The Young Foundation’s Institute for Community Studies (ICS) and GuildHE, a body that represents specialist higher education institutions, have published a report on Understanding the Lived Experience of Ethnic Minority Students in Postgraduate Research (PGR) at small and specialist institutions.

This report was co-designed and co-authored by eight PGRs from GuildHE institutions, with support from the ICS. Through interviews, it captures students’ perceptions and experiences. ‘A feeling of belonging’ is found to positively influence their education experiences, and this feeling is associated with the level of support received from institutions.

Factors that have a negative impact on ‘belongingness’ include a lack of representation among staff and in the curriculum, and experience of microaggressions, discrimination and racism.

One of the peer researchers – Susanna Mariam Matthan, a research student at Bishop Grosseteste University – said: “Voices can only be heard if others are willing to listen and implement meaningful change. I hope that PGR student voices will be amplified even further through this collaborative work, enabling greater access, enjoyment and a deeper love of learning.”

Previous studies have focused on research-intensive institutions, and on students who are predominantly funded by research councils. It has been hard for smaller and specialist institutions to draw meaningful conclusions from such data, partly because there are fewer students per institution, and partly because the students have usually followed a different path to research. This study works with these challenges, using peer research to place the student voice at the heart of the research process.

GuildHE’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion champion Professor Nick Braisby, Vice-Chancellor of Buckinghamshire New University said: “This research is a testament to our commitment to raise and address the significant challenges faced by individuals from communities that are underrepresented in higher education.”

Victoria Boelman, Director of Research at The Young Foundation, reflects: “This research not only deepens our understanding of the challenges faced by ethnic minority postgraduate students but also makes recommendations that small and specialist institutions can incorporate into action plans. By doing so, these institutions can make a tangible difference to the experiences of current and future ethnic minority students.”

Education & Employment Inequality Peer research Posted on: 1 February 2022

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