When Stormzy announced yesterday that he’d offer a scholarship to two black students to go to Cambridge University, some responses were less than positive.
The Stormzy Scholarship will provide tuition fees and a maintenance grant for up to four years of study for two undergraduates this year, and two in 2019.
"It's so important for black students, especially, to be aware that it can 100% be an option to attend a university of this calibre,” he said.
Earlier this year, Oxford and Cambridge universities were criticised for not admitting enough students from black and ethnic minority backgrounds (BAME).
At Oxford, the proportion of students admitted last year who identified as black and minority ethnic was 18% last year, up from 14% in 2013.
In 2017, there were over 12,500 applications to Oxford from UK students, but only 396 were black.
Cambridge said it admitted 58 black students last year.
Oxford ran scheme for white working class boys
It didn’t take long for some people on social media to call Stormzy’s scheme “racist” and ask where the same schemes were for white people.
In fact, Oxford University did run a scheme for working class white boys last year.
In partnership with the Sutton Trust, they ran a summer school aimed at white working class British boys, after research by the Trust found that only 24% of that demographic achieved at least five C grades at GCSE.
Discouraged from working while at Oxbridge
Another Twitter user pointed out that the scholarships were important for another reason: an Oxbridge education is often out of reach for people on a low income, because you’re discouraged from getting a job while studying there.
The replies showed many people weren't aware of this.
ONS data on earnings and ethnicity found that, in 2017, black households were most likely to have a gross weekly income of less than £400, or around £20,000 per year, putting them below the UK average of £27,300.
The Oxford University website reads: “We would strongly advise against you [undergraduate students] relying on income from employment to fund your studies as this may have an adverse effect on your ability to complete your course to your full potential.”
For graduate (Masters and above) students, some paid work is allowed although there may be limits on how much you can do, depending on course.
Cambridge University’s site advises students to allow “approximately £9,160 in 2018-19 for living costs in Cambridge for the year”, excluding tuition fees.
Cambridge provides a bursary of up to £3,500 to eligible students.
“The University takes the view that our students should not work during term-time… we offer a wide range of financial support to ensure you don't have to.
“However, there may be a few opportunities available within the University and Colleges that are an exception to this, such as working in the College bar, College library or as a student helper during open days,” the site says.
Watch Julia Hartley-Brewer discussing the Stormzy Scholarship above.