Businesswoman set to become first black Oxbridge college head

New master of Jesus College Cambridge Sonita Alleyne Credit: Jesus College Cambridge/PA

A businesswoman is set to become the first black person to lead an Oxbridge college after she was elected Master of Jesus College, Cambridge.

Sonita Alleyne will also be the first female head in the history of the college, which was founded in 1496, when she takes up the role from October 1.

The 51-year-old entrepreneur, who has previously served as a BBC trustee and is currently chairwoman of the British Board of Film Classification, described her election as “an honour”.

She was brought up in east London and studied at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, before starting a career in radio, including founding the production company Somethin’ Else, which she led as chief executive from 1991 until 2009.

“I left Cambridge 30 years ago, but it never left me. I am delighted to be returning,” she said.

“It is an honour to be elected to lead Jesus College and I’m looking forward to becoming part of such an energetic and innovative community.

“Having met many Fellows, students and staff in recent weeks, I was struck by the positive and forward-looking ethos shared across the College.

“In addition to the outstanding education, the cross-disciplinary work and evident passion for arts, culture and sport I have seen at Jesus is impressive.”

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Ms Alleyne will become the college’s 42nd Master on the its 40th anniversary of co-education, taking over from Professor Ian White, who was appointed vice-chancellor of the University of Bath earlier this year.

Professor Mary Laven, who led the college’s search committee, said: “We are thrilled by the election of Sonita Alleyne, who will be an inspirational Master.

“She brings to the college a wealth of experience and an enduring commitment to helping young people fulfill their potential.”