New access programme empowers black STEM state school students to achieve academic goals

“Outstanding black students need to know Cambridge welcomes students of all backgrounds and gives them the academic environment to thrive"

Black state school students hoping to pursue careers in STEM subjects will be supported by a partnership launched today by St John’s College and Generating Genius.

The new STEM @Cambridge access programme will guide able black students from non-selective secondary schools in London through applications and interviews at the University of Cambridge and other Russell Group universities, to give them a fair opportunity to attend the UK’s most prestigious higher education institutions.

The number of UK black undergraduate students starting at the University of Cambridge this term has risen to a total of 91, up from 61 in the 2018/19 academic year – an increase of almost 50 per cent. But black students are still less likely to attend the most selective universities or achieve a first-class degree than their white counterparts. The new collaboration between St John’s College, one of the largest Colleges of the University of Cambridge, and award-winning education charity Generating Genius aims to close that gap.

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Graphic credit: Generating Genius.

Gaia Lambert, St John’s College Schools Liaison and Access Officer, said: “Black students are one of the most underrepresented groups in Cambridge and addressing the barriers they face applying to university is a key priority of our outreach work. Generating Genius supports high-achieving black state school students who are studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.

“All of them have the capability to make it to Cambridge; they have the aspiration, they have the ambition, they just need that extra support. So we’re really excited to be offering them that tailored guidance.”

The scheme for 16 to 18-year-olds launches today (Tuesday, 24 November) with a one-day ‘Destination Cambridge’ virtual series of insight talks and workshops for up to 70 students. Hosted by St John’s College, it covers areas such as how to choose the right Cambridge College and degree course, the application process, and life at the University. Other workshops, both online and in person - pandemic permitting - will continue at regular intervals throughout the year, leading up to an Interview Preparation Day next September.

Generating Genius has worked with Cambridge Colleges before, but this is the first sustained programme to support students through an entire year of the applications process. Initially covering three years of students up until 2023, the project involves staff and academics within St John’s and alumni from Generating Genius’s own ‘Uni Genius’ programme who are current students at Cambridge.

Dr Victoria Harvey, St John’s College Tutor for Undergraduate Admissions, said: “We are aiming to show these outstanding black students that Cambridge welcomes students of all backgrounds and gives them the academic environment to thrive. We are delighted to partner with Generating Genius to inspire and nurture the next generation of talented STEM students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds.

“We are thrilled to be working closely with young people on this programme to help propel them on their journey to university and beyond, into fulfilling STEM careers. This important initiative will help us better support bright black students and we look forward to assisting these young people achieve their academic goals.”

Sharan Matharu, Project Manager at Generating Genius, said: “We are incredibly excited to be working with St John’s College on the STEM @Cambridge programme. The University of Cambridge has long been seen as an international standard of academic excellence. This partnership is an exciting step towards increasing the number of black students who can join that legacy of excellence.”

Phebe Efrem, a STEM @Cambridge student, added: "STEM @Cambridge is a great chance to learn about how to get into one of my dream universities. I've been interested in Forensic Sciences and Chemistry, so I'm excited to hear about the different options available for someone like me who is trying to decide what I'd like to pursue."

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St John's has launched STEM @Cambridge in partnership with Generating Genius.

Published: 24/11/20

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