Today senior figures within the University released an open letter in response to ongoing criticism in the media around the diversity of students admitted.
I was asked to sign the open letter but respectfully declined.
The University has no clear plan to increase the number of British BME students, nor how it hopes to engage a wide range of stakeholders to support them in their efforts, so how can I defend its current work? On what metrics do I do this, save for the number of British BME students?
Bad PR should not be the driving force behind University commitments to widening participation, yet this too often feels the case. This is no more evident than in the case of Abdullah Kattineh who was offered a full scholarship to study at Cambridge only in response to an open letter which received over 400 signatures. The bottom-line to this issue is the number of British BME applicants. It is essential for those at the top to take responsibility for actively targeting BME students to ensure an inclusive student body educated to face the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.
In my opinion and experience this is not a role to be outsourced to external organisations alone. I support an approach that is led from within the university grounded in its mission and values and underpinned by the work of BME students reaching out to schools, teachers and parents.
Over the weekend, I wrote a paper based on observations from three years of experience of outreach work and enriched by best practice from my recent Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship in the USA. The paper offers a series of recommendations for how the university can begin to truly improve its BME outreach efforts. I will be discussing this with the Head of the Admissions Office next week and look forward to a positive discussion and a clear path forward.
CUSU Access & Funding Officer, 2017/18