Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Background to creating the EDI cluster

The cluster was set up to identifying specific actions to promote Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) at the early career research stage in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (AHSS).

Everyone is welcome sign, credit Katie Moum via Unsplash
Original brief (March 2021)

Over the past decade a series of surveys of ECRs in AHSS subjects, for example Philosophy and History, has shown that the transition from PhD to post-doctoral work is a crucial stage at which inequalities increase markedly.  Economic constraints clearly play a major part here, especially precarity of employment, as does discriminatory behaviour, including micro-aggression.  Yet it has also become evident that there is a range of other, less obvious, factors that prevent or hinder people from non-traditional backgrounds from establishing academic careers in AHSS in the UK, or - if they do so - from feeling at home in these fields.[1] Such barriers include biases, preconceptions, expectations, conventions, modes of behaviour and assumptions about what is “obvious” and therefore is not taught or even deemed unteachable. Barriers can be epistemological, cultural, social, institutional or disciplinary. 

To take a foundational example: PhD programmes are very often based on implicit, long-established and unquestioned conventions about what constitutes legitimate knowledge, research, argumentation or debate.  Where research to date has attended to such factors, the emphasis has usually been on the psychology of the individual rather than on the pathology of the knowledge communities they inhabit.  In light of the additional pressures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is all the more urgent to identify and put in place policies to counter these hidden but highly powerful biases with discriminatory or exclusionary effects. Even if vaccination programmes enable working life to return to normal, the pandemic’s negative effects on equalities will remain to be addressed. In any case, the current moment offers an opportunity that universities should seize to rethink in fundamental ways.

Image credit: 'Everyone is welcome' sign, photo by Katie Moum via Unsplash