Improving access to postgraduate research and careers for BAME women

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A project to improve the experience of black, Asian and minority ethnic female postgraduates - with the aim of nurturing a future generation of professors – will begin at Goldsmiths, University of London next year after receiving government funding.

Image taken at a Goldsmiths Fine Art degree show - work by graduate artist Chae Lee

Academics from six universities, including Professor Farzana Shain, George Wood Professor of Education at Goldsmiths, have been awarded Research England and Office for Students support of almost £800,000 for the collaborative project Generation Delta. 

Generation Delta is one of 13 projects selected by Research England (part of UK Research and Innovation) and OfS, with the funding bodies investing a total of £8m to tackle inequalities that create barriers for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students to access and take part in postgraduate research.  

Led by Professor Iyiola Solanke at the University of Leeds, and running for four years from January 2022, Generation Delta aims to improve access to postgraduate study and academic careers for black, Asian and minority ethnic students. 

It intends to lay the foundations for a longer-term increase in the number of women BAME professors in higher education institutions in England. 

Students - especially women - from minority groups in the UK remain underrepresented in postgraduate research. 

Among all academic staff in UK universities, 2% are black, 10% are Asian. Only 1% of UK university staff with professorships are black and 7% are Asian, according to data published this year by the Higher Education Statistics Agency. 

Professor Iyiola Solanke said: “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."  

The six academics in the Generation Delta partnership - Professors Iyiola Solanke, Farzana Shain, Donna Chambers, Uma Kambhampati, Shaofeng Liu and Amaka Offiah - are all UK BAME female professors. With academic expertise covering law, education, tourism, economics, business studies, and medicine, they also have significant experience in supervising postgraduate researchers and working for equality, diversity and change within higher education institutions. 

£103,000 of the total funding for Generation Delta has been awarded to Professor Shain for work at Goldsmiths, with the remainder distributed between the Universities of Leeds, Plymouth, Reading, Sheffield and Sunderland. 

Generation Delta aims to improve the experiences and outcomes of BAME female students through three key phases of the postgraduate research ‘lifecycle’ – accessing the academy, retention and progression, and training for careers. 

The project intends to address individual barriers through a programme of training and advice for around 200 students, to nurture ‘Generation Delta Champions’ supported by the six senior collaborators. Plans include the creation of a new network of support led for and by students, modelled on the Black Female Professors Forum. 

The project will also work with the College, Graduate School and participating Doctoral Training Partnerships to address institutional barriers, with training and strategic advice for university staff (from admissions directors and decision-makers to PhD supervisors and viva panellists to career advisors) that explores and aims to fix inequalities in the admissions, progression and career development process for BAME female students.

Professor Mark Johnson, Dean of Graduate School at Goldsmiths, said: “On behalf of the Graduate School I would like to extend hearty congratulations and gratitude to Farzana Shain and her colleagues for the work that went into securing this important funding and to acknowledge the strong support for this initiative from the College, as well as the SeNSS Doctoral Training Partnership.  

“The Generation Delta bid was one of three bids to this funding scheme that Goldsmiths participated in and is a testament to the commitment of colleagues across the College to repair what has been broken for far too long.”