Black doctoral students have been encouraged to “break new ground” and “forge a path” for young scholars who come behind them.
Hakim Adi, a professor of history at the University of Chichester, told a group of early career researchers from minority ethnic groups that they are “pioneers” in their subjects and should not be discouraged by any difficulties that they come across.
Professor Adi was speaking at the first meet-up event of the Black Doctoral Network UK, a support group for PhD students, which has grown to 200 members since its launch less than a year ago.
The network, which is affiliated with the US-based Black Doctoral Network, is the first of its kind in the UK and was launched by two PhD students who felt isolated in the academy. The network has a Facebook group where members can exchange information, support each other and flag up calls for papers and conference opportunities.
Founders Monique Charles, of the University of Warwick, and Antoinette Kwegan, of the UCL Institute of Education, hosted its first meet-up for members in London earlier this month.
At the event, four academics from ethnic minority backgrounds talked about their experiences in higher education and gave advice to about 40 attendees who are starting out in their careers.
Professor Adi, who says he may be the first and only history professor in the country from an African background, said: “It took me 11 years to get promoted to professor from reader.”
He added that many of his non-minority colleagues secured similar promotions in three to five years. “It may take a while but eventually you will get there,” he said.
He continued: “We are breaking new ground and we have that responsibility to break into these fields for those who come behind us…It is our responsibility to forge a path for a critical mass to emerge. Don’t give up, don’t be demoralised by all these difficulties that can appear in front of you.”