Interviewing Ibrahim Mohammed, better known as Ibz Mo, feels like speaking to an older brother. He’s got all the good uni advice, the ‘I’ve been through it’ stories, and the relatable comments on college organization. You would almost forget you’re speaking to a 100+K YouTuber; to the Hackney-born education influencer that seeks to ‘get people from my background to break educational barriers’. We spoke about the best places in Cambridge, access strategies, and his encounter with a stalker.

Ibz, you’re currently doing a master’s in education at Oxford. Are you in Oxford at the moment?

Yeah. Because I moved out when I was eighteen, I’ve been living wherever my University is since then. It’s not too bad. My college is open-ish.

How would you present yourself?

I would say I’m an educational influencer. I try to inspire people to break educational barriers, especially students from disadvantaged backgrounds similar to mine.

You work a lot around access. How can the impact of the pandemic on access be minimized?

The pandemic brought to light a lot of the barriers young people face. It showed having access to a productive environment really is important. Even the small things... Access to a desk, a silent environment. While it was good the pandemic highlighted those issues, the government did not seem to care. The algorithm was absolutely disgusting. Disadvantaged students have been hindered the most by the pandemic. The first six to seven months saw a whole, very negative shift on matters of access and education inequality. And now, with these new lockdowns, it’s also been quite bad. Students’ mental health has been all over the place. The government has not planned anything. Right now, they’re still consulting… And they had ten months to consult, to prepare for online learning.

What advice would you give to a student demotivated by months of online learning?

This is a sticky one, because what advice can you give to someone that can’t work from home? I think the rule of 8 is good advice, though. 8 hours of study, 8 of sleep, and 8 to destress. Also, don’t listen to what I call ‘the productivity police’. It really isn’t the time to be the most productive. Breathe, relax, take things one day at a time.

How did you find the lockdowns?

During the first one, I lived alone in a one-room studio. It was horrible. I was alone for five months. This second one is going better. I’m absolutely okay with having things online, because I’m lazy.

How is your master’s in education going?

My work focuses on Oxbridge students that come from free school meal backgrounds. Oxbridge likes to create a narrative around ‘we’re doing good with access because we have x number of students from state schools’. But state school is almost a social construct. Poor people go to private school, rich kids go to state schools… We have very unreliable measurements of what it means to be disadvantaged. I hope my research will be one of the first to look at the free school meal experience. Cambridge has 4% of free school meal students, Oxford just 3%. So that just shows… what the hell is going on?

How can Oxbridge improve the experience of disadvantaged students?

Bursaries are so key. They need to be centralised and increased. Also, a lot of the events in Cambridge cost money. Wavering those events is also so key. Then, mentorship. You want to see someone from your background. And not just a college parent with whom some people just end up having sex [laughs].

So why do you want to go into law, and not access?

Oh, because it can get so depressing! And it’s still very white-dominated.

Does it get tiring, to always talk about access?

It’s empowering. At the same time, there is a psychological toll. Because for Cambridge, access is a statistic. For you, it’s your life.

What about YouTube?

One of the best experiences! Now, because I’ve achieved my initial goal (that was to get only one person into Cambridge and not X amount of subscribers), I’m a bit bored.

Did you see YouTube change over the years?

God, yes. When I started it, there was no studytube. And there was no money in YouTube. Now I think a lot of people are doing it just for the money. Some YouTubers are literally lying about how much work they do just to get the clicks. You know, like 24h studying. When I started YouTube, I was blacklisted from a lot of companies and brand sponsorship because I spoke about diversity, about the Muslim community… And now we’re seeing a lot of tokenism. Brands that blacklisted me a few years ago making token diversity statements, because of the BLM movement.

We’re moving to a more digital society. Do you see any potential dangers to that shift?

Well… don’t reveal too much online. In my first year, I had a stalker. They came to Wolfson, found my friend, and asked her where I was. She thought they were my relative, and told them. I told college and they were great about it. I also had a death threat I had to report to the police. It is scary, but like you said, we are going into a more digital society, so you just have to prepare yourself to it.

Would you say University is always worth it?

What I would say to disadvantaged students is: when you see people online that criticize university, they are often not from our background. Personally, education saved my life.

How did you find the social life in Cambridge?

In six weeks, I had fallen in love with everyone. I took advantage of everything. The only thing I didn’t do was rowing. But I don’t care [laughs].


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I agree… Too many early mornings…

Yes… My favourite year was final year. Because my relationship – that was outside Cambridge – ended. So Cambridge was not my problem, but my solution. And that made me fall in love with everyone and everything. 100% best three years of my life.

Favourite place in Cambridge?

Sidgwick. And Mill Road. Regent street. Oxford is so ugly. There is no grass. Cambridge is a hundred times better…

A last thought?

Well… Take advantage of being with the best minds, get them spiralling… And focus on having fun, even in a pandemic. I’m assuming you still have a bubble, those friends you can get closer with. Because when is the next time that you’re going to have relations like these? And when everything resumes, you are going to appreciate it so much.