Jiayi Zhao was previously a student on the Institute of Education’s MA Education programme, where she conducted research for her dissertation, supervised by Dr. Karen Jones (Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Management) whose research concerns gender and women’s leadership. As part of that research, Jiayi explored the multiple roles, conflicting responsibilities and the personal and professional choices made by women in higher education leadership in China. With the support of her supervisor, Jiayi published the findings of the research in a Special Issue of the Journal Administrative Sciences: Perspectives on Women’s Higher Education Leadership from around the World, which is available as a printed edition book.

This experience of conducting research for her MA dissertation stimulated Jiayi’s interest in PhD study at the University of Reading. She noticed from her MA research that at mid-career stage many women in higher education in China appear to hit a so called ‘glass ceiling’, meaning they struggle to progress to senior positions of leadership. After reviewing existing literature, Jiayi realised very little research exists on this issue in China, and so it became the topic of her PhD, which is being supervised by Dr. Karen Jones and Professor Carol Fuller.

Jiayi has very recently passed Confirmation of Registration (COR), which is a formal assessment of a doctoral student’s research ability and the standard of their research. The passing of CoR, normally taken at the end of their first year as a PhD student, means the student can officially progress to registration as a PhD candidate and can embark on their data collection. Jiayi says she is grateful for the support she received that allowed her to undertake a PhD at the University of Reading. On her research, Jiayi explained that: “In China, although nowadays many women can enjoy a career in higher education, relatively few progress beyond mid-career level, into senior leadership or professorial roles, for example. The study of career planning is scarce both in terms of theoretical insight and in practice. My PhD research will explore factors affecting women’s careers in universities in China, specifically, the opportunities and barriers, both internal and external, present in women’s professional career paths, and if women seek to progress their career, what motivates them and what strategies they adopt. The research aims to provide theoretical and practical outcomes for researchers, policy makers, universities and women themselves, to support women’s career development in universities in China.”

Dr Karen Jones said: “I am delighted to have supported Jiayi on her educational journey at the Institute of Education. She came to me as an MA student, and was naturally quite nervous about doing research and writing an MA dissertation. Since then her research has been published and now she is travelling to China to undertake further research, this time for a PhD. I have seen her flourish academically and grow in confidence. This is one of the best rewards of being a supervisor.”