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The Black Students’ Support Fund

A young black man walks along the covered walkway in Cowan Court. There are birch trees in the centre of the court behind him.

There currently exists an under-representation of Black British students at both the University of Cambridge as a whole and Churchill as a College.

In the last three years (2020-2022), Home students declaring their ethnicity as Black or Black British – Caribbean, Black or Black British – African, or Other Black background, made up just 3.1% of total Home acceptances to Churchill, according to the University’s application statistics. Widening participation work in this area is being carried out at University and College levels, but more needs to be done. You can read more about the College’s Widening Participation work here.

In 2020, the University carried out detailed statistical analyses of Cambridge student characteristics and attainment outcomes as part of a wider programme to gain a better understanding of the potential causes for previously identified gaps in attainment between students who are awarded a 1st and those who are awarded 2.I degree class. The University identified the awarding gap for Black British undergraduates as one of the two most concerning awarding gaps.

This September, the largest survey to date of the opinions and attitudes of Black Britons, Black British Voices: the findings (cam.ac.uk), detailed that 41% of 10,000 respondents ‘definitely’ believe discrimination to be the main barrier to academic attainment for young Black people.

Providing sufficient support to Black British students is key to reducing this awarding gap: support in all forms, pastoral and financial, to ensure that once they have arrived in Cambridge, they are supported to go on to reach their full potential.

In October 2020, the University reported that over 300 undergraduates were Black Britons and celebrated that the number of Black British undergraduates taking up their place at Cambridge had more than tripled in three years. Widening Participation initiatives, both at Churchill and at the University, are positively impacting applications but the under-representation of Black British students at the University of Cambridge and Churchill College is still an issue that is being addressed in 2023.

Working harder to address this historic under-representation is an urgent priority. Increasing the diversity of student intake will help ensure the contribution of insights from the widest range of backgrounds, heritages and standpoints. In order to optimise applications to Churchill from this under-represented group of students, the College needs to raise enough funds to set up an endowed fund of at least £100,000. This endowed fund will support UK students of Black African and African-Caribbean heritage by providing means-tested bursaries for undergraduates, as part of the Cambridge Bursary scheme, or an MPhil Studentship. Support may be awarded to both categories (ie. an undergraduate bursary and an MPhil Studentship) dependent on the level of income generated by the fund.

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We want to make sure that Black British students at Churchill College are able to thrive during their time here.

The University’s Black Advisory Hub is in its fourth year of running an annual First Year Induction Programme for new Black students arriving at Cambridge, incorporating an online introductory session before arrival and an in-person meetup opportunity early in Michaelmas.

Cambridge University African Caribbean Society was named Society of the Year 2023 and champions the voices of African and Caribbean descent at the University of Cambridge as it supports current and prospective students. As well as pastoral initiatives like these, providing Black students from the poorest families with the reassurance of financial assistance will be significant for reducing the awarding gap.

Once we reach the endowment target of £100,000, the College will be able to award a means-tested, Cambridge Bursary of up to £3,500* every year in perpetuity to provide life-changing financial support to UK students of Black African and African-Caribbean heritage. (*The maximum £3,500 Cambridge Bursary is awarded to support UK students whose family income is below £25,000. The enhanced Cambridge Bursary scheme is funded by the College and the University in a 3:2 ratio.)

Further information

  • The Bursary or studentship will be open to all UK students of black African and African-Caribbean heritage at Churchill College
  • Undergraduate bursaries will be funded for up to four years, depending on the length of the course
  • The MPhil studentship will be awarded on the basis of academic merit to students who otherwise would struggle to fund a Master’s degree and will normally be provided for one year
  • Award-holders will be invited to meet major supporters of this fund in the College at a social event, normally in the Lent term, on an annual or two-yearly basis.

“This Fund will enable us to support Black British students who have the talent but fear the financial burden. We want these students to come to Churchill College and thrive. We hope that having dedicated bursaries will, not only facilitate the entry of a greater number of black students to the College, but also demonstrate to the entire community our commitment to disadvantaged students, particularly those from under-represented groups.”

Professor Dame Athene Donald DBE, FRS, Master of Churchill College

Support for the Fund

Imani Jeffers

U15 - MML

It is so wonderful to hear about the launch of Churchill’s new means-tested Black Students’ Support Fund. I have always been proud and grateful to have been a Churchillian, as the College doesn’t just show its heart for inclusion in its words, but also does so in its actions, and this bursary is a perfect example of this. For me, the fund speaks to the College’s dedication to encouraging black and ethnic minority students to apply to study at a university where they may currently be under-represented but where the diversity of thought their diversity of background brings is so needed, and to spend their Cambridge years at a College where they will be most warmly welcomed.

Osarenkhoe Ogbeide

(G18 – PhD student)

I am delighted to hear about Churchill College’s decision to start a Black British Student Support Fund. The bursaries that will stem from this fund serve two significant purposes. The first being financial support for Black British students who may find academic life difficult without it; the second and arguably more important purpose, is advertising and promotion of opportunities available at Cambridge for Black British students. Knowledge that a bursary for Black British students exists alone will inspire prospective students and encourage them to apply to Cambridge as it reflects that the university welcomes them. As one of the newer colleges and in line with the College’s commitment to tackling racism, I believe Churchill College is the perfect place to setup this kind of fund.