Students featured in the viral ACS photos are graduates of the schemeCambridge University ACS

The University has announced its sponsorship of Target Oxbridge, a development programme which aims to increase the number of successful undergraduate applications to Oxford and Cambridge from black students, and those of black heritage.

Launched in 2012 by the specialist diversity recruitment firm Rare, Target Oxbridge connects high-achieving black students in their penultimate year of secondary education with a team of mentors. Over the course of a year, participants receive personalised advice on A-Level subject choices and the Oxbridge application process. They also correspond with BME Oxbridge graduates and attend residential visits and academic sessions at both universities.

46 Target Oxbridge participants have received offers to study at the two universities since the scheme’s launch, including 16 this year alone. At 36 per cent, the success rate for applicants from the Target Oxbridge programme is nearly double the national average of 20 per cent.

The University of Oxford announced its sponsorship of the scheme, whose patron is Cambridge alumna Zadie Smith, in March.  With the support of both universities now secured, Rare plans to double the number of successful applications achieved through the Target Oxbridge programme to 60 in 2018.

The University’s announcement comes after photos posted on Facebook earlier this month by the Cambridge University African Caribbean Society (ACS) received a viral response. Shared over 1,200 times, the photographs, which feature black male students of the University, aimed “to let young black people know that [studying at the University] is something that they can aspire to”.

However, a University spokesperson explained to Varsity that the move to sponsor Target Oxbridge was not a direct result of the ACS photographs and their subsequent reception. “We have been involved with Rare’s Target Oxbridge programme for over 5 years,” they noted, adding that the University “began discussions about supporting Target Oxbridge in 2016, and specifically invited Rare to submit a proposal on 3rd April 2017”.

“The new sponsorship,” they continued, “increases Cambridge’s contribution to the programme and will help it to work with more students in the future”.

Bez Adeosun, a first-year HSPS student and Target Oxbridge graduate who also featured in the ACS photographs, welcomed the announcement: “It’s good to see the University making a positive step towards solving its issue of representation and diversity,” he said, emphasising that the work done by Target Oxbridge “in no way advantages black students,” but instead “simply allows for greater parity in the general admissions process through mentoring and coaching”.

He continued, “Hopefully this new partnership will allow the programme to continue to help support many more black students with their Oxbridge applications, and hopefully lead to greater BME representation in the years to come”

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