Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences


Our Vision

The 100 in 10 scheme will not only fund students through Master’s and PhD study, but will also look to create new approaches towards how research students are supervised and mentored

We urgently need to diversify the profile of the young academics we train to become the thought leaders of the future. We see diversity as about creating opportunities for all, but also fundamental to asking the critical questions necessary to gain a full understanding of who we are, where we have been and what our future holds.

Education and academic leadership not only have the power to transform the way our world works, but also create a ‘multiplier effect’, inspiring new generations of students to believe they too can become the thought-leaders of tomorrow. Working through UCL’s Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences, a transformational investment to diversify higher education in the UK could leave a lasting legacy of real change.


UCL was founded in 1826 to open higher education to students from a wider range of backgrounds and to change the way we create and share knowledge. In 1878, we became the first university in England to welcome women on equal terms with men. This meant challenging the very notion of who university was for. That radical and disruptive spirit is alive and nurtured today across our university. And yet, there is much more to be done.

UCL is working to address some of the more troubling aspects of our own institutional history. Alongside the progressive and egalitarian spirit that has driven the expansion of UCL over two centuries, our university has also been heavily implicated in the development of racist systems of thought. As UCL’s History of Eugenics Inquiry report stated, we have taken “the first step in a process to create a framework of action at UCL to acknowledge and address its history of eugenics, as well as empower those who were its targets and may experience its impact during their education at UCL.” UCL recognises that further processes of self-examination are necessary if we are to create truly inclusive places of work and learning for the future.

At the same time, whilst examining the past is a necessary part of achieving greater equality, it is not sufficient to fully address the challenges we face. These efforts must be joined to meaningful, structural interventions in the present that create new legacies of lasting change. The reality of UK academia today is one in which black and minority ethnic (BAME) academics remain drastically under-represented. The data is clear that whilst more BAME students are seeking undergraduate educations, the progression of those students through to Master’s degrees, PhD programmes and ultimately to academic careers is very limited.

Doing things differently

A PhD enables students to learn vital skills under the mentorship of world-leading academics and to make original contributions to knowledge. But completing a PhD is also a challenging undertaking for even the brightest students. It requires enormous resilience and perseverance to navigate the demands of independent research. Too often it can also rely on a high-level of cultural capital to access opportunities, understand the academic landscape and build early career networks. 

The SHS 100 in 10 scheme will not only fund students through Master’s and PhD study, but will also look to create new approaches to how research students are supervised and mentored to realise their potential. The core activities of independent research will be supported by carefully selected PhD supervisors with proven skills in providing academic mentorship to students. In addition, we want to provide a package of wider career and personal development support, including non-academic mentors, networking and career development activities. 

Finally, we recognise the powerful potential of the ‘cohort effect’ in creating a greater sense of community and a peer network for research students throughout their programme. To realise our vision, we require a transformational gift that can enable us to support a minimum of ten postgraduate research students in each year of the programme at any one time, working on research projects across SHS. 

In ten years’ time we have a vision to be able to track the flourishing academic careers of our first cohorts of alumni of the 100 in 10 scheme across social science and historical disciplines in higher education institutions across the world. 

The BME 'Awarding Gap'

We recognise that as deeply entrenched racialized inequalities are manifest all too clearly in society, so too are they in the makeup of UCL, and academia more broadly. We need not only to extend our research programmes and engage actively in ongoing debates, but to change who creates new knowledge and shapes these debates, accelerating efforts to create greater equity and racial and ethnic diversity within higher academia itself.

As well as confronting the multiple legacies of slavery, colonialism and other forms of racialized hierarchies through the social and historical sciences, the Faculty is acutely aware of the need to improve the diversity of the academic community itself within these disciplines. This continues to be one of the most important strategic priorities for the Faculty.

At present across UK higher education institutions, only 0.7% of professors are Black, compared with 82.5% who are White. At UCL, this figure is 0.7% and 82% respectively[1].

At postgraduate level, merely 3% of full-time, UK domiciled PhD students in their first year are Black.[2] Data also shows that UK domiciled Black students are not under-represented at undergraduate level, but that there is a marked decrease in progression to postgraduate research and subsequently into academic careers.[3]

UCL recognises the challenges around creating a genuinely diverse academic community and increasing the numbers of students who progress into academic careers by creating a pipeline of talent from undergraduate all the way through to senior academic positions. In 2018, we established the Research Opportunities Scholarships[4] for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) postgraduate research degree students. UCL also runs the successful B-MEntor, a cross-institutional mentoring scheme for early career academics and researchers.

The Faculty wants to build on these platforms but move towards a more transformative intervention that will have lasting impact on the diversity of UK social sciences.

[1] Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data 2018/19

[2] Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) 2019.

[3] Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) 2019.