Documenting diversity: The experiences of LGBTQ+ doctoral researchers in the UK

Ross English, Kieran Fenby-Hulse

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    Abstract

    Aim/Purpose: This article provides a much needed insight into the experiences of doctoral researchers in the UK that identify as Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Trans-, Queer, or outside of heteronormative or cis-normative identities (LGBTQ+) to address the question of what support, culture, and pedagogy might better support doc-toral researchers who identify as LGBTQ+. Background: While experiences of LGBTQ+ students in UK Higher Education have been explored in recent studies, the experiences of doctoral students have not been differentiated, documented, or analyzed. Methodology: Through an online questionnaire sent to UK institutions, this study captures and reflects on the diverse experiences of doctoral education. The study took a predominantly phenomenological approach, placing the focus on understanding how individual researchers experienced their working environment. Contribution: This questionnaire offers a 'campus climate' study, providing a much-needed insight into the experiences of doctoral researchers in the UK in 2017. The study also highlights the importance of acknowledging the diversity of doctoral researchers and adapting supervisory and institutional support to meet the dif-fering needs of doctoral researchers. It considers themes such as the impact of the working environment, experiences of macroaggressions and harassment, the need for researchers to work internationally, and the visibility of role mod-els. The complex nature of the supervisor-student relationship is also consid-ered throughout. Findings: Although many LGBTQ+ doctoral students felt they were studying in a sup-portive institution, the questionnaire highlights a diverse range of inclusivity issues as well as direct instances of homophobic and/or transphobic behavior. Recommendations for Practitioners: From this questionnaire, it is concluded that there is a need for a critical exami-nation of systems and spaces in which doctoral education takes place and the implementation of systems and spaces that are inclusive. There is a need for all those involved in doctoral education to understand how identifying as a LGBTQ+ researcher can impact on your experience of doctoral education. And, finally, there is a need for better LGBTQ+ visibility, better representation, and better mentoring. Recommendations for Researchers: If doctoral education is to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce, research needs to take into account the views and experiences of minority and marginalized groups that may challenge or be in tension with the views of the larger research population. Impact on Society: As the demographic of the doctoral researcher population diversifies, it is in-creasingly important that our approach to doctoral education and the systems and processes that underpin doctoral education are adapted to meet the needs of that diverse population. Future Research: There is potential scope for future studies to focus specifically on issues of in-tersectionality, disciplinary differences, health and wellbeing, representation, voice, and agency, as well as productivity, attainment, and career development of LGBTQ+ doctoral researchers.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)403-430
    Number of pages28
    JournalInternational Journal of Doctoral Studies
    Volume14
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

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