Laura Bentley

Dr Laura Bentley wins ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship with 'Still Jenny from the block? Working-class women, higher education & social mobility in the COVID-19 context.'

"A university education is generally viewed as a route through which social and economic standing is enhanced. It is considered a catalyst for upward social mobility," says Dr Bentley. "However, my PhD showed that not all graduates are afforded this ‘opportunity’." She found that graduating from university is a catalyst through which social inequalities are reproduced. It is working-class women who encounter multiple disadvantages in Higher Education and the labour market. How COVID-19 has, and continues, to affect this process and the rates of social mobility for working-class women is currently unknown.

Dr Bentley applied for the ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship to secure funding to explore this matter, and to write the monograph titled: ‘Working-Class Women, Higher Education and Graduate Life,' which will be published by Bristol University Press. "As a woman from a working-class background who has done research on various social inequalities over the previous seven years, I am excited to begin working on the Fellowship from October 2021."

"I designed the programme with the aim to carve out time to interview 16 working-class women graduates about their experiences of social mobility and early graduate life, and their trajectories within the labour market during the COVID-19 pandemic," she says. "After data collection and analysis, I'll take these findings to national and international conferences. I'll share this analysis and make connections with academics elsewhere around the globe who work in Sociology, Social Policy and Education."

"It is imperative that we uncover how COVID-19 has impacted the education and mobility of a ‘lost generation’ of young people, both in the UK and internationally, in order to enact policies and develop good practice that responds to this crisis," says Dr Bentley. She plans to use this project to offer a response to this, as well as a stepping stone to secure future funding for a larger project on this issue. In the years to come, she looks forward to contributing to academic and policy debates surrounding social mobility and social inequalities faced by working-class people which are expected to arise as an impact of COVID-19.

Dr Laura Bentley is a Research Fellow in the Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology. Laura joined the department in October 2019 shortly after submitting her PhD titled: ‘Jackie Goes Home. Young Working-Class Women: Higher Education, Employment and Social (Re)Alignment’. She was recently awarded an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship which will commence in October 2021. For further information about the project please feel free to email Dr Bentley at or find her on Twitter: @LauraBentleyPhD.