Lee Wainwright, Business & Management, University of Liverpool, 2019 Cohort
Growing up in Anfield within ‘the most deprived area’ in England, didn’t really mean anything as a young person. I didn’t feel ‘poor’. Only when I was old enough to think about university did I begin to notice a difference between what I saw on TV or heard on the radio regarding ‘UCAS points’ and ‘clearing’, and what me and my friends were doing – none of us were planning to apply to university, all were encouraged by parents to find a job as the next step, shrugging off poor A Level results (for some of us) as unnecessary formalities. No one had older brothers or sisters who were students.
Fast forward a few years and I discovered that most of the careers I wanted to pursue required a degree. Now I had a reason to need to go to university, it was a tool towards the job I wanted. A bare minimum of qualifications and grades scraped me an unconditional offer.
During my second and third year I budgeted to live off £8 a week. That was £8 to last seven days, spent on rice, tins of cheap beans, cereal and avoiding socialising which required spending. And lots and lots of walking. Mum and dad got divorced but regardless I knew mum couldn’t send me pocket money, at the time it never even crossed my mind to ask. But coming up to Christmas during second year, something didn’t make sense about ‘being a student’… my uni mates were out every weekend, ordering takeaways, spending money on alcohol for drinking games, sharing taxis into town, even buying Christmas presents. It didn’t make sense how they could afford it all with just a student loan and rent to pay. They didn’t have part time jobs and they certainly weren’t ‘posh’. And it was then that I slowly began to see that on average there was a difference between being a student with family who lived in a deprived area, and being a student whose family lived in a ‘normal’ area.
I graduated with a 2:1, many happy memories, a few not so happy, and a reignited feeling that really, universities were not for people like me. For people like me they were difficult places to live, to build networks, and to feel settled. But I did love higher education and being able to study subjects you were passionate about.
More than ten years later I developed a career working in universities, firstly as background support staff, then in student employability, and I began to meet students who were like me as a student. I started to understand a common trait, that for people like us, it mattered that there wasn’t a family member or family friend who had ‘done’ university and could try to pull us up.
Another year or two later, a chance conversation with academic colleagues about daydream PhD research interests, and I was extremely fortunate to be awarded a PhD scholarship from the ESRC, and if I thought there was a lack of representation giving advice in the exploring/application phase for undergrad applicants, then the PhD world was another story. Every Twitter account or YouTube channel I accessed to find answers to questions about ‘what is a PhD like day to day’, or ‘what’s the PhD application process’, all were answered by people who didn’t look or sound like me. It was then I formed the idea of putting Academiclee together on YouTube. To slowly build up video content of a scouser talking about doing a PhD, and mostly trying to demystify the whole social sciences postgrad world. I wanted to share exciting news about supervisor meetings which ignited your research, the need to develop research timeframes and what goes into a PhD. Even to clarify why people do PhDs and why they make you an expert. A big topic I knew very little about was the literature review and with it the barriers of having to read hundreds of journal articles written in academic language which can take hours to get through. This led me to the latest video I’ve put together, all about the literature review and how to conduct a systemic strategy.
Although the YouTube channel is not designed to become a massive viral sensation, I hope it reaches one or two young people who have questions about university or becoming a Dr, and makes the world of higher education seem more relevant and possible. Certainly in the social sciences we need as many varied and diverse researchers interested in the complex areas of social life as we can find.
Academiclee Literature Review Video: https://youtu.be/JRnVR2Hpe-g