Time for Change: Action, Not Words

UK rapper launches fund to encourage minority students to succeed at top university's.

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Black History Month 2022’s theme is Time for Change: Action, Not Words. As we come to the end of the month, AJ Tracey has taken action and acted upon this idea as he launches a fund to support black students studying at Oxford University. 

The UK’s top universities historically have had an underrepresentation of minorities enrolled. Statistics show that the UK’s ‘prestigious’ universities proportion of black students is an average of 4% compared to the UK average of 8%. Statistics show that in 2016 only 2.7% of Oxbridge’s intake of undergraduates were black.

AJ Tracey is a UK rapper who has grown a key interest in black students’ education. While growing up AJ felt Oxford and Cambridge was an unattainable goal as a mixed-race black student in Ladbroke Grove. Yet, AJ also enjoyed school, got good grades, and aspired to be a lawyer and said, “I truly believe that I had the potential to go [to Oxford or Cambridge],”. This ideology is due to, in Tracey’s words “the society we live in” which is historically a harder place for minorities to become successful.

AJ Tracey’s fund has been created with the vision to help minority ethnics thrive throughout their time at Oxford University, with aspirations also for students from minority backgrounds to feel welcome to apply for top universities. During the first 3 years of the fund, he will donate £40,000 towards the support, this amount will then be reviewed after this period. The assistance will be awarded to students on a case-by-case basis. The donation will help to cover an unlimited range of expenses including mentorship and financial assistance. 

Tracey worked closely with Oxford University’s St Peter’s College to curate a positive fund with great prospects for success. St Peter’s College have been actively encouraging students of a mixed background go through the college with their Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I) initiatives. Tracey felt a strong pull to work with St Peter’s College due to their efforts as the college has already begun paving the way for minority students to succeed.   

AJ is not the first UK rapper to support black students’ path to and within prestige universities. In 2018 Stormzy set up his own fund for Cambridge students which entailed two full scholarships being offered to black British students. Stormzy’ s fund was greatly successful in encouraging black students to apply to Cambridge and in reducing the underrepresentation of black students attending the University. The following year in 2019, Cambridge announced an increase of black British students joining their undergraduate programme of almost 50%. 

Stubbs and Murphy’s (2020) study on what minority undergraduates found supportive throughout their journey as a higher education students suggests that encouragement to apply should start earlier to increase aspiration due to more confidence. The study shows confidence builds from two key factors: academic achievement acknowledgement and socially seeing representation in the high profile universities.

By increasing the number of black students in prestigious universities AJ and Stormzy are creating social representation for younger students to aspire to, subsequently, reducing the ‘fantasy’ of attending Oxbridge for minorities. Further opportunities for academic acknowledgement for those who receive support are provided by these funds which according to the study will increase their confidence throughout their time at these universities.

Success of the Oxford fund for AJ “can be even as small as the current students saying that their time [at Oxford] was a lot easier”. AJ hopes to make a change for the better for black students and for the culture surrounding minorities at Oxford.