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PG research students: £8m funding for projects to tackle racial disparity

Joint funding from the Office for Students and Research England will support projects to improve the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic students in postgraduate research studies

The Office for Students and Research England has launched an £8m funding competition for projects to improve access and participation for black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in postgraduate research study.

Successful bids must increase the number of UK domiciled students applying and entering postgraduate research (PGR), improve the PGR student experience and diversify routes into research and teaching careers.

Black students currently make up 4.3% of PGR students – and just 2.9% in science, engineering and technology (SET) disciplines. Less than one in 20 (4.6%) of PGR students are from Asian backgrounds.

Projects should contribute to the sector’s understanding of underrepresentation and provide reliable ways to improve it.

We encourage applicants to be ambitious when thinking about what might change, as well as encouraging institutions to consider how they can support their initiatives to make those changes long-lasting
David Sweeney, Research England, and Chris Millward, Office for Students

The competition will award universities between £200,000 and £400,000 to undertake projects lasting four academic years; bids from multiple institutions are eligible for up to £800,000. Universities have until the end of January to submit bids and must be ready to launch by May 2021.

The competition identifies several factors that may explain the underrepresentation of black, Asian and minority ethnic student groups in PGR routes.

The funding landscape for PGR students is complicated and fractured, with students either funding themselves, obtaining studentships with research funding bodies or sponsorships, like their place of work.

The OfS also suggests that the ethnicity attainment gap in undergraduate degree outcomes and the underrepresentation of black, Asian and minority ethnic at undergraduate level at high tariff universities might create a “broken pipeline” of talent at the higher stages of academia.

Executive chair of Research England David Sweeney and Chris Millward, director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students, wrote: “Throughout the development of this funding competition and in response to our early communications, it is clear that there is an appetite for this initiative throughout the sector.

“We encourage applicants to be ambitious when thinking about what might change, as well as encouraging institutions to consider how they can support their initiatives to make those changes long-lasting. This will include facilitating the difficult conversations that will be needed throughout the lifetime of these individual projects and beyond.”


Read more: Black graduates less satisfied with their careers, finds Hesa

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