Nine reasons to become a Surrey Black Scholars postgraduate researcher

Our guest blogger Jay Rowe, Research Project Manager for Surrey Black Scholars, shares his take on the scheme and how it provides more than just funding.

The 2023 Surrey Black Scholars Studentship Awards are now open for applications. I would like to take this opportunity to tell you nine reasons why you should apply to become a PGR in the next cohort of Surrey Black Scholars.

1. Changing the World

One of the greatest ways we can support the global Black community is through research. Even more so than community engagement and industry, research can improve life for some of the most vulnerable people in the UK and across the globe. The Surrey Black Scholars Studentships are offered across the range of doctoral programmes here at the University of Surrey. Getting your doctorate here will start you along the path to changing the world in the same way that other great Black academics have. These include Professor David Olusoga, Professor Christopher Jackson, Professor Pat Noxolo and Guildford resident Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock. One day, hopefully your name will be among this list.

2. Academic Careers

Becoming a Surrey Black Scholars PGR will help to improve the number of Black academics working within British universities. In 2019, only 3% of full-time UK domiciled PGRs in their first year of study were Black. In that same year, only 1.9% of academic staff in the UK were black. You will be equipped with all the skills, support and opportunities you will need to build a prosperous and long-lasting academic career upon graduation.

Only 1.9% of academic staff in the UK were black in 2019

3. Funding for Black PGRs

The University of Surrey is seeking to reverse a damaging trend of Black PGRs receiving little-to-no funding for their doctorates. Between 2016 and 2019, 19,868 PhD funded studentships were awarded by UKRI research councils collectively. However, only 245 (1.2%) were awarded to Black or Black Mixed students, with just 30 of those being from Black Caribbean backgrounds. The stipends for these studentships have been ringfenced by the university and set aside especially for Black UK-domiciled aspiring postgraduate researchers to get a world class doctoral education.

4. Teaching Black Undergraduates

Many Black undergraduates at this university have historically suffered from the lack of diversity among the academic staff on campus. At the University of Surrey, Black undergraduates are almost twice as likely to graduate with a third class or lower degree than the national average for Black UGs. Research has shown that Black educators routinely improve education outcomes for Black students. Across your doctorate and beyond, you will be the face of change for our Black undergraduate population.

5. Guildford’s Cultural Life

Outside of libraries and lecture theatres, the town of Guildford has a vibrant cultural life which will make your time at the university very enjoyable. Guildford is home to several vibrant arts venues including the world-famous Watts Gallery, G Live, the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre and our university’s own Guildford School of Acting. All of these venues are within walking distance from most university accommodation, and you are strongly encouraged to make the most of Guildford’s cultural offer.

6. An Historic Town

The University of Surrey is known for its high-tech research, including that of the world-leading 5G Research Centre on campus. However, the town is equally great for exploring both the future and the past. Guildford is fortunate to have many great historic buildings and structures like Guildford Castle, Lewis Carroll’s Guildford Home, Guildford Cathedral and the Guildhall Historic Clock. And speaking of history, you will be part of the wonderful chronicle of Guilford’s Black community alongside Guildford’s famous first Black resident, John Springfield. Every piece of original research makes a little bit of history, and we want you to make that history here.

Every piece of original research makes a little bit of history, and we want you to make that history here.

7. Escape to the Country

If you, like me, are from a big city, you might think that you will miss the hustle and bustle of the daily commute. However, Surrey offers you three or more years of peace and nature to refresh and recharge. Guildford and the wider county of Surrey have some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the country. You’ll be able to wander for hours in Chantry Wood, Shalford Park, or Newlands Corner. When you’re walking along a flowing green field in Surrey on a warm summer’s day, you won’t miss being packed into a Northern Line tube train at rush hour.

8. Decolonising Academia

Guildford might not be as culturally diverse as London, Birmingham or Manchester, but the university and its people are determined to make it the most welcoming space for staff and students from all backgrounds. The University of Surrey has committed to decolonising the higher education curriculum in a variety of ways, from course content to researcher development training to inclusive supervision training for academics. By the time you begin your doctorate, even more progress will have been made.

9. Committed Careers Support

The University of Surrey offers every PGR the opportunity to enhance their doctorate through several career-based and personal development-oriented initiatives. These include the fully funded Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education, a mentoring scheme for new PGRs and one which allows first-year doctoral candidates to mentor aspiring researchers from the undergraduate community, and most PGRs have the opportunity to seek a placement position in industry to enhance your portfolio of skills.