To inspire more Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students into postgraduate research, Durham university have introduced a £2.5 million scheme to diversify their education programmes
Widening access and participation in postgraduate research, both staff and students of colour across higher education will have more opportunities and events – including training, e-conferences, peer mentoring and PhD studentships – over a period of four years.
In a collaboration between Newcastle University, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland and Teesside University, along with Durham University, the pro:NE project has been introduced to build community through mutually hosted events, training and workshops.
Each year one institution will host an online postgraduate research conference for students of colour, providing networking and development opportunities whilst sharing learning and best practice.
Tackling inequalities in higher education
To improve the career prospects for current students of colour across North East England, the project has received over £2.5 million in funding – including from the Office for Students and partner universities.
This fund aims to improve academic employment through focusing on four key areas: mental health, development, mentoring and admissions.
For the mental health aspect, a specialist mental health pathway was established for students of colour in collaboration with Newcastle Psychological Therapies Clinic. Postgraduate research students of colour in North East England will be able to access independently governed and culturally competent mental health services as a priority, for the first time in education.
Correspondingly, the reciprocal mentoring programme will allocate students of colour with academic staff, providing mutually beneficial educational development – as well as early career researchers of colour who will also be paired with senior leaders to support mutual learning.
Breaking down elitism
The project additionally aims to further the findings of prior research on name-blinding, unconscious bias prevention and contextualised admissions to pilot innovative approaches to admissions, alongside policy and practice reviews.
The five universities involved have experience in delivering inclusion interventions that support equality, including traditionally underrepresented groups, but still aim for more inclusion and diversity in their educational programmes.
Project lead Professor Jason Arday said: “Pro:NE has emerged as a means of dismantling racism and creating more opportunities for academics of colour to enter the Academy particularly in the North East of England.
“This project will create a legacy within the region which will nurture, support and develop academic pathways and communities of practice for students and staff of colour, in addition to creating spaces of belonging.”
This project aims to break down elitism in building local community, making universities more inclusive for students and staff of colour.