PhD studentship: student identity and belonging in higher education

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Graduate School

University of Bath

Subjects:  | 

Apply for a full-time PhD studentship to examine student identity and belonging for members of an underrepresented group in higher education.

Social psychological research shows that a sense of collective student identity and belonging to a university community are important to retention and successful outcomes in higher education. For instance, student identity has been shown to facilitate:

- information sharing
- help-seeking behaviours
- resilience to stress and disengagement
- engagement in peer-learning

This research, however, has typically assumed a monolithic student identity; it has not examined the perspectives of under-represented groups (including low-SES students, mature students, BME students, and students with a disability) for whom identifying with the majority student body and feeling a sense of belonging may prove difficult (e.g., due to finances, time, and stigma).

In order to contribute to higher education policy and practice and to inform the broader widening participation research agenda, it is vital to understand the experiences of underrepresented students. For instance, what identities matter to people; what are their strategies for achieving a positive student identity; and what aspects of the university context may hinder or facilitate this.

The project

If successful, you will contribute to this research project by:

- Examining, from the perspective of underrepresented students, the everyday encounters and interactions that signal inclusion versus exclusion; and how and why these are consequential for their (dis)engagement with formal and informal structures of the University.

- Identifying some of the strategies that minority students use to maintain positive identity in the face of perceived signals that they do not belong (individual and collective efforts to educate around or challenge their exclusion; identification and engagement with sub-groups of students or alternative communities of support).

- Collaborating with key stakeholders (including affected student groups) to develop and evaluate at least one intervention that can harness group dynamics to improve student support and the student experience at the University of Bath (through orientation activities; peer-learning; online communities; university ‘voice’ mechanisms).


You will conduct your research under the supervision of Dr Leda Blackwood and Professor Julie Barnett (Department of Psychology) and Dr Ceri Brown (Department of Education).

Award funding

If successful, you will be supported for three years. Funding includes:

- £14,296 (2016/17 rate) per year stipend
- Home/EU tuition fees
- an annual Training Support Grant

Terms and conditions and details of other awards can be found on the Graduate School website.

Funding requirements

To be considered for this funding you must:

- meet the entrance requirements for a Psychology PhD
- have received training in psychology or a cognate discipline
- have a solid understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methods

Funding information

Funding applies to:
EU applicants (including UK)

Contacts and how to apply

Administrative contact and how to apply:

1. Apply to study
You must apply online for a full-time Psychology PhD.

You must quote the project title (student identity and belonging in higher education) in your application.

There is no need to write a full formal research proposal as this studentship is for a specific project.

2. Provide a personal statement
As part of your application please provide a personal statement of 500-1,000 words with your initial thoughts on the research topic.

The closing date for the receipt of applications is 12.00 noon (GMT) on Tuesday 28 February 2017.

Interviews are preliminarily scheduled for 16 March 2017.

The studentship will begin either by 1 June 2017 or in October 2017. Please indicate on your application whether you are able to start by the 1 June 2017. Preference may be given to a suitable candidate able to start this academic year.

Informal enquiries

Project enquiries
Dr Leda Blackwood

01225 38 5426

Application enquiries

01225 38 6180

Application deadline:

28 February 2017