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'Representation matters': why a photo of black male Cambridge students has gone viral

'Representation matters' Credit: Cambridge ACS

A photograph of a group of black male Cambridge University students posing together to inspire future applicants has gone viral.

The Cambridge University African-Caribbean Society shared images of the 14 men stood outside the prestigious university to encourage a new generation of black British students to set Cambridge in their sights.

"Young black men don't grow up thinking they'll make it here. They should," said Dami Adebayo.

The post, ending with the message "Representation matters," has been shared thousands of times on social media:

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The real purpose of the photograph was to remind young black individuals that Cambridge is for us.

In order to encourage more applicants, we recognise that representation and visibility is vital.

– Cambridge University African-Caribbean Society

Black students made up just 38 of the 2,573 people accepted into Cambridge in 2015.

Last year the university became a member of the Race Equality Charter, which addresses the "representation, progression and retention of minority ethnic staff and students within higher education."

We aim to widen participation whilst maintaining high standards.

We will continue to work hard with all parties to raise aspirations and attainment to improve access to higher education.

– Cambridge University
The Cambridge students want to challenge stereotypes of the type of applicants the university accepts Credit: Cambridge ACS

Chemical engineering student Donte Nembhard, 19, told BuzzFeed he took part in the photograph to encourage young black boys to apply to the world-renowned university in the future.

"I feel that many young black boys don't believe they can make it to Cambridge whether that be for social reasons or due to statistics and end up not applying. These are the young black boys we wanted to reach out to."

Bez Adeosun, a 19-year-old politics and anthropology student, added: "The emphasis on the pictures should be placed on the caption and not a criticism of the university because this overlooks the hard work and efforts of the access officers, schools liaison officers and other initiatives the university has put in place to tackle this issue."

"Complacency is not the answer but the focus of these pictures is to inspire and encourage applications not to deter young black males from applying given the shocking statistics otherwise it creates a vicious cycle."