The “Stormzy effect” has helped inspire record numbers of black British students to study at the University of Cambridge, following the musician’s high-profile backing of scholarships for black students at the institution.
Cambridge said 91 black British students had been admitted as first-year undergraduates at the start of the academic year, an increase of nearly 50% compared with last year’s 61 students. It takes the total number of black undergraduates studying at Cambridge above 200 for the first time.
Last year Stormzy, a grime music star and the first black British solo artist to headline at Glastonbury, announced that he was setting up two scholarships to support black British students at the university, and followed up with an announcement in August that he would fund the tuition fees and living expenses of a further two students.
Cambridge said that after Stormzy made his offer in 2018, the university “has seen an increase in the number of black students engage in its outreach activities and enquire about its courses”, leading to increasing numbers of applications.
Courtney Daniella, a Cambridge graduate and YouTube influencer, was also credited with helping encourage more applications, after she appeared in videos designed to challenge misconceptions around studying at the university.
Cambridge announced a new record in the numberof black, Asian and minority ethnic students admitted this year, with the group now making up nearly 27% of admissions.
“The university has worked hard to get the message out that it is a welcoming place for students regardless of their ethnicity. This record rise in the number of black students is a credit to their hard work and ability: we have not lowered entry standards,” said Graham Virgo, the senior pro-vice-chancellor for education.
“It is also a credit to the hard work put in by admissions staff across the university and colleges in running various outreach activities, and the positive campaigns run by our student societies and external partners.”
The university said student societies had also been actively involved in access work, promoting the university to groups of young people who might not have thought of applying to Cambridge, or ever have been encouraged to apply.
Wanipa Ndhlovu, the president of the university’s African-Caribbean Society, said: “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.”
David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, has been a frequent critic of the failure of Oxbridge colleges to admit students from diverse backgrounds.
“It is a shame it has taken so long but it’s obviously very good news that the number of black students getting into Cambridge has seen such progress this year,” he said. “There is still much more work to do to sustain this, especially given the reality that under-21s are considerably more ethnically diverse than the general population. Radical reforms are still required if Britain’s top universities are to get the best talent, regardless of background, school, geographical location and class.”
Last month Cambridge announced that pupils from state schools had gained more undergraduate places than in any year previously, taking up 68% of places on courses in the 2019-20 academic year.
It has also increased its admissions from the UK’s most educationally deprived areas, with pupils from these areas making up 14% of this year’s cohort, compared with 12% last year.
Last year nearly 12,000 UK-based students applied for undergraduate places at Cambridge, of which 3,378 were given offers and 2,574 accepted. Almost all of those who accepted had gained at least an A* and two As in their best three A-levels.
Stormzy, whose real name is Michael Omari, grew up in Croydon in south London and attended a state school. On Wednesday he was named by Time magazine as one of its “next generation leaders” for 2019, alongside Greta Thunberg.
“The thought of being a ‘role model’ or ‘leader’ or whatever it is feels way way way too heavy and too overwhelming,” Stormzy told the magazine’s interviewer, the author Reni Eddo-Lodge.
“I am deeply flawed and still learning how to be a man and still figuring out how to grow into the person I need to be but within all of that confusion and all the juggling of being a human and trying to be a superhuman, I have purpose. And my purpose has led me here.”