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IOE Student Blog


A blog on life at IOE and education affairs written for students by students.


Lessons from a Laidlaw Scholar

By IOE Digital, on 26 October 2022

Group of female international students making registration for online courses together via laptop computer, women collaborating on research browsed information on netbook for creating designing project

(Image source: BullRun via Adobe Stock).

Do you want to research topics that you are passionate about? Do you want to be a better leader?

Perhaps the Laidlaw Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship is for you!

by Princess Emeanuwa, Education Studies BA, Laidlaw Scholar 2022-23

*From the 2024/2025 academic year onwards, the Education Studies BA has been renamed the Education, Society and Culture BA.

It is pretty unusual to have the opportunity to work with researchers and experts in their field as a first-year undergraduate; therefore, the Laidlaw Scholarship programme is exceptional. What I have enjoyed so far is not only undertaking a research project (which I will talk about later) but also improving my leadership skills and personal development. Over the course of the scholarship, research projects are completed in the first summer over 6 weeks, and in the second, a Leadership-in-Action experience takes place in challenging environments.

Before I tell you about my experience as a first-year Laidlaw scholar, I want you to know that it’s okay if you are unsure whether you’re a fit for the programme because initially, I wasn’t even planning to apply. I only considered it because Gemma Gronland, who was my incredible tutor and Module lead for Education in an Age of Globalisation, encouraged me to check it out. I  looked at the research project titles, and when I saw the ASPIRES project and their passion for social justice, I was convinced to apply. And here is my first lesson, have an open mind. An open mind, for me, is the precursor to taking risks that could pay off in the end. After all, I had I not been open to Gemma’s suggestion; I would never have got the opportunity to work with the awesome ASPIRES team.

Now about my experience on the programme:

My research project was ‘Longitudinal case study analyses of young people following STEM trajectories.’ It focused on Professor Louise Archer’s award-winning longitudinal research study, ASPIRES. ASPIRES is a 13-year-long research study that highlights the factors influencing young people’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) trajectories. It has compiled data, including surveys and in-depth interviews, on the same cohort of young people since age 10. My project focused on the study’s third phase (ASPIRES3), exploring the STEM trajectories of young apprentices (aged 20-23). I investigated three research questions:

  • Who is doing an apprenticeship?
    What are the ethnic identities and gender identities of the apprentices?
  • Are there patterns in apprenticeship participation? Why?
  • Do the experiences of STEM and non-STEM apprentices differ?

My project centred on how inequalities (e.g. gender disparities) can hinder students’ science and career pathways. This was important because education equality has been a passion for me since I experienced inequalities during my science experience at state school.

I will summarise some of my findings below and tell you what I did to obtain them.

The ASPIRES team gave me access to relevant databases, which I used to conduct my analyses using IBM’s Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). I used SPSS and Excel spreadsheets to explore survey and interview responses related to my research aims. One of my supervisors, Emma Watson, was really helpful; she taught me how to code and carry out quantitative analyses using syntaxes on SPSS.

  • Gender
    I discovered that overall, women were significantly under-represented in apprenticeships compared to men across the overall and apprenticeship sample. And this was especially the case within STEM apprenticeships.
  • Ethnicity
    The data showed that racially minoritised young people were significantly under-represented compared to white youth across the overall and apprenticeship sample.​ And, within STEM apprenticeships, this relationship was most pronounced.
  • Apprenticeship access
    Over 40% of apprentices found their apprenticeships via advertisements rather than from school/college, suggesting that career services may not provide enough awareness on alternative routes to university.

These findings show that educational inequalities impact young people’s STEM aspirations and trajectories, and more must be done to tackle them. If you’d like to explore the rest of my research, click here for my poster and essay.

I want to leave you with two main takeaways from my experience:

  • Be adaptable
    Things will not always go to plan; as mentioned in my essay, unexpected changes will happen, but you can bounce back. Ask for help, and don’t be down on yourself.
  • Progress over perfectionism
    Being a Laidlaw scholar is a new experience, so enjoy the small wins and focus on improving your skills instead of being ‘perfect’! Take risks and believe in yourself.

Any questions? Check out the following:

I wish you all the best if you do apply in the future!


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