CUSU President: BME intake is responsibility of the University

Jane Lu 7 February 2016

Cambridge University has a responsibility to take problems of under-representation seriously, says CUSU President Priscilla Mensah. 

While the University is not solely responsible for the disadvantages faced by BME students applying to university nationally, it does need to address the low rates of BME students at Cambridge. 

Priscilla Mensah, talking to The Cambridge Student, argues that just looking at BME statistics as a whole is not a helpful way to tackle the issue of underrepresentation. Diversity at the University must be analysed in a more specific way, taking into account particularly underrepresented groups. 

She said: “We do not get a proper picture of which groups remained consistently underrepresented at the institution, for an accurate picture, CUSU, the University and colleges all need to be looking at the data in a more granular way”.

There is also a discrepancy in places offered to BME students compared to students classified as white.

In 2013, of the BME students who applied, 23% were offered places. In the same year 29% of white applicants were offered places. 

This discrepancy in offers combines with a lower success rate of BME offer holders at A Level, and leads to the poor representation seen in fresher intake.

When asked why she thought BME students were under-represented at Cambridge the CUSU President cited systematic inequality and the British education system which routinely disadvantages BME students: “this is a discussion that the government and education policy makers have to address, it is not purely on the University of Cambridge to try and solve the problems structurally of an entire education system”.

However, she also acknowledged that the University “have every responsibility just as the colleges do” in its responsibility to address diversity. She believes that they take the issue seriously and she remains positive that CUSU and the University are working towards a better situation for BME students at Cambridge.

It is still argued by many that the University needs to do a better job at presenting relevant information about BME numbers at Cambridge and make a more high profile attempt to tackle the University’s diversity issue.

Micha Frazer-Carroll, Ethnic Minorities officer at Corpus Christi College, says: “It’s no good institutionally patting ourselves on the back, saying ‘over 20% of offer holders this year were BME'. Six Caribbean applicants received offers and only two made it here. Did they reject their offers, or did they not make the grades? Why? It is our responsibility to scrutinise. Look closer.”

The TCS Investigations team contacted the University to comment on the issue of diversity in Cambridge admissions. The University declined to comment.