Understanding the lived experience of ethnic minority students in postgraduate research

This report presents the findings from the first qualitative research on the experiences of ethnic minority postgraduate research students accessing and studying at GuildHE member institutions. It captures, through interviews, students’ perceptions and experiences of studying a postgraduate research degree at smaller and specialist higher education institutions.

The research was commissioned by the Institute for Community Studies, which trained eight current postgraduate researchers from GuildHE institutions as peer researchers, who subsequently co-designed the research process and conducted interviews with over 30 participants. The report has been co-authored by the peer researchers with the support of the Institute's Civic Scholars and in-house researchers.

This work provides a unique insight into the experience of postgraduate research for students from under-represented communities at smaller and specialist institutions, an area that has not been examined before. Existing studies tend to focus on settings which are research intensive, and on students who are predominantly funded by the research councils. It is hard for smaller and specialist institutions to draw meaningful conclusions from sector data, not simply because there are fewer students per institution, but also because the students have usually followed a different path to research. 

The study works with these challenges, using a peer research methodology to place the student voice at the heart of the research process and the report. The findings are powerful and the recommendations draw directly from what the students would like to see change.