Cambridge University sees marked increase in black students

University attributes the incredible rise to the "Stormzy Effect", but there is still a long way to go.

For the first time, black students made up over 3% of Cambridge University’s new undergraduates in 2019.

This follows Grime artist Stormzy’s announcement that he will fund the tuition fees and living costs of two students each year.

This year, 91 black students were admitted to the university, up about 50% from the 61 who started courses in autumn 2018, raising the record number. The university added that the new figures were reflective of wider UK society.

UCAS figures reveal that, as of 12 September, 33,730 UK black students had been accepted onto degree courses at British universities and colleges, meaning black students made up 7.9% of acceptances across the country in total. Cambridge’s figures demonstrated that 26.8% of its undergraduate students this year were from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

However, while this is uplifting news, society still has a long way to go: 59% of the BAME workforce aspire to be on the Board, but only 2% make it, according to research conducted by the Equality Group.

Equality research

The study highlights that while improvements are being made to promote BAME equality at university and beyond, people of ethnic minorities are still faced with additional challenges when securing a board-level job. 

Key Research Implications:

  • Over 3 million BAME Brits (59%) aspired to secure a role at senior management, director and/or board-level upon leaving school
  • Half of BAME respondents noted that there are no prominent role models of their ethnic profile in positions they aspire/ have aspired to reach professionally
  • Over half (55%) –  almost 3 million – BAME citizens declared that they were advised to be more realistic in regards of their career goals by those who influenced their career, compared to only 19% of non-BAME citizens
  • 46% –  2.5 million – BAME citizens stated they would feel supported if there were more BAME representation at board/director level, as it would be more likely to aid their career progression in a fairer manner

Lack of BAME representation

Half of the respondents noted that they had no professional role models of their ethnic profile within the UK’s professional landscape – unsurprising given that the FTSE recently noted that there are less than 100 ethnic minority directors across all upper-echelon professionals in the UK’s largest 100 companies. This suggests that the relative absence of professional role models for the BAME community is a key contributor to the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities in managerial positions across the UK workforce. 

Hephzi Pemberton, Founder of Equality Group, said: “Our research indicates that young BAME students have significant levels of professional aspiration, supported by an educational infrastructure, that should, in theory, enable them to excel within their chosen professional careers. This is however far from the reality when assessing the UK’s BAME representation at senior management, board and director level.

“It is a shocking reality that in 2019, the workplace does not nurture or support BAME talent in a manner that reflects the undeniable aspirations prominent in this community. As a society of business leaders, decision-makers, professionals and commentators, we have an obligation to ensure that intention is met with action to ensure the UK’s workforce – in its entirety – has access to a democratised career ladder that promotes inclusion for all at every level.”
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