The University of Oxford declared that of the 12,000 postgraduate students registered there, only 180 were black British students.
Since black British students only made up 1.5% of the cohort, the University of Oxford has been urged to set in motion the ‘Black academic futures’ programme, which will provide up to ten new scholarships for prospective UK graduates of black or mixed-black ethnicity taking their postgraduate courses.
These applicants include those wanting to study part-time for a doctorate or taking four-year compound masters and doctoral programmes.
Alongside the funding of their degrees, the university and a partnership of nine colleges aim to cover annual living expenses of up to £15,000.
The academic institution said the new 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 combating discrimination”.
The ‘Black academic futures scholarship’ programme is an important first step in addressing under-representation of black students in our postgraduate community
– Nick Brown
Since the launch of postgraduate loans in 2016, there has been a surge in the number of black UK resident postgraduate students. However, the percentage of black and minority ethnic postgraduates continues to be lower than the percentage of undergraduates.
An explanation for this is the 23% gap between the percentage of white and black students graduating with a first or upper second-class honours, which is required for postgraduate study.
Oxford’s director of graduate admissions, Nadia Pollini, said: “Widening participation through our access initiatives remains a top priority in our admissions work, and through these scholarships we hope to increase the number of applications from black British students and improve equality, diversity and inclusion in our graduate student body.”
The head of Linacre College, Nick Brown, claimed: “Earlier this year the heads of Oxford colleges publicly committed to the fair inclusion of black voices and perspectives in our university. The ‘Black academic futures scholarship’ programme is an important first step in addressing under-representation of black students in our postgraduate community.”
The university’s law faculty, as well as colleges such as Magdalen and New College, has also set forth a needs-based scholarship for UK black or minority ethnic postgraduate students pursuing a doctorate in law.
“In creating these funding opportunities, we are acknowledging that the student body across the university is not as diverse as it should be, and we are investing in the future of academia,” said Anne Davies, the dean of Oxford’s law faculty.