ESRC WRDTP Associated Studentship – Over-policing and vulnerability in minority communities

Please note that as part of a coordinated plan to increase diversity and inclusion among our postgraduate research community, this studentship award is limited to UK candidates who self-identify as being from a Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background. Please see the conditions outlined below.

University: University of York

Doctoral training pathway: White Rose Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership (WRDTP). Main interdisciplinary pathway: Security, Conflict, and Justice (SCJ)

Duration: 1+3 (Masters + PhD) or +3 (PhD) award. Commencing 1 October 2022.

Closing date for application forms 17:00 (UK time) 30 June 2022.

Project Outline

The over-policing of minority communities has a long history in the UK, arguably affecting people of colour most negatively. From disproportionate stop and search figures, higher rates of deaths in police custody, targeted counter-terrorism surveillance, immigration enforcement and gangs databases, communities of colour continue to be on the receiving end of discriminatory and oppressive policing measures.

This project will focus on understanding the lived experiences of people of colour who have had contact with policing practices where over-policing, criminalisation and racism are a concern. Through the application of a Critical Race Theory framework, the focus will be upon an understanding of the stories of how policing interventions are received by marginalised communities. This will be achieved by in-depth, qualitative studies with a sample of 18-35 year old women and men of colour in large Northern cities.

While minorities are sometimes conceptualised as ‘vulnerable groups’, questions remain about how well people of colour are served through an increased focus on policing vulnerability. This study will seek to understand better the complexities of over-policing, criminalisation, and the consequences for marginalised communities, as well as contribute to making sense of how vulnerability can be understood in relation to over-policed communities.

It will also focus on the opportunities for exploring alternatives to policing that focus instead on access to welfare, healthcare and community-based systems of support. Urban populations within the age group 18-35 are the focus of the research as they are more likely to experience significant police contact. The following topics would receive particular attention, with the specific research design then agreed in consultation with the doctoral researcher:  

  • The impact of stop and search on people of colour (including new covid-19 emergency police powers)
  • The impact of anti-trafficking policing on migrant sex workers
  • The impact of immigration enforcement on migrant communities
  • The impact of counter-terrorism measures on Muslim communities
  • The impact of gangs matrix databases and the ‘war on gangs’ on Black communities
  • The impact of deaths following police contact on people of colour

Areas of focus will include:

  • Experiences of contact with the police and policing partners as lived and interpreted by marginalised communities
  • The long term mental, physical and social effects of over-policing and encounters with the police/criminal justice system
  • The role of fear and police distrust in further exemplifying vulnerabilities (ie not wanting to access essential services such as victim support)
  • Resistance and alternatives to policing (ie the call to defund the police)

Research Methods and Data Collection

Working with local and national partners who provide interventions, advocacy or community-based services to marginalised communities, the project will collect data from the following sources:

  • In-depth interviews will be conducted with a sample of people of colour aged 18-35 across Leeds and Manchester who have experienced significant interactions with police and criminal justice agencies/institutions
  • These will be complemented by interviews with key practitioners including NGOs, community organisations and human rights groups
  • Relevant police data and policy documents.

Supervision and support

Dr Katy Sian (Sociology) and Dr Kate Brown (Social Policy and Social Work) will provide the academic supervision, jointly hosted at the Departments of Sociology, and Social Policy and Social Work, University of York. Complementary thesis advisory input will be sought from additional practitioner supervisors; we will explore potential for supervisory input from NGOs such as Inquest, Liberty or the Runnymede Trust.

The researcher will benefit from monthly supervision meetings with both academic supervisors, as well as 6 monthly progress reviews and assistance in planning with an extended supervisory team. This PhD will be part of a cohort of 6 studentships attached to the Centre of Vulnerability and Policing Futures, so the candidate will benefit from a range of networking and training opportunities attached to this programme of work.


Two types of studentship are available depending on the level of social science research training already completed:

1+3 Studentships: an integrated Research Training Masters – MA Social Research at York - - followed by a 3-yearPhD programme.

+3 Studentships: 3-year PhD (applicants must demonstrate that they have already completed substantial social sciences training in research methods which would enable them to undertake an independent research project in a particular discipline or interdisciplinary field. An applicant must have at least 60 credits at Masters level of core social sciences research methods acquired in the last five years. This must include a broad range of methods, including quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods and the use of appropriate software/tools for their application, and comprehension of principles of research design and strategy, and an appreciation of alternative approaches to research).


  • The award will cover fees at standard Research Council rates
  • A maintenance grant at the standard UKRI rate (£15,609 in Session 2021/22)
  • Research Training Support Grant which covers travel and research costs during the PhD part of the award


Conditions relating to PhDs undertaken within the Department will apply as described:

In addition, as part of a coordinated plan to increase diversity and inclusion among our PGR community, this studentship is limited to candidates who self-identify as being from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background and who are eligible for Home Fee Status

Under sections 158-159 of the Equality Act 2010, positive action is allowed where members of protected groups have been underrepresented within the workforce, or in a particular work group, in the preceding 12 months.

At York, our data show that British people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups are underrepresented at postgraduate researcher level, so this scheme looks to offer them targeted support to address this. These are lawful measures designed to redress imbalances and counteract the effects of past discrimination. They ensure that people from previously excluded groups can compete on equal terms with other applicants. More information about what the University of York means by the term BAME can be found here.

How to apply

The application process for this studentship requires completion of 2 forms (see Step 1 and Step 2). Please complete both forms by the deadline to be considered for the studentship. 

Step 1

Read the guidance bullet points below and then complete the PhD programme application form accessed through the SPSW PhD application site.

Guidance notes for completing the PhD programme application form:

  • Under the Research Proposal summary on the online form, please include the following: Centre Studentship: Over-policing and vulnerability in minority communities and list the supervisors as Dr Sian and Dr Brown.
  • Instead of providing a research proposal, please provide a covering letter addressing: (i) The salient challenges in researching this topic, including any methodological issues (ii) Any particular directions you would wish to take the project.

  • There are a number of additional documents which this application form asks for and these will be clearly signalled as you complete the online form.

Step 2

Once you have applied for a place on the SPSW PhD programme in Step 1, please then fill out an ESRC White Rose Doctoral Training Programme studentship application form. This form is additional to the programme application form in Step 1.

After receipt of your application, the Department will shortlist and interview selected candidates and, if successful at interview, you will be nominated for support from the ESRC White Rose Doctoral Training Programme.

For further information or an informal discussion:

If you have any questions about the application process or would like an informal discussion about the studentship please contact:

Please note Dr Sian is currently on maternity leave and therefore won’t be able to respond to informal enquiries via email.