Cambridge welcomes record number of black students

The University of Cambridge has welcomed another record number of UK based black undergraduates this year.

This year, 137 have been admitted, a rise of just over 50% on the 2019/20 academic year. This represents 4.6% of the total number of UK undergraduates commencing their studies at the University and follows a similar increase, of almost 50%, last year. There are now more than 300 black British undergraduates at Cambridge.

Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Graham Virgo, said: “In just three years the number of UK based black undergraduates taking up their place at Cambridge has more than tripled. This is testament to their hard work and ambition. The Collegiate University, its students, and partners, have been working hard to reach out to potential applicants to encourage them to apply.

“We accept this is not just about ensuring that our intake reflects UK society. The University, and Colleges, need to work hard to ensure that once admitted, all students, no matter what their ethnic background, feel Cambridge is a welcoming place and one in which they can realise their potential and thrive. That is why we’re working with black students at Cambridge to ensure that their education is the best it can possibly be.”

The University has been working in collaboration with black students to identify innovative ways in which the awarding gap between black and white students can be closed (a gap that has been narrowing and which the University is committed to eliminate by 2024). A number of departments throughout the University are examining ways of diversifying the curriculum, and providing a wider choice of authors to study. And the University is providing race awareness and unconscious bias training to all staff.

The generosity of figures like the grime artist, Stormzy, in providing scholarships for black students at Cambridge each year, has contributed to breaking down barriers. The University has also strengthened its partnership with initiatives like Target Oxbridge, providing more places on its mentoring programmes. The University launched the ‘Get In’ social media campaign aimed at overturning perceptions about what Cambridge is like. In 2019, a series of short films, presented by YouTube influencer, Courtney Daniella, was published. This was followed, earlier this year, by films featuring British Pakistani and Bangladeshi students.

The University’s own students are also engaged in access work, with members of the African-Caribbean Society (ACS) volunteering as mentors for younger students. The Society’s president, Sharon Mehari, says the arrival of even more black students this year is a significant step forward:

“As a Society devoted to creating a welcoming and empowering space for all black students, it is an honour and a joy to see that Cambridge will be ushering in its largest intake. This speaks to the passion of the many individuals, organisations, and institutions who have worked to ensure that Cambridge is a place where black students have their academic ability, creativity, ingenuity and heritage valued. There is no doubt that this cohort of students will thrive and leave an impact on Cambridge in ways we have never seen. We, at the ACS, are so excited to celebrate every individual and welcome them into the family.”

Last month, the University announced that, for the first time, 70% of its UK undergraduate intake this year come from state schools, and more than a fifth come from what are officially described as the most deprived areas of the country.