In 2011 the University of Kent established the Centre for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE) to support a flourishing and inclusive educational research community that would contribute to the advancement of educational policy and practice. As part of the CSHE Dr Jennifer Leigh developed a body of research with her PhD student Nicole Brown that investigated ableism in academia whilst Dr Tom Parkinson established research examining the global barriers of and for academics in conditions of exile. At the heart of both research projects was the incentive to examine the conditions and barriers of marginalised academics; a motivation which led to both programmes of work positioning the CSHE as an exemplar and hub point of expertise for how to advance practices, policies and awareness-raising initiatives that disrupt the systems that marginalise certain academics.
The work and activity generated by Dr Parkinson’s research has fostered significant change within the Council for At Risk Academics’ Syria Programme (CARA SP) – a large, multi-donor-funded in-region programme of support – through the advance of the methodologies and practices that underpinned the programme and helped facilitate its growth and impact upon the academic participants placed across Syria. Comparatively, Dr Jennifer Leigh and University of Kent colleagues’ work in ableism has and is continuing to promote a transformative shift in the cultures, policies and practices surrounding ableism in UK HE.
And, as the projects and activities within Dr Parkinson’s and Dr Leigh’s research areas expands and proliferates, this novel work in academic marginalisation promises to shed further light on the environmental and cultural shortcomings that impede or constrain academic life whilst simultaneously improving the equality, access and inclusivity within and surrounding academic cultures.