Reflecting on our own background to progress collaborative Systematic Review 

Personal reflection has been key to progressing work on a Systematic Review that Go Higher West Yorkshire (GHWY) is conducting to ascertain what factors act as barriers and facilitators for Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnicity students to access Higher Education (HE). 

Staff that work in Widening Participation spend so much time helping students from under-represented groups (URGs) to make informed choices about HE that we do not often stop to reflect on our own background and how far we have come in life. That is my takeaway as GHWY and a working group of our members embark on the Data Analysis stage of a collaborative Systematic Review. 

Reflecting on our backgrounds 

A Systematic Review systematically brings together existing research to establish the overall themes or learnings. Our Data Analysis of this involved us reflecting on our own backgrounds to consider how this may lead to bias when analysing data. Some of us were first-generation HE students; others are from a minority ethnic background; and we all had our own education journey to reflect on.  

These personal backgrounds can influence how we interpret factors in research, such as whether a parent’s education makes HE a challenge (a barrier) but also simultaneously drives us forward to want to do better in terms of social mobility i.e. distance travelled to HE access. It is important to be aware of how our own upbringing may affect how we view the same factors but in a different way. In other words, some factors are seen as both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors. 

Another thing that affects our world view and how we interpret existing research on the barriers and facilitators of Black Asian and Minoritised Ethnicity students to access HE is our stance. As someone whose first degree was Economics with Psychology, I would say that I view the world through a psychology lens. There are others in the Systematic Review working group who take a sociological viewpoint of the world based on their education and background. This can mean we view and interpret research in different ways, but we need that diversity of perspectives to ensure that we are open to all possible interpretations of the research findings. 

Data analysis and next steps 

To conduct the Data Analysis stage of our Systematic Review, we split ourselves into two groups while ensuring both have a diversity of perspectives. One group, known as the reviewers, will split 42 papers among themselves and review the Data Analysis section. You can read about how we identified papers in my previous blog post.  

Another group, the checkers, will ‘check’ the work of the reviewers to see if they agree or disagree and it may be a discussion needs to happen. We will be using Thematic Analysis, that is, using 0 or 1 coding to mean ‘no’ or ‘yes’ to themes.  

It is anticipated that we will have some preliminary findings before we do the writing up this summer. We hope to find out how best to facilitate access to HE for Black, Asian and Minoritised Ethnicity students, and also what the barriers are so we can work to overcome them.  


The Systematic Review is an output of GHWY’s Black Asian and Minoritised Ethnic Students Network. This is one of four URG Networks that GHWY convenes. I Co-Chair this Network alongside Shames Maskeen from Leeds Trinity University, which will launch a Race Institute in May. 


Tahera Mayat, GHWY Collaborative Outreach Officer