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Harnessing the power of our PhD community

As a relative newcomer to the higher education sector, it is extremely fulfilling working with such brilliant academic minds on so many different issues and as part of the Group Policy Unit here at Coventry University, we’re keen to support our academic colleagues to get involved in the policy making process.

Having such a range of academics who are working on a broad range of research topics opens up countless opportunities to engage with government and others on the challenges facing us today. And with colleagues working on such diverse research, it means that there is a lot of evidence gathering taking place at Coventry University that could be very valuable to policy makers.

However, it is not just seasoned academics who are interested in and are able to contribute to policy making. Our institutions are also home to many PhD students who also have a lot to offer and Coventry University is no exception. As policy professionals we can offer support to capture and nurture this emerging talent.

I have been working with one such PhD student, Clair Dempsey, whose work focuses on the psychological needs and coping strategies of those living with endometriosis and/or adenomyosis. Part of Clair’s project uses photography to show the psychological impact of the condition and attempts to make the invisible visible. She showcased her research as part of a photovoice exhibition which took place late 2019, and has published a book alongside it, which is also available online.

Clair’s work is important for a number of different reasons. First, it adds to the research in an area which is often overlooked and under researched, that of women’s health. Secondly, it has already led to tangible outcomes that can improve women’s lives on a day to day basis. The Scottish Sun has signed up to Endometriosis UK’s 'Endometriosis Friendly Employer scheme’ and one of the journalists has urged that Clair’s book be used to inform their practices. And third, it is an area of interest for policy makers with women’s health receiving more and more coverage in Parliament.

With that in mind, the Group Policy Unit has been working with Clair to engage with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Endometriosis which has just launched its inquiry looking at the issue. We have done this by supporting Clair to reach out to the parliamentarians on the APPG. We also hope to support her in pulling together evidence for the inquiry with the view that her research could be extremely helpful in providing tangible recommendations for individuals, organisations, and policy makers.

This experience highlights two key points for the Group Policy Unit and for others who are similarly supporting their academic colleagues in engaging with policy making. Firstly it demonstrates that there is appetite within the PhD community to ensure that their research has real impact on the ground. And secondly by reaching out to our PhD students, it gives us as policy professionals the chance to provide future academics with the tools they need to engage with the policy making process throughout their careers.

I’m grateful to Clair for reaching out to the Group Policy Unit and I look forward to working with her and others as we strive to ensure the evidence based research of our academic communities have a voice in Westminster, Whitehall, and beyond.

Jav Ghuman is the Senior Policy Advisor at Coventry University. Jav advises the Vice-Chancellor and senior leadership on higher education policy developments, supports policy and political stakeholder engagement across the university, and provides strategic support across the Coventry University Group. She previously worked for education charity the Sutton Trust and for an older people’s charity before that. Jav started her career working for a former Minister in the Coalition government.


Posted 04/03/2020 12:05

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