University of Leeds: Leeds wins funding to open up postgraduate research

Two major new research projects to improve access to postgraduate study for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students are underway at Leeds.

Thanks to successful funding bids – announced by the Office for Students (OfS) and Research England today – the University will add to its sector-leading work to break down the barriers to postgraduate study.

‘Generation Delta’ – led by Iyiola Solanke, Dean for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion and Professor of EU Law and Social Justice in the School of Law – has been designed to 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.

Leeds will partner with Goldsmiths (University of London) and the universities of Plymouth, Reading, Sheffield and Sunderland for the project.

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students – especially women – remain underrepresented in postgraduate research across the sector

Iyiola Solanke, Dean for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion & Professor of EU Law and Social Justice
Meanwhile, Pippa Chapman, Professor of Biogeochemistry in the School of Geography is a co-investigator in the Yorkshire Consortium for Equity in Doctoral Education (YCEDE) which will work with the universities of Bradford, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam and York to adapt and adopt international best practice on access and the on-course postgraduate researcher experience, including improved advice and guidance for preparing PhD applications, contextual admissions, and PhD mentoring.

Professor Solanke said: “Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students – especially women – remain underrepresented in postgraduate research across the sector. There is scant data for this cohort but the general trend indicates little change: just over a one per cent rise in participation rates in the past ten years.

“Working with a group of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic female professors in the Black Female Professors Forum, we will address inequities at three key stages of the postgraduate research life cycle: admissions, retention and progression, and career training.

“Alongside the delivery of a programme of institutional workshops and individual training, we will establish a postgraduate research network as a legacy to support and sustain the next generation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic female professors.”

We want to nurture and empower a strong community of researchers with the knowledge, confidence and leadership skills to impact the needs of a sustainable and fairer global society

Pippa Chapman, Professor of Biogeochemistry
Professor Chapman said: “YCEDE will tackle inequalities in postgraduate research access through evidence-based, systems-change innovations that reshape institutional policies and procedures for recruitment, selection and retention of postgraduate researchers at scale, and for the long-term.

“It will deliver profound structural and cultural change in HE practices across a diverse set of Yorkshire universities, thereby developing a beacon of best practice that can be shared more widely to enhance opportunities for postgraduate researchers of colour nationwide.

“We want to nurture and empower a strong community of researchers with the knowledge, confidence and leadership skills to impact the needs of a sustainable and fairer global society.”

Leading the way
Our vision is that students from diverse backgrounds will feel they belong, can thrive and are valued for their unique contribution – across all levels of study.

Louise Banahene, Director of Educational Engagement
The University of Leeds is leading the sector in terms of investment in this area, and our Access and Student Success Strategy enables the University to take a focused, ‘whole institution’ approach to finding solutions. For example, the University will:

– Address unequal access to postgraduate study through contextual admissions at postgraduate taught and research level, building on Access to Leeds, one of the biggest contextual admissions schemes in the UK.

– Accelerate efforts to progress students from under-represented groups to postgraduate study, with a particular focus on co-creation between students and staff.

– Convene and collaborate to contribute to a national understanding of systemic access issues at postgraduate level.

– Advance our personal tutoring and postgraduate research supervisor model to ensure all students feel they matter, drawing on significant expertise from across the University.

– Engage early with postgraduate taught and research students including through online modules and training.

Louise Banahene, Director of Educational Engagement, said:

“In our Access and Student Success Strategy, we’ve got a clear narrative for why change is needed, where we want to get to and how. Our vision is that students from diverse backgrounds will feel they belong, can thrive and are valued for their unique contribution – across all levels of study.

“This funding is fantastic news and will enable us to make a real difference. But we are more than a collection of projects or initiatives. We have always taken a cross-university approach to tackling inequality – our Strategy was co-created with colleagues from across the institution and Leeds University Union – and working together to acknowledge where there are issues, and to listen to and act on the voices of those under-represented, will help us achieve our vision.”

Our vision at Leeds is for postgraduate research to urgently prioritise equity, and this is echoed in the University Strategy which is keenly focused on a fairer future for all, working through collaboration to drive change.

Professor Luke Windsor, Dean of the Doctoral College
Professor Luke Windsor, Dean of Leeds Doctoral College, said: “If the sector is to address global inequalities, it must look to the composition and diversity of its staff, including postgraduate researchers. Our vision at Leeds is for postgraduate research to urgently prioritise equity, and this is echoed in the University Strategy which is keenly focused on a fairer future for all, working through collaboration to drive change.”

“Success in delivering these projects will be vital in focusing our actions at Leeds and we have committed extra funding to support roles to help widen access and support success. Across the Doctoral College and its graduate schools, we are continuing to develop support packages for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic postgraduate researchers.

“Postgraduate researchers are the future of academia as well as the future drivers of change beyond it, and we need to ensure they better reflect the diversity of our many stakeholders.”

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