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Goldsmith University Oct 2022: Staff Roundtable Resources

Generation Delta Staff Workshop Report

1st phase of the PGR cycle: Access to Academy (A2A)


Workshop title: “Working for a more equitable process. What are the challenges and opportunities?”

Hosting institution: Goldsmiths University

Date: Friday, 21 October 2022

Time: 12.00 pm to 4.00 pm

Venue: online



2. Presentation by guest speakers: ‘Working for a more equitable PGR process: what are the challenges and opportunities? 3

3.Staff feedback from Session 1 breakout rooms

4.Staff feedback from Session 2 breakout rooms

5.Open discussion


1.     Introduction

This workshop was offered to staff from the six Generation Delta institutions (Universities of Leeds, Goldsmiths, Reading, Sheffield, Plymouth and Sunderland) involved in PGR recruitment, access and admissions to be part of a cross-institutional conversation about how the PGR process can be made more equitable. The workshop was relevant to colleagues in doctoral academies/graduate schools, PGR directors at departmental and school level, supervisors, and those involved in recruiting students and administering funding for associated Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs).

The aims of the session were to:

  • Brainstorm the opportunities and challenges in working for a more equitable PGR system
  • Develop a set of actions that will feed into institutional processes
  • Identify a set of issues that could inform the design of future training and workshops

The following was the workshop agenda:

Time  Title

12.00- 12.20

Session 1: Introduction and context-setting  

Overview of the Generation Delta project - to include an overview of the findings of the Generation Delta survey

Prof Iyiola Solanke, Prof Donna Chambers, Prof Shaofeng Liu and Prof Uma Kambhampati

12.20 12.30 Outline of aims of the session

Prof Farzana Shain and Prof Uma Kambhampati

12.30-12.45 Feedback on issues from the Student Session

Generation Delta Champions: Angela Loum, Clementine Bedos and Devina Paramdeo




Session 2: Working for a more equitable PGR process: What are the challenges and opportunities?

Introduction to the session

Prof Mark Johnson - Dean of the Graduate School, Goldsmiths & Dr Joanna John - Head of Doctoral Skills Training and Development at Reading University



Part 1: Identifying barriers and obstacles in the PGR admissions and funding process

Focused group discussions with breakout rooms

14.00 -14.10 Break

14.10 -15.05

Part 2: Experiences of piloting/embedding more equitable processes and practices

Focused group discussions with breakout rooms

15.05 -15.15 Break


Session 3: Feedback session and open discussion   

Prof Uma Kambhampati and Prof Farzana Shain

For the introduction to the Generation Delta programme by Professor Iyiola Solanke please go to Introduction to GenDelta project and team.mp4.

For the complete Zoom video and audio recording of the introduction of the objectives and aims of the workshop and the feedback on issues from the student session go to Introduction and feedback from students.mp4.

2.     Presentation by guest speakers: ‘Working for a more equitable PGR process: what are the challenges and opportunities?

Professor Mark Johnson —Dean of the Graduate School at Goldsmiths— and Dr Joanna John—Head of Doctoral Skills Training and Development at the University of Reading focused their presentation on:

Issues observed in data from BAME students

Data from the University of Reading but likely applicable to other universities.

 Drivers of these trends

How to go about these issues, their drivers, and exploring them, while acknowledging how stressful and difficult might be to want to change procedures, structures, when there is so much space for action.

Identifying concrete action through Reading’s Race Equality Chart

Going briefly to these practices which made the process a bit less overwhelming.

For the complete Zoom video and audio recording of the presentation go to Presentation by guest speakers.mp4.  

To access the slides, go to Generation_Delta_Round_Table_211022_Joanna_John.pdf

3.     Staff feedback from Session 1 breakout rooms (not on audio-visual form)

During this session, the staff were split into three breakout rooms to discuss, for 30 minutes, the following question:

Identify 5 key barriers and obstacles to PGR studies, admissions and securing research student funding.

The main points raised by the staff in the breakout rooms were:

  • Lack on encouragement from family when likely being the first to pursue PGR studies
  • Some students may not know the benefits of a PhD to a non-academic career
  • Difficulty to address every application due to lack of resources
  • Students might not know how to contact prospective supervisors
  • Some supervisors might not be/feel sufficiently equipped to work with applicant form diverse backgrounds
  • Admissions panels might lack training in EDI principles and contextualised admissions. Rotation in these panels is high so if there’s training, are they able to catch up?
  • Funding sources available for PhD students without a masters do not get enough applications
  • Competing priorities amongst funding bodies (e.g., funding taking away form 1+3 programmes)
  • Cumulative factors such as students having other responsibilities taking time from their studies
  • Awarding gap data and the role of the first language in it (not all Home students have English as their first language).
  • Are discussions about the awarding gap for BAME students might be pointing to or reinforcing the idea of racially minoritised students being underachievers?
  • Some students improve as they go along and this is not recognised in the admissions process
  • Economic status in addition to race might pose an obstacle
  • Confidence, cultural differences and luck. Confidence is not an individual problem but is impacted by structural barriers. Students might not know how to put together the proposal. In terms of cultural issues, the husband might be playing a big role in ‘allowing’ her to pursue her studies. Whether he relationship with the supervisor is good might be down to luck.
  • Reinforce that revisions and corrections are not necessarily a sign that things are ‘going wrong’, a phrase so common during PhD studies. They can be reframed as quite the opposite.

4.     Staff feedback from Session 2 breakout rooms

During this session, the staff were split into two breakout rooms to discuss, for 30 minutes, the following question:

In light of key barriers and obstacles identified, please consider the following: i) Experiences of trying new strategies in your own (or other) institutions? What has worked? What are the challenges? ii) Advantages/limitations of contextualised admissions? iii) Benefits/limitations of positive action e.g., ringfencing studentship funding? iv) What new strategies might or should be developed and piloted?

 The main points raised by the staff in the breakout rooms were:

  • Experiences of trying new strategies in your own (or other) institutions? What has worked? What are the challenges?
  • Positive Action: SENSS – allowed an additional WP/BME candidate to be put forward but they didn’t have the support to succeed in the selection process
  • Athena Swann (Goldsmiths - Computing): Line Managers asked to nominate women they manage to go forward for management roles. This was incredibly successful. For some reason some of these women were not prepared to put themselves forward.
  • Goldsmiths Education: PhD Application workshops for international students. Linked to bursary competition which one female participant won.
  • What it means to do a PhD? session for 3rd year UGs. Includes info on careers paths (not just in academia).
  • Also building more links with our alumni. Life on and after a PhD.
  • Resource is needed to staff additional support for PhD access.
  • Sunderland School of Art and Design – Ran sessions on demystifying PhDs and writing retreats in their school which were well received and signposted to other institutions.
  • Portsmouth Business School – found it difficult to target students with outreach opportunities. Have found proposals are often weak from applicants.
  • Have tried to encourage PGT students to progress to PGR with 10% discount on fees if they score a Distinction at Masters.
  • Identifying underrepresented Home students is easier when compared to International students.
  • Writing retreats targeting communities not BAME candidates but communities that normally would not pursue PGR studies. These data might help to plan future steps.


  • Advantages/limitations of contextualised admissions?
  • Nottingham BBSRC DTP have seen a 20% rise in number of black students due to contextualized admissions process.
  • There is a lot of work on undergraduate in terms of contextualized students but there is less understanding in the case of PGR students
  • YCEDE will be piloting contextualised admissions and put together a workshop (modelled after that leads to a contextualised admissions scheme in PGR. Five things to think about: academic preparation, scholarly potential, alignment with your programme, socio-emotional competencies and alignment with your institutional diversity values.
  • Apply alignment with institutional diversity values with staff as well.


  • Benefits/limitations of positive action eg., ringfencing studentship funding?
  • What new strategies might or should be developed and piloted?
  • YCEDE – White Rose Consortium have been funded for 4 years to pilot contextual admissions, provide mentoring support for existing BAME PhDs and provide outreach activity around admissions for prospective PhDs.
  • Iyiola – pooling applicants that we can share opportunities with?
  • Sometimes the way supervisors engage with the students can be form very positive to detrimental.

5.     Open discussion

This session provided space to reflect on the feedback from the breakout rooms. Some of the points raised:

  • Put forward writing boot camps for putting PhD proposals together (
  • Giving a second chance to improve proposals after the first revision
  • Include writing PhD proposals seminars, talks on existing spaces such as ‘Writing Cafes’
  • Include external students/candidates in writing retreats or workshops
  • It is important to think collectively across institutions to encourage positive action
  • Concern about ESRC moving from 1+3 to end placements. This pushes the EDI agenda back. How to ensure students equal opportunities?
  • Funding really makes a difference in terms of changing demographics
  • Might it be worth try how Theory of Change could eventually play out? You want an external consultant to help the staff go through it.
  • What’s the potential/is there an appetite for contextualised admissions targeting Home BAME women PGR candidates? Leeds has started to focus on Black women through other avenues ( Some schools are prioritising gender for example into engineering schools.
  • The intersectionality is missing, some programmes are focusing on gender and others on race.
  • PGR open days to provide information on the whole process: writing proposals, funding, etc. Obstacles might me lack of PGR staff.

On retention, are there any particular issues to be discussed (for next workshop in Reading, February 2023)?

  • Put together support initiatives in consultation with PGRs
  • It should not be a matter of luck to end up with a good supervisor, there should be proper supervisory training with gendered and racial approaches.
  • How to unpack ‘confidence’ for supervisors when dealing with BAME female PGRs. Unpacking the cultural background so that silence for example, is not interpreted as lack of confidence.