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Race XChange Research Area

University of Warwick and Coventry University are working jointly to fund a research cluster of seven fully funded dual award PhD studentships matched with experienced PhD supervisors from across both institutions.

These studentships will enable successful applicants to develop leading research on improving access and participation for minority ethnic students in postgraduate research in the UK. Our aim is to build and sustain an innovative research cluster comprising doctoral students who are developing their own individual research into broadly related themes, including:

  1. What supports people from racially minoritized backgrounds to apply to PGR study and what barriers do they face? Structural racism? Socio-cultural, economic factors? Family, peer, societal and media messages? academic representation/messaging?
  2. How do PGR students from racially minoritized backgrounds experience universities as institutions and as places for study? – what are the challenges and opportunities? What helps and what hinders progression, attainment, student experience and overall success?
  3. What are minority ethnic postdoctoral destinations? Moving beyond university – post PhD – career progression, employment, etc?

These are broad themes that can encompass diverse and innovative individual doctoral research projects. The cluster’s research will address gaps in current knowledge, test interventions and develop theories of change. The aim is to have sustainable practical impact on minority ethnic students in postgraduate research, improvements from HEIs on how to better support Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority postgraduate researchers and dismantle institutional racial barriers and to lead to future research. There is an expectation that all proposals will include some element of an intersectional analysis within the application, hence an incorporation of structural analysis as well as lived experience as a primary focus. Examples of potential doctoral research topics within the cluster’s themes might include:

Where are the gaps in minority ethnic postgraduate research participation? Students might critically examine the shape of minority ethnic participation in postgraduate research in England, identifying variations between different ethnic groups; variations according to age, class disability, sexuality and gender; and variations in participation in different subject disciplines.

Intersectional analysis of experiences and identities of minority ethnic students in postgraduate research. Students might wish to explore minority ethnic students’ decisions to join PGR programmes. What are their expectations and their experiences of guidance and advice? What are their experiences of on-programme relationships, with peers and academics? How do these experiences differ according to different ethnic groups; variations according to age, class disability, sexuality and gender?

  • Minority ethnic PGR networks and communities of practice. Students might examine the personal social networks initiated and developed by minority ethnic PGR students and academics, analysing the role of minority ethnic networking in the interactional development of academic learning, identities and career pathways. How are minority ethnic PGR networks created, shaped and sustained?
  • Critical analysis of the racialised dimensions of mentoring and ‘patronage’. This research could explore minority ethnic academics and students’ experiences of mentoring policies and practices in universities. How and why is mentoring seen by universities as a significant intervention in addressing racial inequality? What are the experiences of minority ethnic people as mentors and mentees? What are the racialised, gendered and classed dimensions of mentoring – and can mentoring impact upon minority ethnic students’ access to and completion of PGR degrees?
  • Employers’ perspectives on PGR study. Students might examine how employers in different professional sectors perceive and value PGR study. Do organisations support employees who wish to undertake PGR study? Which sectors offer employment opportunities to PGR students/ postdocs? What are minority ethnic PGR students experiences of employers’ support and opportunities?
  • Minority ethnic PGR students’ experiences of higher education in Coventry: local, national and global. This research might comprise a critical comparison of experiences of local minority ethnic students and ‘incoming’ students at Coventry University and the University of Warwick. How do the (intersectional) demographics of these two groups compare? Compare their routes into HE; their aims and expectations; their on-programme relationships and experiences; their progression into employment; their relationships to place and space in their universities and the city of Coventry.
  • Comparison of minority ethnic students’ experiences of doctoral study. What might influence minority ethnic students’ choice of PGR routes? What are the disaggregated minority ethnic demographics on PhD and professional doctorate routes? How do PhD and professional doctorates compare in terms of access, retention and progression? How might minority ethnic PGR students experiences’ of PhD and professional doctorates compare?
  • Minority ethnic PGR students’ perspectives on the impact of Black Lives Matter on higher education. This research might map the kinds of educational activism, reform and policy that have emerged since the resurgence of Black Lives Matter in summer 2020 and the impact on minority ethnic PGR students. What impacts has BLM had on education policy and practice? What have been the experiences of minority ethnic PGR students, teachers, educational leaders in terms of institutional responses to BLM?
  • Minority ethnic student experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic and lived experiences at the intersections of race/ethnicity and disability or gender or sexuality or Deaf identity or Parenting or age or economic status or any combination of intersecting identities. Applicants may want to explore the lived experience of students of colour from a variety of backgrounds to examine the lived experiences in terms of a shift from face to face to online learning. This may include and examination of practical barriers and opportunities as well as emotional impacts. Differential impacts and outcomes between different groups of students and institutional responses and mitigations would also be worthy of study.
  • An examination of lived experiences of students of colour on professional programmes and the disproportionate over representation of Black students in failed placements or fitness to practice referrals. Applicants might want to explore differential outcomes by race and or ethnicity in placement failure rates and referral rates for fitness to practice panels in professional courses such as nursing, social work or midwifery. They may wish to explore and compare the treatment of students within these courses. They may wish to explore the extent to which placement supervisors and other key staff are adequately trained in issues of diversity and inclusion and the extent to which issues of structural racism and wider discrimination impact on the outcomes for students in their professional education and wider experiences post qualification.
  • Building a People’s University. One funded PGR studentship will focus on research that supports the idea of a sustainable impact project to help build a new 'People's University' in Coventry. This research would ask how we could develop and design a 'People’s University' in the region, asking why would we need a People’s University? What would this entail? Who would need to be involved in order to make it fully accessible and inclusive to people of all ethnicities and abilities and backgrounds? Which communities would we need to work with and what would it mean to them?
  • Project focus. The impact on PGRs of wider HE policy developments and public debate of issues of race, higher education, and inclusion.

The above are some suggestions that are aimed at guiding applicants but are by no means exhaustive. Applicants are strongly encouraged to develop their own areas of interest in a way that aligns with any of the themes set out above.