The GW4 Alliance is launching GW4 Connect, a suite of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) programmes providing a unique opportunity for peer-learning, developmental training and network building for postgraduate researchers (PGRs). These new pioneering pilot programmes will bring together postgraduate researchers from diverse backgrounds to form networks of support for marginalized and underrepresented communities in higher education.
GW4 Connect provides researchers from across the Alliance (Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter universities) two new pilot opportunities: a coaching programme for postgraduate researchers with parental responsibilities, and a peer-to-peer mentorship programme for postgraduate researchers of colour .
Across the higher education sector, the structural and cultural inequalities facing postgraduate researchers from marginalized and underrepresented communities can create significant barriers to a positive and successful research experience and career. The representation of researchers of colour decreases significantly at each stage of UK academia. In 2021 Advance HE released a report stating that ‘in 2018/19, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students made up 26.7% of undergraduate students, 23.6% of taught postgraduate students, but only 18.6% of postgraduate research students.’
Postgraduate researchers with parental responsibilities also often face a system seemingly inhospitable to families, with research expectations that can involve considerable travel, long hours and disruption to support networks, while facing rising costs for essentials like childcare that are rarely supported by research grants. The NUS found 60% of students with parental responsibilities had thought about leaving their course (rising to 65% for lone parents).
GW4 Connect aims to support postgraduate researchers who face racism, discrimination and other structural barriers and inequalities inside and outside of the research environment to build new partnerships and share or co-create strategies for navigating their research career.
Both pilot programmes will offer participants a chance to work with expert facilitators and coaches, alongside their peers, to create a safe space for honest and open conversations outside of institutional structures. Participants will be invited to share strategies of past successes, and source new ideas and practices to navigate the challenges posed by postgraduate research and structural inequalities in higher education.
The GW4 Connect mentorship programme for postgraduate researchers of colour will offer 30 participants an 11-month programme of developmental mentoring structured around mutually supportive, peer-to-peer discussions.
The GW4 Connect coaching programme for postgraduate researchers with parental responsibilities offers 12 participants the chance to work with coaching experts and peers from across the region over the course of 10 months.
GW4 Alliance Director, Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE, said: “ We are launching these innovative programmes to enhance support for postgraduate researchers across the GW4 Alliance. We have a diverse and international community of postgraduate researchers and I hope this scheme will, even in a small way, help to support the researchers choosing to be involved.
“We recognise this is currently a relatively small pilot but the scheme has been carefully designed with specialist professional coaches to provide a programme of tailored peer-to-peer and wrap around support, to make a positive difference to those involved.
“Our aim is that GW4 Connect will provide a transformative experience, creating strong bonds between participants that form the basis of networks for postgraduate researchers from marginalised and underrepresented communities. By bringing together the collaborative scale of our four GW4 universities we hope to create systems of support that advance equality, diversity and inclusion in higher education.”
The deadline for applications is 12pm on Tuesday, 28 March 2023. Applications will be reviewed by a panel of professional service leads from GW4 universities to select participants. Find out more and apply to GW4 Connect.
 We recognise that ‘people of colour’ is a term that does not resonate with all, however, currently there is no universally recognised 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.