Black, ethnic and minority students do not feel they have a place in academia and are not going on to study PhDs.
Research by the Higher Education Funding Council found that in England in 2016 only 1.3% of BAME students chose to study PhD within five years of graduating, compared to 2.4% of white students.
For Lynette Goddard, a black academic at Royal Holloway, the figures are not shocking. She said that in 21 years of teaching, only three students she supervised were black.
‘That tells you something.’
‘I was never taught by a black lecturer at university so it didn’t occur to me I could do that.’
When Goddard was promoted to a professor it made her the 27th black female professor in the nation. There are approximately 21,000 professors in the UK.
For BAME students this means they struggle to find a supervisor they can ethnically identify with and are familiar with their racial experiences.
Kehinde Andrews, Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University says:
‘Often minority students have a different approach and a different way of seeing things,” he says. “So finding a supervisor who is compatible is hard.’
Usman Kayani who did a PhD at King’s College London in theoretical physics said he suffered with anxiety and depression. As the only BAME student in his group, he felt he didn’t belong, that he couldn’t view his professors as role models.
‘It didn’t help my impostor syndrome. I do feel the lack of representation can put people off a career in academia. It’s a vicious cycle.’
‘My dream was always to stay in academia. Now I don’t know what I want to do and I feel a bit lost.’
Funding for BAME students is also a struggle as a lot of PhD funding is prescriptive.
Professor Kalwant Bhopal, deputy director of the Centre for Research in Race and Education at Birmingham University found that:
‘Many respondents were interested in researching areas of inequality and especially race, and they felt they were less likely to get support for those sorts of projects.’
Birmingham City University now offer four master’s courses in Black Studies, Race and Ethnicity that are fully funded.
Andrews is unsure on the difference this will make. He says:
‘I’m not surprised that they [BAME students] aren’t applying for PhDs. You’re very unlikely to get a job at the end as it’s all so exclusive. Just look at how white the academy is.’
A review looking into how BAME students are encouraged into PhDs and the trends of research, qualification rates and funding for ethnic students is being conducted by the UK Council for Graduate Education.