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Doctoring postgraduate research careers: Black  students’ trajectories and experiences

 There has been a longstanding focus and institutional mobilisation within universities on addressing racialised inequalities in undergraduate education (UG).  Research indicates that minority ethnic UG students, and black students in particular, frequently experience racism and unequal treatment during their studies, and struggle to belong within academia. More latterly, attention has turned to the postgraduate research student experience where similar disadvantages are evident, although less is understood about the ways in which structural racism impacts Black doctoral students over the course of their studies.

There is growing recognition that if universities are to diversify their staff, curricula, and epistemological perspectives, racialised inequalities in the construction of ‘academic pipelines’, particularly at the doctoral level, need to be tackled. In response, many universities have launched targeted doctoral studentship schemes for specific racialised and underrepresented groups (e.g. the Harold Moody Scholarships, Black and Global Majority Studentships etc.) in addition to the use of reserved places in established doctoral training partnerships (DTPs).

While well intentioned, many of the schemes appear disconnected from broader anti-racists efforts to reform or challenge existing institutional practices that structure racialised pipelines into academia. Equally, it is unclear how they support the resilience and well-being of Black and other racialised students in the white spaces of academia. Do these schemes alter the broader marginal status and experience of Black doctoral students within institutional hierarchies and concerns, and if so, how?  


This project aims to undertake collaborative research into the experiences of doctoral students from Black backgrounds at King's. This focus on lived experience of racism builds on a recent SSPP faculty research impact fund (FRIF) project at King's, which has sought to gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which race-based funding shape student trajectories and outcomes. The project will produce actionable recommendations that advance institutional efforts to recruit and support Black and other racialised minoritised doctoral students at King’s.  

 We aim also to develop opportunities for community and skills development amongst current Harold Moody Scholars and other Black doctoral students in the faculties of Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences & Public Policy, through workshops and involvement with the research elements of the project.  

This collaborative project aims to develop institutional practice, knowledge and drive change by deepening our understanding of Black doctoral students’ experiences, the impact of forms of race-based studentships, and their articulations with broader diversity and anti-racist initiatives within King’s and academia.

The study will address the following themes and questions:   
  1. What are the experiences and trajectories of Black doctoral students at King’s, and how are they shaped by funding pathways? 
  2. What are the academic, skills, and community development needs of Black doctoral students at King’s more broadly, and specifically in relation Harold Moody Scholars? 
  3. What are the national, institutional frameworks and policies which seek to attend to and govern the experiences of Black and other racially minoritized doctoral students (e.g. race-based studentships, networking possibilities, specialised mentorship schemes) 
Project status: Ongoing

Principal Investigator