Oxford University and its colleges today announced a major new scholarship scheme for Black graduate students as part of a programme to transform its graduate population by creating more funding opportunities for under-represented groups.
The Black Academic Futures programme will provide up to 10 new scholarships to Black UK research students starting studies next year.
Further graduate funding opportunities for under-represented groups have been launched by the University and colleges, with targeted scholarships for students in the Humanities and the Faculty of Law, and with other measures being taken to widen participation in programmes within the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division, as well as Medical Sciences.
Black UK graduate students are particularly under-represented at Oxford (around 1.5% of all postgraduate students compared with 4% across the UK sector). The Black Academic Futures scholarship programme aims to transform this position by rapidly increasing both applications from and funded places for well-qualified UK Black graduate students, reinforcing the University’s commitment to addressing race equality, and combatting discrimination. The new programme builds on the University’s commitment to increasing the number of promising postgraduate students from under-represented groups at Oxford. This includes the UNIQ+ access programme which provides research internships for prospective students from disadvantaged backgrounds, who may find progressing to postgraduate study challenging for reasons other than their academic ability.
Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at Oxford University, said: ‘The University has made important steps in recognising and addressing the issue of graduate access and specifically the under-representation of Black students in academia in recent years, with a broad range of divisional, departmental and college initiatives, including scholarships. I am thrilled to announce The Black Academic Futures programme - the next step towards our vision of ensuring over time that finance is not a barrier to educational opportunity or pursuing graduate study at Oxford, and living up to our commitment to embody true inclusion.’
Increased graduate funding opportunities not only address the sector-wide call to address under-representation in academia, but they have a transformative impact on those who receive them.
Tina Mendelsohn, a doctoral student studying History, said: ‘Scholarships like the one I hold, have the capacity to increase the diversity – socioeconomic, cultural, ethnic, gender, age and therefore occupational or professional experience – that students bring to the intellectual and social life of the University.'
Nikita Ma, President of the Oxford University Student’s Union, said: 'Access and diversity has always been one of the key themes of the Student Union's lobbying work. It is very encouraging to see the University taking steps to widen access, and we are pleased to welcome this initiative to increase Black representation at the Graduate level.'
Dr Rebecca Surender, University Advocate for Equality and Diversity, said: ‘Black Academic Futures’ is a bold and exciting new programme that in a practical way demonstrates Oxford’s unequivocal commitment to tackling structural racism and inequality, both within our own organisation and the sector more broadly. It reflects sustained effort across the collegiate university and will help to ensure Oxford attracts the very best students irrespective of background.’