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The Centre for Social Mobility grants scheme

Grants Scheme



The Centre for Social Mobility is eager to support innovative and impactful approaches to equality in higher education. The Centre’s grants scheme offers seed funding for small research teams from within the University of Exeter to develop research and practice that supports widening access to and success within higher education. 


The grants scheme is currently open to research proposals for the academic year 2024/25. Applications close on 31 May 2024 at 5pm. 

What we are looking for: 

The Centre for Social Mobility is seeking to fund research projects that trial and evaluate innovative educational interventions aimed at reducing inequalities and disadvantages in higher education across the student lifecycle. In particular we are looking for projects that align with the strategic aims of the University’s Access and Participation Plan as specified in the table below. Projects will be funded up to £5000 to run throughout the academic year comencing July 2024/25 and concluding July 2025. The funding is open to students, professional services staff and academic staff. 


Strategic aim:

Relevant objective:

We are interested in projects that seek to:

Improve Access to University of Exeter

Support the attainment of school pupils at GCSE and Level 3 and work within our region

Work within our region and with organisations, third sector and other providers to build capacity, identify and address barriers


Develop specific pupil and family support e.g. skills development, tools, and information



Widen and diversify our applicant pool across key student groups and encourage, support, and prepare prospective students to enter HE Better support the recruitment, preparation, and transition of students with Access and BTEC qualifications, Mature students, and care leavers

Address the causes of observable gaps in success and progression for key groups

Minimise the observed gaps in continuation

Continue to improve experience of transition, induction, and year 1 especially around skills acquisition, information, and advice


Specific interventions for key groups including mature students, care leavers, students with BTECs, estranged students, carers, and students with disabilities


Minimise the observed gaps in attainment and achievement of graduate outcomes

Innovations across curriculum, teaching, and educational support, including inclusive teaching methods, personal tutoring, supporting a diverse learning community


Working towards a whole institution approach to wellbeing and building resilience across impairment types


Continuing to innovate and build on success of peer programmes


Enable equitable opportunities for progression, employability, and international experience especially for groups currently under-represented



The steering group are particularly interested in projects that: 

  • Are scalable and could change/ contribute /add to University of Exeter practices; 

  • Proposes either (a) fundamental contributions to knowledge with the potential to enhance practice or (b) innovative practical solutions; 

  • Place due consideration to the care and welfare of participants;  

  • Show a clear rationale and link to an existing evidence base (e.g. research literature, policy recommendations, pilot studies etc.)

  • Aims to support specific disadvantaged or under-represented groups. 

What applicants are getting: 

  • Funding for directly incurred costs such as student and research support, administrative and IT support, equipment, technical expertise, and other items of direct cost necessary for your research. We do not offer replacement for academic salaries or direct buy-out for University of Exeter staff.  

  • A designated mentor or contact person as well as access, and dissemination opportunities.  

Reporting requirements:

Successful applicants will be required to provide a short interim update midway through the project as well as a full report and presentation to the steering group at the end of the project (July-August 2025). We also seek to showcase grant projects at the annual success for all conference, where you may be asked to contribute a poster or presentation.  

How to apply 

Applications can be made by completing the application form. Applications will close Friday May 31 2024. 

If you have any queries about the grant scheme, please email Emma Goulding, Access and Participation Coordinator. 


Projects previously funded

Exploring the experiences and expectations of Electively Home Educated (EHE) students before and after HE admission.

Research team: Luke Graham, Anna Mountford-Zimdars

A mixed methods approach, using survey, interviews and participatory approach to explore the experiences of EHE students (currently enrolled at UoE) and identify barriers to Higher Education. The research hopes to shape institutional policy and practices to support and recruit Electively Home Educated students. 


Introduction to Black British Studies: A New Interdisciplinary Module

Research team: Malcolm Richards, Nandini Chatterjee, Ryan Hanley, Nour Azzalini-Machecler, Diana Valencia Duarte

Students from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds are underrepresented in Humanities subjects across the country, but especially so at the University of Exeter. This project proposes to develop a new ‘Introduction to Black British Studies’ interdisciplinary module taught collaboratively by both university staff, students and guest lecturers. The course will be open to all first-year Humanities students in the first instance, with the aim that it can be developed as an open online course in future years. It is intended to provide a learning space where intellectual and cultural expertise of members of Britain’s Black communities are visible and valued.


Can we talk about this?

Erin Walcon, Karen Kenny, Bryan Brown and Doorstep Arts

This project uses innovative theatre techniques to open up dialogue about challenges for staff and students which are not commonly addressed at university (including: wellbeing, consent, privilege). Through focusing on Personal Academic tutors as participants, it aims to address gaps in training and resource overload, varied levels of PT expertise/confidence, differing understandings of the nature of the role & identifying safeguarding responsibilities, navigating student barriers to accessing support and to unpack staff bias and privileges.

Virtual Reality – increasing confidence and competence in skills development and the graduate recruitment process.

Dr Dawn Lees

In this study, the aim is to gather students’ subjective opinions on the usefulness and effectiveness of VR-based job interview and presentation skills training. These are routinely used by employers to assess job candidates, and often cause significant levels of anxiety and worry in the candidate. 

The aim is to recruit 100 Widening Participation students to this study. While all individuals are likely to experience discomfort, those within the minority groups as defined by the Access and Participation Plan may find the interview and presentation experience particularly difficult. Many individuals from these groups present higher levels of pre-existing mental health concerns, including anxiety (egVahaninia) and we found in our previous CSM funded Employability Monsters Project that many WP students reported dissatisfaction with the recruitment process, with damage to self-confidence due to unsuccessful job interviews noted. 

A key driver for our interest in VR-based employability skills training is its potential to provide these students with an alternative highly accessible and emotionally ‘safe’ method for building confidence in these skills.