Centre for the Study of Higher Education Collaborative PhD Studentship with the University of Kent and Solent University

University of Kent
April 20, 2023
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Scholarship value

Home fees and stipend at RCUK rates (for the current academic year 2022-23, the stipend rate is £18,218) for 3 years full-time commencing in September 2023. Costs for travel between the partner institutions and conference attendance up to a total of £6,752 will also be provided.


The deadline for applications is April 2023.

Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed on 24 April.


This award is only open to Home (UK-domiciled) students who are from a Black, Asian or other minority ethnic background as they are under-represented at this level.

Essential skills/attributes:

  • First or 2.1 undergraduate degree in a related social science field such as psychology, sociology, or education; or successful completion of a masters from a UK institution in a related field that includes statistical training.
  • Experience with statistical analysis of surveys and familiarity with appropriate statistics package
  • Motivation to achieve objectives and enthusiasm for diversifying/decolonising higher education curriculum
  • Ability to grasp concepts and reason analytically
  • Capacity for independent thought
  • Demonstrated organisational and time management skills
  • Effective written and verbal communication to provide support to academic staff teams involved in curricular reform
  • Desirable skills/attributes:

  • Experience with contributing to educational enhancement, such as through student representative roles
  • Knowledge of or work experience in the field of education, particularly higher education
  • Demonstrated experience of promoting racial equality and/or anti-racist education
  • Master’s degree
  • Further details


    In this exciting project, we propose to track changes in higher education students’ perceptions of the cultural sensitivity of curricula on their program of study and the impact of a culturally sensitive curriculum on their outcomes (such as: their satisfaction; quality of relationships with teaching staff; their interest in their program of study; and second-year academic outcomes) over two years of iterative curricular reform. While we know that racially minoritised (“BAME”) students perceive their curricula as less culturally sensitive than white students (Thomas & Quinlan, 20221) and that culturally sensitive curricula are associated with students’ higher interest in their programs (Quinlan et al, 20222), there is limited understanding of whether revising curriculum to make them more culturally sensitive may influence changes in students’ perceptions of their curriculum.

    Previous research only used a cross-sectional approach to examining the relationship between students’ perceptions of the cultural sensitivity of their curriculum and their engagement with that curriculum (Thomas & Quinlan, 2022; Quinlan et al 2022).3 We propose to collect baseline measures of 2nd year students’ perceptions of the cultural sensitivity of curricula in programs with the largest degree awarding gaps at the Solent University in Spring 2023, before the student begins. We will also collect engagement and achievement outcomes to assess baseline association between culturally sensitive curricula and those real world outcomes.

    In 2023-24 and 2024-25, teams of staff in those programs will work collaboratively within and across teams to create more culturally sensitive programmes that will better serve the needs of increasingly diverse student cohorts and enhance engagement outcomes. These efforts are intended to further develop Solent’s Inclusive Real-world curriculum, while proactively addressing disparities in degrees awarded and improving student engagement outcomes. This project is aligned with the Office for Students conditions for registration,4 endeavours to improve access and participation, promote teaching excellence, and redress structural barriers to access, progression, retention and success for all students. By repeating the student survey with second year students in 2024 and 2025, the student will evaluate the effectiveness of these curricular reform efforts in impacting students’ perceptions, engagement, and academic outcomes while supporting staff teams in iteratively enhancing and evaluating their curricula.

    The selected PhD student will offer research support to Solent’s teaching teams, while evaluating how the teams operate to effect change and the extent to which their efforts result in changes in students’ perceptions of the culturally sensitivity of their curriculum. The student will be enrolled in the PhD in Higher Education in the University of Kent’s Centre for the Study of Higher Education and jointly funded and supervised by Solent University and the University of Kent.

    This project makes an original contribution to knowledge and scholarship by extending existing cross-sectional studies to evaluate changes over time in students’ perceptions of the cultural sensitivity of curricula during a process of curricular revision.

    The project is also novel in analysing the relationship between cultural sensitivity of curricula and academic outcomes (i.e. degree awarding gaps). Previous research has only examined the link between culturally sensitive curricula and engagement. Findings will be valuable locally to inform Solent’s ongoing curricular reform, nationally to contribute evidence of how to address awarding gaps, and internationally to understanding the creation and impacts of more diversified, culturally relevant curricula.

    Supervisory team and research environment and resources

    The project will be supervised by an experienced team including Professor Kathleen M. Quinlan (University of Kent Centre for the Study of Higher Education) and Dr Dave S.P Thomas (Solent Learning and Teaching Institute) with a mix of in-person and digital support. Training will be provided beyond the supervisory team through networks at both partner institutions and through the Graduate and Researcher College at the University of Kent.

    Terms and conditions

    The studentship will cover home fees and stipend at UKRI rates for a maximum of three years full time, subject to institutional regulations.

    Informal Enquiries

    Informal enquiries about this collaborative project can be sent to Professor Kathleen M Quinlan at [email protected] or Dr Dave Thomas at [email protected]

    1 Thomas, D.S.P. & Quinlan, K. M. (2022). Reimagining curricula: Effects of cultural (in)sensitivity of curricula on racially minoritised students’ engagement. Studies in Higher Education.https: // doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2022.2134332

    2 Quinlan, K.M., Haider, M.A., Thomas, D.S.P., Hayton, A., Astley, J., West, D., Turner, I., Blackwood, L., Duffin, M., Daramy, F., Husbands, D., Kay, H., Walsh, C., Mosoeunyane, M. (2022). How Culturally Sensitive is our Curriculum? Results of a Multi-institutional NERUPI Study. NERUPI Report.

    3 https: // www. tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03075079.2022.2134332

    4 https: // www. officeforstudents.org.uk/advice-and- guidance/regulation/registration-with-the-ofs-a-guide/conditions-of- registration/

    How to apply

    Applications for this studentship must be made via the University of Kent application form to study full-time for a PhD in Higher Education.

    https: // www. kent.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/242

    When making your application, please start your personal statement by stating you are applying for this studentship citing the Kent-Solent collaborative studentship. In your personal statement, please provide examples of how you meet each of the selection criteria (up to 800 words total). You will also be asked to upload a proposal. Your proposal should be structured to address each of the following within the specific word limits:

  • Background and rationale (400 words) – describe why this study matters, connecting to at least two key papers related to the study in addition to the two studies referenced in the project overview. Conclude with the most important key research question(s) your study will address.
  • Data analysis plan (300 words). We will collect survey data from second year students using an adaptation of core instruments developed by (Thomas & Quinlan, 2022). Assume a response of 400 students across 3 programmes in each of the baseline and subsequent years (2024 and 2025). How would you analyse the data to answer your key question(s)? Why would you use this approach?
  • Limitations (200 words). What are the key limitations of your approach to evaluating this curricular reform initiative? What one change would you make to improve the design to address that limitation? Why?
  • Plan B (200 words). What could go wrong with the project? How would you address those potential pitfalls?
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