An exploration of working-class women academics' lived experiences of wellbeing in UK Higher Education

  • Rachael Goodwin

Student thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology


Background and aims: Research indicates academics experience a range of challenges to their wellbeing. Social class is a key indicator of wellbeing, yet it remains neglected in UK Counselling Psychology (CP). The classed and gendered nature of academia is well-documented. Yet, no study to-date specifically explores working-class women academics' lived experiences of wellbeing. Drawing upon social justice, feminist and intersectional approaches, this thesis seeks to address gaps in the literature by offering an original contribution to knowledge on the intersectional lived experiences and wellbeing of working-class women academics. Methodology and methods: Located in the transformative feminist paradigm, the thesis used a qualitative methodology to explore the subjective lived experiences of working-class women in UK Higher Education (HE). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 working-class women academics from different HE institutions across the UK. Data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Analysis: Analysis of the data generated four key themes: 1) My working-class identity never leaves me, and it's complicated in academia; 2) The system wasn't built for us, it doesn't understand us, and it can negatively impact our wellbeing; 3) Working-class values and experiences protect my wellbeing; 4) My wellbeing is impacted by the emotional labour I carry out in HE. Discussion: Synthesising the analysis with previous studies and feminist, intersectional, social-justice-informed literatures, the thesis concludes that working-class women academics' wellbeing is experienced and influenced across three areas: 1) Working-classness does not just disappear when you become an academic; 2) Surviving and thriving in HE; 3) Class blindness and classism in HE: the silent oppression. Limitations, potential implications and recommendations for CP, HE and future research are offered. The thesis suggests ending class blindness is crucial, in order to redress classism and support working-class women academics' wellbeing in HE.
Date of Award31 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorTerry Hanley (Supervisor) & Laura Winter (Supervisor)


  • women
  • wellbeing
  • social class
  • gender
  • classism
  • academia

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