A University spokesperson said that the fund was part of a "wider strategy" to promote equality across the UniversityLOUIS ASHWORTH

The University of Cambridge will provide grants of up to £1500 to “support initiatives across the University that contribute to raising awareness of issues related to equality and diversity, challenge discrimination and inequalities, increase the representation of under-represented groups, and facilitate implementation of good practice”, through a new University Diversity Fund (UDF).

A University spokesperson told Varsity that staff and student surveys, as well as focus groups, “indicated there was a need for devolved projects to be supported in order to accelerate progress and embed equality across the University”. The initiative is part of the University’s commitment to “being inclusive, and open to diversity in all its forms – diversity of interests and beliefs, of gender, of religion, of sexual identity, of ethnicity, of physical ability”.

A spokesperson for the CUSU BME Campaign described the UDF to Varsity as “a step in the right direction”. They stated that “the availability of this fund potentially signals that we are able to, in a manner of speaking, re-appropriate our own struggles and centre ourselves”, as the “people who best know what it is we need as BME communities to advance collectively”.

But they also warned that “many of the problems faced by minorities cannot be solved by money” as they are “institutionalised and systematic”, citing “the attainment gap, the stigmatisation of Muslim students under the Prevent strategy, and micro-aggressions” as examples of what “simply cannot be eradicated by the UDF.”

They added: “The amount available also indicates a fundamental lack of awareness of how pervasive these inequality issues that we face are. Most notably this is pertinent when we consider the attainment gap; the reasons behind this attainment gap are complex and varying, and a lump sum will not suddenly eradicate this difficulty. This is also catalysed by mental health struggles within the BME community, which are equally under-funded and often ignored”.

The University spokesperson told Varsity that the fund constitutes part of “a wider strategy” that is “already under way”, which includes “developing an inclusive leadership programme, piloting a reverse mentoring scheme, race awareness training, and rolling out implicit bias training”. They added that “the University aims to be a leader in promoting respect and a sense of belonging for all”.


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Citing the “continued platform” given to Dr. Noah Carl and “the announcement of Jordan Peterson’s fellowship,” the spokesperson for the BME Campaign, however, stated that “funding to support equality and diversity means nothing and is simply a tokenistic gesture if people are continually given a platform to pedal rhetoric threatening to our existence under the guise of ‘free debated’”.

They added that the fund “on its own implicitly transfers responsibility to BME students, staff, and groups to figure out how to make the university more inclusive for themselves, from the outside”, arguing that it “does not support the University’s first ‘Priority of Action’”, placing the “onus on individuals to bring about change”. While the short time interval between the announcement of the UDF and the deadline for applications means they “barely have enough time to collect our [their] ideas and thoughts”.

“While it is heartening to see these changes being made, we are constantly forced to question just how transformative these changes will be considering the fact that much of this appears to be entirely superficial when general attitudes remain the same”, they continued.

But they added that they “hold out hope” that the UDF will be “a catalyst for real change, and will place the ability to make positive changes into the hands of the communities which will most benefit from it”.