GW4 Connect 2023

A cross-institutional mentorship programme for postgraduate researchers of colour

This year we are launching a cross-institutional mentorship programme for postgraduate researchers of colour [1]. It forms part of the GW4 Connect initiative, a suite of EDI activities developed by GW4 Alliance, which brings together researchers from the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter. 

This pilot programme will offer 30 participants new perspectives from peers across the region and enable a safe space for honest, free conversations outside institutional structures. Our intention is to support postgraduate researchers who face racism, discrimination and other structural barriers inside and outside of the research environment to build new partnerships and share or co-create strategies for navigating their research career. 

Importantly, you will not be expected to arrive with the answers or solutions, but through expert facilitation, we will create space within the mentoring partnership where innovative ideas, mutual support and awareness can emerge.

About the programme

We will create a unique opportunity for peer-learning, developmental training and network building for postgraduate researchers. We invite you to meet, share, support and learn from your peers building a network of support that you can take forward beyond the programme. 

Our approach is based within developmental mentoring where participants will be equal partners, sharing their insight into their lived experience. Unlike structural mentoring, which assumes one person has knowledge to impart to the other, developmental mentoring assumes both participants arrive with an interest in learning from each other equally and that it is about the conversations, understanding and sense of validation that is generated together within the mutually supportive mentoring partnership that is important.  

Whilst the programme also avoids a ‘deficit mindset’, we will discuss the real structural inequalities, racism and discrimination in employment, education and wider society, which participants are not responsible for, but which impact nonetheless. We will encourage participants to explore strategies to navigate these experiences which draw on their lived experiences as strengths, acknowledging the added value their shared history and culture brings to research and education.  

Over the course the 11-month programme (May 2023 – March 2024), you can expect to: 

  • Build your mentoring partnership 
  • Be able to articulate and engage your lived experience as strengths 
  • Gain clarity, share strategies of past successes, and source new ideas and practices to navigate structural racism and discrimination in higher education 
  • Enhance skills such as active listening, feedback, and creative thinking 
  • Understand how to advocate for change 
  • Form support networks with programme participants, beyond your mentorship pair 

You will be invited to three workshops at the start, middle, and end of the programme to support your mentoring journey. During these workshops, you can expect to: 

  • Learn tools and techniques from experts in mentoring and coaching  
  • Share practice and experience of mentoring with other participants in the programme  
  • Network with participants beyond your mentoring partnership to form wider support structures 
  • Share and discuss commonalities that have emerged across mentoring partnerships, with the option of feeding back to GW4 universities 

The programme is co-designed and will be facilitated by Kemi Oladapo, an ILM certified coach and facilitator with experience coaching diverse people to fulfil their potential, including at the NHS, Advance HE and Sirona Healthcare. 

GW4 Connect will create systems of support that advance equality, diversity, and inclusion in higher education. We will provide a transformative experience creating strong bonds between participants that form the nucleus of a network for GW4 postgraduate researchers of colour.  

Time commitment and Eligibility:

Potential participants will need to commit to: 

  • Complete a matching form (May 2023) 
  • Attend 3 developmental workshops 
  • An introductory workshop (12 July 2023) 
  • A mid-point check-in workshop (7 November 2023) 
  • A final learning and reflection workshop (7 March 2024) 
  • Hold at least 6 mentoring sessions over the course of the programme (dates and method arranged by mentoring pairs) 

Reasonable travel and accommodation will be provided to attend the in-person activities for those without institutional funding. We also realise that childcare may impact your availability to join in-person sessions, which we do not want to be a barrier to participation. Please come speak to us about your childcare needs, as we are keen to offer funded options that will suit your situation. 

To be eligible, you will be: 

  • A postgraduate researcher (PhD or Professional Doctorate) at a GW4 university past probation, but not in final year. 
  • A postgraduate researcher (PhD or Professional Doctorate) not funded through a Wellcome or UKRI Doctoral Training Partnership, Doctoral Training Center or Center of Doctoral Training studentship. (UKRI includes the following Research Councils: AHRC, BBSRC, ESRC, EPSRC, MRC, NERC, STFC, and RE). 
  • Agree to participate in all elements of the programme. 
  • Have the approval of your supervisor to engage with the programme in full. 

* Currently, we are prioritising access to the pilot programme for those outside existing doctoral training programmes. Our intention is to reach those who are most isolated and who do not have the benefit of  formalised support structures and cohorts provided by Wellcome and UKRI-funded doctoral training programmes. We aim to develop and evaluate the programme to support those involved and will be taking the decision to limit eligibility into consideration following its delivery. 

How to apply:

Deadline for applications is 12pm on Tuesday, 28 March 2023, which can be completed here. Applications will be reviewed by a panel of professional service leads from GW4 universities to select participants. 

You can only apply to one of the GW4 Connect EDI programmes: 

  1. A peer-to-peer mentorship programme for postgraduate researchers of colour (with wrap-around support), or 
  2. A facilitated, group coaching programme for postgraduate researchers with parenting responsibilities. 

Applications submitted to both will be returned to the applicant for a decision. 

Each programme provides equal levels of facilitated and peer-to-peer support, but are delivered in distinct ways tailored to the needs of the specific community. To learn more about the coaching programme, please click this link. 

If you have any questions about either programme, your eligibility, or how to apply, please feel free to contact the Talent and Skills Team (


[1] We recognise that ‘people of colour’ is a term that does not resonate with all, however, currently there is no universally recognised broad terminology that describes those who face the brunt of racism and discrimination. We also recognise that UK postgraduate research works within an international context with almost 30% of postgraduate researchers coming from non-EU countries. Because of this, we have chosen a variation of ‘people of colour’ that specifically relates to the intention and breadth of this programme.