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  1. ITV Report

First black woman to lead an Oxbridge college takes charge at Jesus College, Cambridge

Jesus College in Cambridge has become the first Oxbridge College to appoint a black woman as its leader.

Sonita Alleyne has been now started her role as Master of the College which was founded in 1496.

  • Click below to watch our report from Raveena Ghattaura

Sonita Alleyne says her new job isn't just about leadership, it's about personality and being yourself.

She becomes the 42nd Master of Jesus College.

"I was born in Barbados and my parents bought me to England when I was about two or three. I think it was older but my mum keeps saying it was two. I was brought up in the East End of London, and went to a typical comprehensive girls school.

I remember the school organised a visit to come up to Cambridge. So actually it is quite fated that Jesus college was the first college I actually went to, so it is really weird that years later I am here."

– Sonita Alleyne, Master of Jesus College
Sonita Alleyne is the new Master at Jesus College Credit: ITV Anglia

Sonita studied philosophy in Cambridge in 1985 and now she's back and making history.

She's the first black female master of Jesus College, 40 years after its first female undergraduates.

Jesus has been going for 523 years. I am the guardian of that for the next 10 years. I want to ensure that it is a unique community, and it stays as unique community which is a family focused.

Whether you are here as a member of staff, student or fellow, it feels like your home."

– Sonita Alleyne, Master of Jesus College
Jesus College Cambridge Credit: ITV Anglia

Sonita has been in the job for 16 days and is already making a difference

"We do a lot in college to do with access work to encourage people who wouldn't apply to Cambridge to consider it and Sonita has been really involved in that."

– Matthew Allsop, student

"She is just so friendly and approachable and it really makes a difference to the vibe of the college which is really nice."

– Victoria Daramy-Williams, student
Sonita Alleyne Credit: ITV Anglia

Sonita was head hunted by the college and beat hundreds of applicants to the job.

Her appointment is a sign of change at Cambridge.

Although the number of black students studying here is now at a record level, the university has faced criticism about a lack of diversity.

"t our college our stats have just over 74 per cent students from state schools and 20 per cent of those are from a BAME background.

I have been going around jokingly saying I am the 146th fresher in the college, it is really diverse.

Cambridge is a bastion of excellence, and I think if you are from diverse background you can get those grades, you just have to keep applying.

It is about class, it is about woman applying for science subjects, those are all the areas that we need to be looking at and encouraging people to come forward and have a go.

– Sonita Alleyne, Master of Jesus College