Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
Having a diverse student cohort is important to MRC LID. We recognise that academic and non-academic experiences enrich both staff and student learning and the LSHTM and SGUL communities as a whole.
However, our recruitment data over the 6 years of DTP1 (2016-17 to 2021-22) does not reflect this, with very few students from non-traditional backgrounds and/or marginalised ethnic groups recruited onto the DTP. Consequently, a new MRC LID EDI Strategy was developed. This recognises the importance of tackling systemic barriers experienced by students in progressing to postgraduate research degree programmes and of taking a proactive approach to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
Our EDI strategy adopts a firm commitment to anti-racism and decolonising global public health, widening participation, and cultivating a supportive, inclusive, and diverse community of future scientific leaders.
Under the new EDI strategy, MRC LID committed to:
• Mandatory training for supervisors, MRC LID board and administrators
• Increase training and diversity on interview panels and board
• Widen recruitment strategies
• Expand links with Post ‘92 Universities
• Offer applicant workshops and social media outreach
• Take positive action to recruit and support historically under-represented groups
• Ring-fence 3 studentships per year for students from UK minoritised ethnic communities, with focus on 1+4 scheme
• Provide pre- and post-acceptance mentoring by EDI leads
• Provide top-up fee bursaries to successful students from low- to middle-income countries
• Create flexible opportunities to support student carers
• Use data and student engagement to monitor and evaluate impact of EDI strategy
Since the strategy was initially set out a number of interventions have been put in place. These interventions aim to review and challenge current practices that aren’t working and that create barriers for those who are currently underrepresented. Details are below.
PRE-APPLICATION: Looking at the information we provide and providing increased knowledge of the postgraduate research process. Actions and changes include
- Reviewing web content and amending text.
- Providing new Applicant Workshop recordings that can be accessed asynchronously, with information that is transferable and useful for any postgraduate research applicant (regardless of whether they choose to apply to MRC LID or not)
- Creating applicant guidance to demystify vocabulary and processes (for example, clear and accessible guidance on how to contact supervisors at the pre-application stages, to ensure that the relationship begins in a positive and useful way)
- Providing informal recordings from each supervisory team sharing project information
- Providing at least 1-2 DOIs for each project
APPLICATION: Looking at our application system with a view to reform practices that create barriers. Actions and changes include
- Increased training for all staff (supervisors, board, administrators), including an opportunity to join an antiracism programme, interview panel refresher training, and a workshop that looks at applying EDI best practice to research degree supervision.
- Developing a rubric for our application form (consistent set of assessment criteria).
- Creating contextual questions in our application, and accounting for these in assessments.
- Collecting more contextual and widening participation data, for monitoring and review.
- Changing our application form to make it accessible and easier to navigate.
- Providing clear guidance on how to complete the application form.
- Creating mechanisms to ensure that ring-fenced awards are offered onlly to applicants who meet the high, rigorous MRC LID standards required of all award holders.
- Sharing comprehensive interview hints and tips.
- Explicitly requesting prospective supervisory teams to provide appropriate support to applicants at initial application, and when shortlisted for interview.
POST-AWARD: Looking at post-award support and funding with the aim of fostering a more inclusive and cohesive cohort of students, where every individual feels like they belong and are valued, they can thrive, have a unique contribution to share.
- Listening to our student voices, and using feedback to adapt and to increase support.
- Awarding six ring-fenced studentships (so far).
- Awarding four studentships with matched LMIC Bursaries (so far).
- Offering antiracism training.
- Offering Mental Health First Aid training, so that students can support and signpost peers appropriately.
- Offering external mentorship to students.
- Providing additional funding support whenever we can (for example a one-off stipend uplift over the past two winters to help with living costs).
- Supporting a positive and supportive relationship between students and their supervisors, and students and the MRC LID cohort, with a by-product of a positive lived experience (that impacts retention, progression, and student wellbeing over the duration of a research degree).
We will continue to listen and learn, review and build on what has been started.