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University to Work Transitions: Closing the Employment Gap for BAME Graduates

   Business School

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  Dr Myrtle Emmanuel  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

In an increasingly turbulent and dynamic labour market, university to work transitions (UTWT) present both challenging and stressful occurrences for graduates (HESC, 2016). A key challenge is underemployment where graduates find themselves working in jobs far removed from their degree level and subject field (Scurry & Blenkinsopp, 2011; McGregor-Smith Review, 2017, TUC 2016; 2021). UTWT challenges are intensified for ethnic minorities in the UK who (although are more likely to gain university qualifications than UK white British graduate), have experienced substantial disadvantages in the labour market on average (Zwysen & Longhi, 2018; TUC, 2021). Pre-COVID data indicate that a graduate employment gap exists between White and BAME graduates (HESA, 2020)1 which has doubled for Black men and Pakistani and Bangladeshi women (IES, 20202. Notwithstanding these datasets, the post-COVID economic impact remains to be examined. Furthermore, there is limited research on any issues related to race and graduate outcomes in the UK. Previous literature has labelled BAME students as incapable and in need of skills development and mentorship (Renkly & Bertolini, 2018). This flawed ideology often blames BAME students for their poor academic or employment outcomes (Castro & Cortez, 2017; Carales & Lopez, 2020) thus neglecting the institutional, structural and other inequitable systems that are at play.

The study examines the impact of race on graduate outcomes in the post-COVID-19 economic environment. Indicative research questions that the VC Scholar will address include:

  1. What are the experiences of BAME graduates regarding their UTWT and in particular their underemployment? How does gender and race intersect with these experiences?
  2. What strategies do employers and universities use to address the BAME graduate employment gap and assist these graduates with their UTWT? How effective are these strategies?


3 years, Full-Time Study or 6 years, Part-Time Study

Person Specification


Education and Training

  • 1st Class or 2nd class, First Division (Upper Second Class) honours degree or a taught master’s degree with a minimum average of 60% in all areas of assessment (UK or UK equivalent) in a relevant area to the proposed research project
  • For those whose first language is not English and/or if from a country where English is not the majority spoken language (as recognised by the UKBA), a language proficiency score of at least IELTS 6.5 (in all elements of the test) or an equivalent UK VISA and Immigration secure English Language Test is required, if your programme falls within the faculty of Engineering and Science a language proficiency score of at least IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum of 6.0 in all elements of the test or an equivalent UK VISA and Immigration secure English Language Test is required. Unless the degree above was taught in English and obtained in a majority English speaking country, e.g. UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, etc, as recognised by the UKBA.

Experience & Skills

  • Previous experience of undertaking research (e.g. undergraduate or taught master’s dissertation)
  • An understanding of qualitative and quantitative methods and proficiency in one or both
  • Proficiency in academic writing

Personal Attributes

  • Understands the fundamental differences between a taught degree and a research degree in terms of approach and personal discipline/motivation
  • Able to, under guidance, complete independent work successfully
  • A commitment to engage with conceptual frameworks around race

Other Requirements

  • This scholarship may require Academic Technology Approval Scheme approval for the successful candidate if from outside of the EU/EEA

Closing date for applications: Friday 16th September 2022

Making an application

Please read this information before making an application. Information on the application process is available at: Applications need to be made online via this link. No other form of application will be considered.

All applications must include the following information. Applications not containing these documents will not be considered.

  • Scholarship Reference Number (Ref VCS-FBUS-01-22)– included in the personal statement section together with your personal statement as to why you are applying
  • a CV including 2 referees *
  • academic qualification certificates/transcripts and IELTs/English Language certificate if you are an international applicant or if English is not your first language or you are from a country where English is not the majority spoken language as defined by the UK Border Agency *

*upload to the qualification section of the application form. Attachments must be a PDF format.

Before submitting your application, you are encouraged to liaise with the Lead Supervisor on the details above.

Funding Notes

Year 1: £16,062 (FT) or pro-rata (PT) Year 2: In line with UKRI rate Year 3: In line with UKRI rate

In addition, the successful candidate will receive a contribution to tuition fees equivalent to the university’s Home rate, currently £4,596 (FT) or pro-rata (PT), for the duration of their scholarship. International applicants will need to pay the remainder tuition fee for the duration of their scholarship.
This fee is subject to an annual increase.


[1] HESA Graduate Outcomes data starting with 2017/18 cohort revealed, fifteen months after graduating from university UK-domiciled graduates from BAME backgrounds are 8% less likely to be in full-time graduate employment than their White peers (54% versus 62%) and BAME graduates were also more likely to be unemployed than White graduates.
[2] IES dated show the employment rate gap has fallen significantly over the last two decades for men, to just 5 percentage points – but for Black men, the gap stands at 11 percentage points (with employment for Black men actually falling in recent years, while it has risen for others). The employment gap is also more than double this for women of Pakistani or Bangladeshi descent).
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