Project code



School of Accounting, Economics and Finance

Start dates

October, February and April

Application deadline

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project.

The PhD will be based in the School of Accounting, Economics and Finance and will be supervised by Dr Karen McBride and Dr Judith Fletcher-Brown.

The work on this project will:

  • Conduct a comprehensive and systematic literature review to identify literature around barriers to progression and careers in the accountancy profession.
  • Engage in a mixed-method approach, of quantitative and qualitative methods, to ascertain the diversity of partnerships in large accountancy firms and to identify potential interviewees. In depth interviews to explore challenges and opportunities for career progression within the firms.
  • Develop a framework to identify themes and assess interventions needed for practical approaches that assist diversity and equality of career progression.

The main aims of the project are to extend understanding of the barriers, challenges and opportunities for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) professionals in career progression, in large firms of accountants. 

This research project will investigate the experiences of BAME leaders in moving to partnership and other senior roles in large accountancy firms. Large companies are global, their senior leadership should be diverse and inclusive as should the leadership of their auditors and accounting advisors. 

The UK Corporate Governance Code (2018) recommends that companies should ‘promote’ and ‘value’ diversity, with annual evaluations of the Board and the annual reports of companies commenting on the diversity and inclusion policy. Recent reports have similar recommendations with targets such as ‘one by ‘21’ (Parker Review, 2017). This PhD research aims to investigate the situation in the leadership of large accountancy firms, and to ascertain the leadership challenges and opportunities within the profession.

The proposed research is policy relevant because diversity and inclusion are essential for leadership of large enterprises. Increasing globalisation, mobility and migration practices reveal limits and weaknesses in fundamental principles of equal rights and universal inclusion within organisations. Contemporary challenges encourage the revisiting of understandings and nonideal practices, to ensure diversity and equality. This project aligns to the UN’s SDG 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries.

With a mixed method approach the research will evaluate the representation and diversity of the partners of large accountancy firms and carry out in-depth interviews with ethnic minority partners and senior leaders of these businesses, these will be analysed to determine themes of lived experiences. There is a need to be mindful of the heterogeneity of the black, Asian and minority ethnic ‘descriptor’, with the complexities of intersectionality both in professional firms’ locations, and individuals’ nationality, religion, gender, and socio-economic group. These themes will be used to inform and determine recommendations for actions firms can take. Patterns and actions of progress observed will be included in the analysis and good practices identified. 

The project will contribute and have impact by investigating the barriers to diverse career progression, in identifying best practice for increasing the ethnic diversity of large professional practices and assessing whether that best practice is evident in assisting a progression of ethnically diverse talent to partnership. The research aims to determine a set of wider business community procedures or good practices to support the promotion of diversity in senior leadership roles.


Fees and funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only – eligibility criteria apply).

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry Requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in a related area. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Karen McBride ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Accounting PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field. 

When applying please quote project code:AE&F4991024