Improving access to postgraduate research for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students

The University of Sunderland is part of a nationwide initiative which aims to tackle persistent inequalities that create barriers for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students to access and take part in postgraduate research.

The 13 projects, worth nearly £8m, are innovative in scope, scale and focus at a level not 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 Postgraduate research 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 spread 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.

Sunderland is part of two projects:

  • Postgraduate Research Opportunities for the North East/Network for Equity (£798,972)

This project brings together the north-east’s five universities (Sunderland, Newcastle, Durham, Northumbria and Teesside) to widen access and promote outcomes for prospective and current students and staff in postgraduate research, delivering a programme with four key strands – mental health, mentoring, development and admissions.

  • Generation Delta project, led by Leeds University in partnership with Sheffield, Reading, Goldsmiths and Plymouth universities.  All of Generation Delta’s project leads are members of the Black Female Professors Forum. (£797,264)

According to Professor Donna Chambers, leading the Generation Delta work at Sunderland: “The most recent staff data from Advance HE demonstrates that only 4.9% of all UK domiciled academic staff are females from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups with a mere 2.3% of these being professors. While the percentages differ according to ethnic groups, the overall picture is one of Black, Asian and minority ethnic female underrepresentation at the highest echelons of academic life.

“The aim of Generation Delta is therefore to address both institutional and individual barriers at different stages of the doctoral life cycle. This is done through the delivery of a programme of training and strategic advice that recognises the impact of intersecting inequalities on access and progression in academic careers.”

Generation Delta will run for four years until 2026.

Professor Chambers added: “We are thrilled to have received this vital funding to work with stakeholders including university administrators, doctoral supervisors and importantly, our Black, Asian and minority ethnic female students to enhance their doctoral experiences and outcomes through a series of interventions which include training, mentoring, and networking.

“A legacy of this project will be the creation of a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic female postgraduate research student network and mentoring scheme, initially across the six project institutions, and then expanding this nationwide.”

Dr John Fulton, Director of Post Graduate Research at Sunderland, leading part of the north-east project, said: “There is an under representation of students from black and ethnic minorities in post graduate research and this funding is an excellent opportunity to explore and develop strategies to increase their participation.

“The Five North East Universities submitted a joint bid to Research England and the Office for Students which was successful. Sunderland has experience of working across geographical and social boundaries and as such as a vibrant and diverse community and will have a lot to offer this project.

“We developed the bid in consultation with staff and students and plan to develop the student experiences across all stages; through looking at admissions processes, mentoring, leadership training, networking opportunities and the promotion wellbeing.

“All of the initiatives of this project will be available to students across the five Universities.”

A full list of the 13 project summaries can be found on the Research England website.

Research England’s Director Research, Steven Hill, said: “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.”


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