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Care-experienced academics working in higher education

Care experienced academics

PI in Exeter: Dr Neil Harrison
Funding: £9,935
Sponsor: British Academy
Project end: December 2022

About the research

People who experienced the care system as children generally have less positive life outcomes than their peers. The reasons are complex, but include social and educational disruption, mental and physical health issues, stigmatisation and economic deprivation. Despite this overarching picture, many make very successful transitions into adulthood, including rising numbers of care-experienced people who participate in higher education.

This small-scale study will engage with those now pursuing an academic career, having thrived within the education system despite profound challenges in their early lives. They will have important insights into the risk and protective factors that shape educational success, with the added perspective of reflecting on their own experiences through the lens of the educator they have become. Their stories will also illuminate the challenges of entry into a competitive career, including negotiations of professional and personal identity.

Research questions

The aim of the study will be to understand the narratives of a newly-emerging and, to date, unresearched group of highly-successful professionals who spent time in the care system as children. These narratives are valuable for the insight that they provide both into thriving in education and access to high-prestige careers more generally. It seeks to answer four research questions:

  • RQ1: What insights do the lived lives of the participants offer into successful pathways into and through higher education for academics with experience of children’s social care?
  • RQ2: Why did the participants choose a career in academia, what challenges have they had to address to establish their careers and how have they overcome these?
  • RQ3: What mechanisms, if any, exist within universities to support the professional development of care-experienced academics (e.g. mentoring or funding streams)?
  • RQ4: How have the participants navigated issues of identity formation/renegotiation and communities of practice in academia?

Associated documents

Participant information sheet