Student profile
Francesca Trevisan, PhD Psychology

Francesca Trevisan

"My project looks at inequality in higher education, specifically how students interpret university rankings and how these can favour the support of a hierarchical society."

Entry year
2018
Research project

Inequality in higher education: how university league tables influence intergroup relations

Why I chose Surrey

I first came to Surrey on an international exchange as part of my psychology masters degree, investigating social, decisional and motivational processes. While I was here, I worked on my dissertation, researching stereotypes and cognitive biases. I got the opportunity to collaborate with other departments and I really enjoyed this approach to research.

I’ve always been fascinated by social psychology, and trying to understand how we think and behave as part of groups, taking into consideration the context and the historical moments we live in. After my masters, completing a Psychology PhD in this area felt like the next step and applying to Surrey came almost naturally!

My research project

My project, funded by the University, looks at inequality in higher education, specifically how students interpret university rankings, how league tables influence intergroup relations, and how they can favour the support of a hierarchical and unequal organisation of society. This is intertwined with the ideologies we use to legitimise and explain unequal power relationships, like meritocracy, which is the holding of power by people selected by merit. I’m also interested about practices that we consider are ‘normal’, how we build that normality and what that normality this is for.

My main goal is to understand how we use league tables, why we use them and what the consequences on intergroup relationships and social structures are. The results of my research will help to design a more equal system that takes into consideration all these factors.

My principal supervisor, Dr Patrice Rusconi, and the rest of the research team have been very supportive and inspiring all the way throughout my PhD. We meet regularly, discuss where we’re at and brainstorm future directions. They suggest new articles to read and keep me updated on conferences and workshops they think I’d enjoy. Supervisors make a huge difference in your PhD journey and I’ve been lucky with mine!

Studying for a PhD is a unique and defining experience that’s incredibly creative. You combine previous ideas with your own, creating something brand new. I’ve had so many great experiences doing this so far and one of my most memorable has been my latest experiment. Watch this space!

"My main goal is to understand how we use league tables, why we use them and what the consequences on intergroup relationships and social structures are."

My life at Surrey

When I’m not running experiments in the psychology facilities, you can usually find me borrowing books from the Library or sat at my laptop, typing away.

Outside of work, I love using the facilities at Surrey Sports Park – the climbing wall and yoga classes are amazing! Or I go for a hike around the Surrey Hills, discovering new villages along the way. Guildford also has a great music scene with local students doing gigs in some of the pubs.

My career and development

Completing a PhD isn’t just about developing a project, it’s also about developing yourself.

There are lots of opportunities to network both within and outside the University. You meet new people all the time, especially at conferences and workshops. Networking can feel artificial so when you do meet people, keep it natural and don't force it too much!

My supervisors have given me lots of great suggestions and I’ve been in touch with the Doctoral College for careers guidance. Beyond that, I’ve completed some of the courses on offer through the Researcher Development Programme and helped teach undergraduate students, both of which have helped me build on my existing skills and have been good fun!

Once I’ve finished my PhD, I’m planning on applying for a post-doctoral role, but I’m also developing some ideas for my own business... I'll come back and let you know in a few years!

My advice

Do what makes you happy and grab all the opportunities the University gives you – if you can study abroad, do it now! Most importantly, make the most out of this wonderful journey!

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