My name is Liam Miles, and I am twenty-two years old. I came to Birmingham City University (BCU) in September 2017 to study an undergraduate degree in Criminology. In-between my second and third year, I took a sabbatical year out of my studies to work in the Student’s Union as Company Director and Vice President Academic experience. This role enabled me to understand the internal dynamics and structures contained within Higher education institutions which ranged from the student facing side to representing students in the Vice Chancellors Office.
Following the end of my sabbatical year in the Students Union, I studied in my final year of Criminology. Throughout my degree course and indeed sabbatical, I became fascinated by and driven to understand more about two key areas. First, was student’s safety on campus. I wanted to understand the scale of violent and sexual crime occurring on university campuses. However, I realised halfway through my sabbatical year that the approach I was adopting to understand the drives of violent and sexual crime was being examined through an ontologically flawed lens. This led me onto my second key interest which was deviant leisure. The marrying together of Ultra realist and Cultural Criminology, subsumed within a social harm approach. I wanted to learn more about social harm and its detachment from orthodox criminology.
I therefore chose to base my dissertation research on examining how the deviant leisure perspective can explain drives of violence that occurs within and beyond university campuses in Birmingham. The focus of my research was based around young people both within the communities of Birmingham and BCU. In December 2020, I was made aware of a PhD opportunity that was available to apply for. This PhD is fully funded by the Birmingham 2029 Project led by BCU Social Sciences and examines how young people respond to activism and politics within their local communities in the context of significant urban change. I quickly realised that this PhD opportunity was something I had to go for. I am happy to reveal that after an application process and interview, I was successful and was offered to start the PhD in September 2021.
Although subject to change, the current aims and objectives of my research are as follows: To undertake a youth led participatory action research project, (YPAR) in which young people themselves are taking part in activism projects that have been determined and steered by them.
There are four key objectives to the research:
First, to engage with young people and gatekeepers from one area of Birmingham in order to facilitate youth- engaged activism projects.
Second, is to carry out two short activism projects with groups of young people leading and steering the process.
Third, is to focus upon both the process and findings of the project, for the purpose of writing a doctoral thesis from the data.
Fourth, is to disseminate the findings widely and have an impact upon YPAR and the academic field of youth participatory research groups.
As has been illustrated, there are several themes and avenues in which this research can pursue. However, it is highly likely that issues brought to the surface by young people in their communities will contain a series of social harms that could be approached through a criminological and social harm lens.
As a twenty-two-year-old finishing an undergraduate degree and entering a PhD, I am very excited, however there is still so much for me to learn both about the world of academia and the research content itself. I therefore strongly believe that to enable my personal; academic growth and learning, I need to surround myself with academics, criminologists, sociologists, psychologists, and anybody who studies society and its workings. To enable this, I have signed up to be a member of the BSC Post Graduate network. It is hoped that this will enable me to network and get involved in academic conferences and debates. My other goal is to begin a vlog series capturing my day-to-day experiences of a PhD from start to finish. It is hoped that this vlog will inform and help others who are beginning their PhD journey in the near future. I am keen to learn from others and in time contribute to the field of youth led participatory action research. I look forward to meeting everybody in due course.