Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


2021: Early academic careers; equitable, diverse and inclusive?

4 related pilot projects were to be conducted in April-July 2021. However, a newly centralised ethical process meant the projects could not be started so the EDI fellows evolved 'Living the Project'.

    Living the Project

    We are a group of early career academics who came together at the Institute of Advanced Studies in the spring and summer of 2021. Our original brief as Research Fellows was to conduct four research projects investigating issues of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in early academic careers and produce a report. But, the serendipitous outcome of a newly centralised ethical process (which meant we could not start our project three months into a four-month contract) led us to Plan B.  

    Plan B, we called Living the Project. As early career academics, occupying a complex web of both marginalised identities and privileged spaces, we reflected and shared our own insights and experiences. As researchers in this field we produced a series of methodological toolkits as recorded sessions and resources (see Resources). This focus on both lived experience and a developing methodological  expertise enabled us to find point of connection with our Creative Fellows

    2021 EDI Fellows

    Original project outlines

    Dr Samantha Evans
    Original project title: 'The ideal early career researcher: know-how; know-why; know-who'

    I am researching class as a dimension of EDI, taking an emic approach (Tatli & Özbilgin, 2012) focussing on context as well as characteristic. I will use a discursive methodology to critically examine the ‘ideal’ early career research path, how ways of being and having are (implicitly) valorised, and how these may be classed or exclusionary. Class is arguably a dominant discourse by which economic and symbolic value is attributed to constructed categories (gender, race, disability) particularly in the workplace (Romani et al., 2020; Zanoni, 2011). Career capital is a concept developed by career researchers to look at the know-how; know-why and know-who required to get on within careers (Arthur et al., 2005; Defillippi & Arthur, 1994). Know-how relates to technical knowledge, know-why relates to self-knowledge and know-who relates to networks (Defillippi & Arthur, 1994). Whilst this concept has been updated to account for precarious work environments (Brown et al., 2020) it has been less examined for issues of equity, diversity or inclusion. As such it is ripe for critical examination.

    Dr Jacob Fairless Nicholson
    Original project title: 'First-in-family pathways: investigating barriers to post-doctoral study'

    With a focus on the experiences of students that identify as first-in-family, this research project investigates how discourses of exclusion or inclusion shape pathways into research careers for students from non-traditional backgrounds studying Geography and cognate disciplines (Social Sciences, Anthropology, Urban Studies, and Area Studies) at UCL. Employing a qualitative research methodology that combines semistructured interviews with surveys, the research project is concerned with pinpointing the institutional and quotidian mechanisms that influence experiences of inclusion and exclusion. The research hopes to clearly identify appropriate guidance for university departments striving to successfully implement and maintain effective equity-based approaches or inclusive design and planning for ECR communities.

    Dr Lydia Gibson
    Original project title: 'The economic, social, and psychological conditions created by lack of access to PhD funding'

    I am exploring the PhD funding available across nontraditional routes, that can bring the underserved and underrepresented back into academia. Using FoI requests to UKRI, I seek to disaggregate and analyse recipients of research council funding by age, ethnicity, caregiving status, and educational background. I will also conduct an online survey of PhD students without research council funding to understand how they fund their PhD, the time it takes from their research, and how it impacts their PhD. We know that the numbers of underrepresented minorities decreases with each qualification level; if serious attention is not paid to the funding of non-traditional pathways, the door shown to, or perceived by, many marginalised students will always be firmly and systemically locked behind them, while the spectacle of racism keeps our attention from the structural violence imparted by academic funding and upon the familiar images of individual instances of discrimination.

    Dr Hannah Walters
    Original project title: '‘First-in-Family’ & Female? Class, gender and barriers faced by first-generation women at university'

    Given the overlooking of intersectional feminine identities on the one hand, and the lack of a robust gender lens in considerations of first-in-family experiences on the other, this proposal aims to fill this knowledge gap by exploring the experiences of first-in-family women at all levels of academic study. It is already known that working-class students face a number of additional challenges at university. Living in the familial home is linked with a 10% attainment gap, and a lack of knowledge of the parents of first-in-family students makes navigating elements of university more complex (SOAS 2019). There is also evidence that how integrated students feel in the university culture impacts their academic performance (Singh 2011), and financial and material aspects of university life remain a concern for working-class students (Jeffreys 2018). Meanwhile gendered patterns disadvantage remain a key point of EDI concern in higher education, and can include issues of ‘laddism’ and ‘rape culture’, inflexible schedules around caring responsibilities, and a ‘boys club’ atmosphere whereby women are prohibited from networking and informal career advancement opportunities (Lewis et al 2018). Taken together, there are a broad range of barriers facing working-class, first-in-family women at all levels of university education. This project is designed to identify barriers operating in AHSS, investigate how they may impede successful participation by working-class, first-in-family women, and make and make recommendations to dismantle them.

    [1] See the Royal Historical Society’s series of reports on Gender, Race, and LGBTQ+: https://royalhistsoc.org/publications/rhs-reports/; and Helen Beebee and Jennifer Saul, Women in Philosophy in the UK, 2011, available on ResearchGate.