Stormzy met with Black Cambridge studentsStormzy

The number of Black UK undergraduate students starting at the University of Cambridge this term has risen, with a total of 91 Black students admitted, increasing the overall number of Black undergraduate students to more than 200. This is an all-time high.

As a result, for the first time in the university’s history, the proportion of Black students has risen above 3% (3.4%).

Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Professor Graham Virgo, said: “This record rise in the number of Black students is a credit to their hard work and ability: we have not lowered entry standards.”

Cambridge University has been extensively criticised for its low admission statistics for BME groups, particularly Black students. Last year at least 20 courses at the university accepted fewer than three Black students.

Natural Sciences is the largest subject at Cambridge and in 2018, of the 430 accepted UK students on the course only three were Black. This equates to less than 0.7% of cohort.

Varsity also reported last year that Cambridge accepted more Etonians than Black male students. A total of 61 Black students were admitted, 40 Black women and 21 Black men, whereas 22 Etonians were accepted.

A number of factors are thought to be behind the increase in Black students applying and being admitted. Professor Virgo praised the hard work by admissions staff across the University and Colleges who have run various outreach campaigns and activities.

One huge change has been the “Stormzy effect.” In August 2018, the award-winning British grime artist announced the Stormzy Scholarship, which funds both the tuition fees and living costs for two Black undergraduate students each year for the duration of their study at Cambridge.

Since then the University has seen an increase in the number of Black students enquiring about courses and attending outreach events. The same funding was also offered to Oxford university, but the Croydon rapper claims it was rejected.

Several student societies have also been actively involved in promoting the University to groups of young people who may not have thought of, or ever been encouraged, to apply to Cambridge.

Last year Cambridge launched the video campaign 'Get in Cambridge', a series of short films published in collaboration with the Cambridge African Caribbean Society (ACS), aimed specifically at year 12 students from underrepresented groups. Hosted by Cambridge graduate, business-owner and YouTuber Courtney Daniella, the series was intended to challenge misconceptions surrounding the Cambridge experience.  

Wanipa Ndhlovu, President of Cambridge ACS, welcomed the new admission figures, she said: “This is really good news and is a testament to the hard work that ACS, as well as the University, has been putting in to break down perceptions.

"It should send out a signal to other Black students that they can find their place at Cambridge and succeed. I hope this will be seen as encouraging to any Black student who may have been told Cambridge isn’t the place for them.”


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External programmes have also had a positive impact. Target Oxbridge, a free programme that aims to help Black African and Caribbean students and students of mixed race with Black African and Caribbean heritage increase their chances of getting into Oxbridge.

Through the programme, A-Level students are provided with advice and support and are given regular contact with a Black or minority ethnic Oxbridge graduates to pinpoint their strengths and discuss their aspirations through one-on-one mentoring.

In September Cambridge announced that more than 68% of its students came from a state school background. The University also participated in UCAS’ Adjustment scheme for the first time this year, with a total of 67 students from widening participation backgrounds offered places.

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