50% rise in number of black students starting at Cambridge amid Stormzy effect

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The number of black students starting at Cambridge University has risen by more than 50% on last year.

The prestigious institution said the generosity of UK grime artist Stormzy, who began providing scholarships for black students at Cambridge in 2018, has helped to break down barriers.

The award-winning artist is funding the tuition fees and living costs for two students each year.

Cambridge’s data shows that 137 UK-based black undergraduates have been admitted to a degree course this year, which is a rise of just over 50% on the 2019-20 academic year.

Stormzy (Isabel Infantes/PA)

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.”

Current 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 said: “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.”

The university is working in collaboration with black students to identify ways in which the awarding gap between black and white students can be closed and says it is committed to eliminating this gap by 2024.

Departments throughout the university are examining ways of diversifying the curriculum, and providing a wider choice of authors to study.

The university is providing race awareness and unconscious bias training to all staff.

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.

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