, Chris Millward, said:
'Black, Asian and minority ethnic students have high levels of participation in undergraduate education, but they are less likely to secure the top degree grades and go on to postgraduate research. This then affects their representation among academic staff, particularly at senior levels.
'The projects will ambitiously tackle the issues causing underrepresentation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic students in postgraduate research, with the aim of stimulating innovation and developing effective practice for universities and colleges throughout the country. This is vital, so that postgraduate research in this country can benefit from the talents of people from all backgrounds.'
- The projects, listed in alphabetical order by primary contact (with project partners also included), are:
- University of Bradford, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Working Academy, Emerald Publishing, Stronger Communities, Bradford for Everyone, Simply Customer, Digital Health Enterprise zone
Bradford Pathways to Academia for Minoritised Ethnicities: Brad-ATTAIN working with partners across the Bradford District, this programme will develop positive action pathways to support progression to PGR study for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students to build a vibrant, inclusive community of Black, Asian and minority ethnic researchers as leaders and influencers.
- University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, Blueprint for All, CRAC Ltd (The Careers Research & Advisory Centre)
Developing fair selection models for historically marginalised PGR students at Oxford and Cambridge will seek to disrupt persistent inequalities for postgraduate students. Traditional admissions practices have historically focused on past experience as much as assessing potential. The project will generate new admissions practices that are equitable and reflective of wider society.
- Durham University, Newcastle University, Newcastle Psychological Therapies Clinic, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland, Teesside University
PGR Opportunities for the North East/Network for Equity (pro:NE) brings together five universities in the North-East of England to widen access and promote outcomes for prospective and current students and staff of colour in PGR.
- University of East London: Social Transformation and Advocacy through Research (STAR) will develop a career pathway that leads from school to PGR and create routes into research training and careers in the community, voluntary and public sectors.
- University of Essex, Vitae (parent organisation CRAC), Olivedon (Gradintelligence platform), Diverse Minds, The Brilliant Club, Open Innovation Team
Transitions and Transformations: Black Researcher’s Journey aims to boost PGR access, participation, and good outcomes for UK-domiciled Black students through a set of environment-changing interventions.
- University of Leeds, Goldsmiths College, University of London, Reading University, University of Plymouth, University of Sheffield, University of Sunderland
Generation Delta: Nurturing future cohorts of Black, Asian and minority ethnic female professors will be led by six, female, Black, Asian and minority ethnic professors and will lay the foundations for a long-term increase in the number of Black, Asian and minority ethnic female professors in higher education institutions in England.
- Nottingham Trent University, Liverpool John Moores University, Sheffield Hallam University, UK Council for Graduate Education, Grit Break Through Programmes, Nottingham University Hospital Trust, NHS R&D North West, Health Education England – North West, Sheffield Hospitals NHS Trust, Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Trust
Equity in Doctoral Education through Partnership and Innovation (EDEPI) will improve access and participation for racialised groups to PGR across three modern universities. It will target recruitment, admissions and transition as critical points of systemic inequality in doctoral education.
- University of Sheffield, MA Education Consultancy Our Mel, Sheffield and District African and Caribbean Community Association (SADACCA), The Lit Collective Sheffield, African Voices Platform, Sheffield Anti-Racist Education (SHARE)
The University of Sheffield Centre for Equity and Inclusion will create longitudinal, systemic, and structural change at the university, establishing a network composed of Black, Asian and minority ethnic PGR students, University of Sheffield academics, and local partners working for equity and racial justice.
- Sheffield Hallam University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Advance HE
Accomplished Study Programme in Research Excellence (ASPIRE) for Black students: Fixing the broken pipeline will develop the capabilities of Black students to navigate structural barriers to doctoral study and enhance pathways of opportunity, through inclusive targeting.
- University of Surrey: The Shine Scholars Programme: Fixing the broken pipeline will provide Black British students with the resources, support and environment necessary to achieve excellence and pursue rich and rewarding careers after graduation.
- University College London, In2scienceUK, UCL Students’ Union, University of Cambridge, City University, Leading Routes (part of the Ubele initiative), UPSIGN
In2research: Building a scalable PGR access and progression programme for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students will address inequalities across the PGR student lifecycle and the barriers that exist for students from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups - particularly for UK-domiciled students from Black British, British Pakistani and British Bangladeshi backgrounds, who are most acutely marginalised in PGR study and academic careers.
- University of Wolverhampton, Birmingham City University, Arthur Terry Learning Partnership, Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, City of Wolverhampton Council, University of Wolverhampton Multi Academy Trust, NIHR Clinical Research Network, Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, C Brandauer and Co. Ltd., SME, The Active Wellbeing Society, Birmingham, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, West Midlands Combined Authority, City of Wolverhampton College, Black Country Chamber of Commerce, Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
That’s me!: Eliminating barriers to PGR study in the West Midlands will operate in the West Midlands to eliminate barriers for students from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups and communities to successfully access PGR.
- University of York, University of Sheffield, University of Leeds, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Bradford
Yorkshire Consortium for Equity in Doctoral Education (YCEDE) will tackle ethnic inequalities in access to PGR by systems-change innovations that re-shape institutional policies and procedures. Five Yorkshire universities will reform their admissions criteria and practices, involving work on the efficacy of taken-for-granted criteria as predictors of PGR success.