In recent years, the UK higher education sector has been mired in controversies related to the recruitment, retention and progression of students of colour. Studies have sparked much interest in the qualitative and material disparities between White students and students of colour. This highlights the need to more fully understand the nature of the experience of students of colour as it pertains to the university environment, the curriculum and pedagogy, since their voices are rarely ‘heard’ in educational research. Past studies point to disparities linked to progression onto postgraduate research degrees, and the reality that postgraduate researchers (PGRs) from these groups are the most likely to drop out. This paper is based on a qualitative study that examines the challenges faced by PGR students of colour in achieving a sense of belonging during their journeys on doctoral research programmes at universities in the UK. It explores the processes through which dynamic factors linked to institutional culture and academic practice intersect with race, ethnicity and culture to shape their experiences and how this impacts their sense of belonging. This research draws on critical race theory to centre the ways that racialized dynamics and issues of race, ethnicity and culture manifest in the experiences of PGR students of colour. It explores how processes of inclusion and belonging manifest in relation to their lived experiences. The findings point to an othering process that occurs when dominant, White, Eurocentric, gendered norms prevail and become embedded within institutional cultures, epistemologies, and academic practice.