PhD Studentship: Critically examining race, racism and decolonisation.


Unit :  Faculty of Arts and Social Science (FASS)
Salary :  Full fees paid + £15,285 maintenance grant per year
Location :  Milton Keynes
Please quote reference :  13238
1 x Three year studentship
Closing Date :  7 September, 2020 – 12:00

The Open University PhD Studentship: Critically examining race, racism and decolonisation at The Open University

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has available one full-time PhD studentship funded by the Research and Evaluation budget allocated as part of The Open University’s Access and Participation Plan (APP) approved by the Office for Students (OfS) in April 2020. It is a collaborative award with Access, Participation and Success on ‘Critically examining race, racism and decolonisation at The Open University.

The numbers of Black, people of colour, Asian and minority ethnic or ‘BAME’ students entering higher education have increased in the UK. However, persistent disparities in the attainment, experience and progression of these students compared to white students have been identified. Student-led anti-racist campaigns, such as Why is my Curriculum White (UCL) and Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford, have led some Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to prioritise work to remove inequalities in outcomes for ‘BAME’ students and ‘decolonise the curriculum’.

All HEIs that charge above basic fee levels in England are required to have an approved APP as a condition of registration, setting out how they intend to spend a proportion of fee income over the basic £6,000 fee (£4,500 for part-time students) to deliver ​​initiatives that support students who face the most challenges to enter higher education and achieve equitable outcomes. In the latest submission ambitious targets to close the awarding gap for ‘BAME’ students have been set and a significant amount of activity is underway to transform The Open University.

This doctoral thesis will aim to identify social, structural and institutional barriers that enable racial disparities in student experience and critically examine ‘anti-racist’ and/or ‘counter-racist’ initiatives and attempts to ‘decolonise’ The Open University. The studentship is a unique opportunity to critically theorise what it means to ‘decolonise’ the UK’s largest academic institution and distance learning provider. We aim to provide a broad mandate to the candidate, so that they can have scope for exploring avenues of research that interest them in relation to the project.

Awards for UK residents cover all tuition fees and provide a maintenance grant at the standard RCUK rate (£15,285 p.a. in 2020/21) and a £1,000 Research Training Support Grant. Non-UK citizens may be eligible to apply.

The Open University is internationally recognized for innovative research across the Arts and Social Sciences. We host a number of major AHRC- and ESRC-funded research projects. We have a strong commitment to cross-disciplinary work, to national and international public engagement, and to creative partnerships with a range of non-university partners.

The Access, Participation and Success (APS) Strategy provides a strategic framework for the delivery of The Open University’s agreements on access and widening participation across the four nations of the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). These agreements commit the University to successfully deliver ​​initiatives that support students who face the most challenges in entering and succeeding in higher education. The APS team will bring considerable experience, from working with colleagues across The Open University and wider higher education sector, to inform this doctoral studentship.

We invite candidates from all backgrounds and ethnicities and particularly, although not exclusively, Black, people of colour and minoritised candidates. Applicants should have an undergraduate degree (or an equivalent) in an arts or social sciences subject. A masters’ degree or equivalent training in social research methods is preferred but not essential. We encourage candidates who will take an open and fresh approach to this exciting and highly relevant project at a moment when dismantling racism within higher education is at the top of the agenda.

The successful applicant would be expected to begin their studies in February 2021.

How to apply

Anyone interested in applying should follow the link to The Open University job website where full details of the opportunity are provided: