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Dr Jan Etienne

Former Associate Lecturer, Social Policy and Education

Previously Research Associate, Birkbeck Institute of Lifelong Learning

PhD in Social Policy and Education (Birkbeck, University of London)

MSc in Policy Studies (University of Bristol)

Academic background

  • Dr Jan Etienne earned her PhD in the School for Social Sciences, History and Philosophy. Her research is in the area of black feminist epistemology, explores the involvement of black women in transforming traditional community spaces into thriving matriarchal learning hubs in an attempt to increase social capital in local communities.
  • She is a graduate of the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol. In 2005 she conducted the fieldwork research for an ESRC funded research project for Birkbeck's Institute of Lifelong Learning entitled: Learning Citizenship: Lifelong learning and the Women's Institute: In 2008, she was the recipient of the Michael Stephens award to support her research into lifelong learning and first generation African Caribbean Women.
  • Her book, Learning in Womanist Ways: Narratives of first generation African Caribbean women explores the nature of Caribbean ‘Womanist learning’, a black feminist perspective where women provoke, coerce and challenge each other as they find ways to rise above past and current oppression and participate in learning for the benefit of their communities.

Research interests

  • Prior to a career in teaching, Jan worked as: an area housing manager for Ujima Housing Association; a Women’s rights officer in the London Borough of Hackney; a Race Relations Adviser in the London Borough of Haringey; and as Head of the Housing Equalities Unit in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. She is a former Local Councillor and Chair of the Education Committee in the London Borough of Brent, and an Executive Governor of Ruskin College. She has an interest in Widening Participation in Higher Education and in particular applying ‘Womanism’ and womanist learning to acknowledge and tackle the under-representation of black women in British feminist research. She is interested in researching ‘Womanist learning’ as a black feminist perspective in education and learning, seeking to depict the ways in which older black women learn whilst at the same time locating their learning in the heart of their communities. In this way Womanist learning becomes synonymous with community activism as the women find ways to help build stronger, local communities and rise above past and current oppression.

Current research project

  • Jan is Chair of the ‘Black women, Womanist Learning and Higher Education’ research project which draws heavily on the concept of ‘Womanism’ which acknowledges the need to tackle the under-representation of black women in British feminist research. The project brings together academics, researchers, practitioners and activists, in the field of gender, ‘race’, education and community development.

Scholarly research activity

  • Research Associate: Learning and the Women’s Institute /Learning Citizenship Birkbeck's Institute of Lifelong Learning (2005-2007) Funded by the ESRC.
  • University of North London: Research Associate: HE Equalities and Diversity Recruitment. Funded by: The Institute for Policy Studies in Education (IPSE) (2004)


Research seminars

Professional memberships

  • British Sociological Association
  • Society for Research into Higher Education
  • Lifelong Learning Women's Network
  • Policy Studies Association
  • SCUTREA (Standing Conference on University Teaching and Research in the Education of Adults)

Honours and awards

  • Colours and Honours Birkbeck Students Union Award 2017
  • Michael Stephens Research Award for PhD research (2008)
  • Birkbeck Distinguished Sessional Lecturer Award 2007
  • British Educational Leadership, Management and Educational Research Society (BELMAS) Best Research Publication Award (2006)


Contact details:

Tel: 020 3073 8355

Mobile: +44 (0) 7956 510183


Twitter: @janetienne2