Despite a rhetoric of increased diversity and inclusion in HE contexts, there is a paucity of sources discussing the lived experiences of academics identifying as being of working-class heritage (WCH) in Russell Group institutions. This study, by LSRI colleague Charlie Davis, used storytelling methods of inquiry to increase the possibilities of expression when representing what it is to be and become an academic of WCH. The work challenged the canonicity of a narrow range of stereotypes representing academics of WCH as a seemingly homogenous group. These characterisations include the plucky hero overcoming adversity or the historically victimic individual lacking agency. Through sharing, interrogating and (re)interpreting events from their life histories, eight participants form different institutions created a space where their lived experiences became sites of critique and analysis.

Images of working class academics

Using composite storytelling approaches, the participants worked with an illustrator to produce three interactive comics representing biographical roots, and routes into academia; career transitions into, and through higher education and developing epistemic confidence to speak up and be heard as an academic of WCH. The interactive layers included audio monologues and dialogues created using verbatim dialogue and themes from the narrative data produced throughout the study. Other content includes synopses of key texts exploring themes of class and links to academic sources. Overall, this work contributes to pedagogic discussions identifying innovative methodologies which challenge the epistemic injustice of denying people from working-class backgrounds with access to quality HE experiences.

Link to project website –