Exploring the Wellbeing of Black and Minority Ethnic Academics: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

  • Andre Etchebarne

Student thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology


Introduction: Experiences of racism, particularly those which occur every day, such as microaggressions, are associated with poorer wellbeing. Research indicates that Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) academics frequently experience racism in the UK and internationally. However, there is a lack of research looking at the wellbeing of BME academics in UK higher education (HE). Research Question: How do BME academics experience working in UK HE to influence their wellbeing? Methods: The study used a qualitative design and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to understand the wellbeing of BME academics. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six BME academics at various universities across England in different academic disciplines. Five of the participants were employed at Russell Group universities. Interviews were conducted via Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions and the national lockdown. Findings: Analysis of the interviews led to three inter-related superordinate themes: "All my life experiences are racialised and gendered"; Hyper performance; "I can protect myself". Participants referred to experiences as students and outside HE when making sense of their wellbeing as academics. Perceptions of wellbeing were shaped by racism intersecting with other forms of discrimination, most notably Islamophobia and sexism. Experiences of discrimination and the culture of competition in HE led participants to describe a pressure to perform professionally and socially. The participants described the hyper performance as negatively influencing wellbeing in the long term. Participants discussed the importance of social relationships and finding their "team" to mitigate the wellbeing challenges of academic life. Additionally, participants strategically changed their engagement with HE and reframed what it meant to be a BME academic. Discussion: Working in HE was perceived to influence wellbeing in nuanced ways and was experienced in an intersectional manner. Consequently, future interventions for the wellbeing of BME academics must also be intersectional. It is suggested that fostering an anti-racist culture will improve the wellbeing of BME students and academics.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorTerry Hanley (Supervisor) & Laura Winter (Supervisor)

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