The University of Sunderland is leading the way in a nationwide scheme aiming to tackle persistent inequalities for minority ethnic students.
It hopes to break down the barriers for those people looking to access and take part in postgraduate research.
This project is one of 13 worth nearly £8million and of a scope, scale and focus not seen in England previously.
The four-year plan hopes to deliver more access into research, enhance research culture and the experience for minority ethnic Postgraduate research students. The goal is diversifying and enhancing routes into a range of careers.
The investment, by Research England – part of UK Research and Innovation and the Office for Students, is spread across English higher education providers and their partners.
The projects range from targeting recruitment, admissions and transition to increasing the number of 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 including one named ‘Postgraduate Research Opportunities for the North-East/Network for Equity’.
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.
The second is the 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.
According to Professor Donna Chambers, leading the Generation Delta work at Sunderland: “The most recent staff data from Advance HE demonstrates only 4.9 per cent of all UK domiciled academic staff are females from Minority Ethnic groups with a mere 2.3 per cent of these being professors. While the percentages differ according to ethnic groups, of academic the overall picture is one of minority ethnic female underrepresentation at the highest echelons 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 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 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 ethnic minorities in post graduate research and this funding is an excellent opportunity to explore and develop strategies to increase their participation.
“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.
Research England’s Director Research, Steven Hill, said: “Supporting access and successful participation for 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.”
A list of all 13 projects can be found on the Research England website: www.re.ukri.org