Widening participation in postgraduate research

An £8m joint Research England and the Office for Students funding call to improve access and participation for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students in postgraduate research study.

The Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (HERA) requires that the Office for Students (OfS) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) carry out joint working where a function will be more efficient, or will enable more effective exercise of functions.

Early discussions to identify areas of joint working bringing benefits to the sector and students highlighted shared interests in postgraduate research (PGR) and equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), and within these more specific areas of focus.

Following earlier engagement with the sector, the OfS conducted a desktop review of EDI data for PGR students. The review highlighted compelling evidence that demonstrates persistent, year-on-year inequalities for black, Asian and minority ethnic students in PGR study.

In continued discussions, both RE and the OfS have confirmed the desire to intervene in this disparity.

A joint workshop was held in December 2019 to analyse the barriers to access and participation in postgraduate research study for black, Asian and minority ethnic people.

In October 2020 a joint £8 million funding competition was opened for project proposals to improve access and participation for black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in postgraduate research.

The aims of this competition were to:

  • stimulate innovation, scale-up and distribute effective practice in increasing access and participation for black, Asian and/or minority ethnic groups in PGR 
  • ambitiously address evidenced issues of inequality across the PGR student lifecycle that create barriers for students from black, Asian and/or minority ethnic groups
  • collaborate strategically to embed equality, diversity and inclusion across the sector to improve access and participation for black, Asian and/or minority ethnic groups in PGR.

The competition is now closed to applications with outcomes expected to be announced later this year.

As part of the process Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE was appointed as Chair of an expert panel to provide advice to Research England and OfS on funding decisions and act as a steering group for the funding competition in the longer term.

The other members of the expert panel were appointed through an open competition and include two postgraduate research students and four general panel members. By recruiting people with lived and learnt experiences relevant to the aims of the competition it is hoped that they will call on those experiences when making funding recommendations and providing advice.

The members of the expert panel will be announced once funding decisions have been made later in the year.