How the 'Stormzy Effect' is opening up the University of Cambridge to more black students

Stormzy with Drew Chateau and Joseph Vambe who were among the first students on the scheme
Stormzy with Drew Chateau and Joseph Vambe who were among the first students on the scheme. Credit: #Merky

A further 30 students will benefit from a scholarship scheme set up by rapper Stormzy to boost the number of black students studying at the country's top universities.

The South London musician's #Merky Foundation set up the special bursaries in 2018, after revealing that - before musical success - he once harboured ambitions to study at Oxford or Cambridge.

The charity is now extending its scholarship scheme with the University of Cambridge, with funding from the bank HSBC paying for a further 30 students' studies over the next three years.

It came as new figures revealed the impact of the so-called "Stormzy Effect" on the ambitions of black students.

Over the duration of the scheme applications from UK black students rose by 131% with 141 black students admitted in 2022, compared with 61 in 2018.

Speaking at the time of the launch Stormzy, real name Michael Ebenazer Kwadjo Omari Owuo Jr, said: “Luckily for myself when I was going through school, I had the academic ability.

“I was always reminded by my teachers that I was destined, if I wanted, to go down that road and study at one of the top universities."

Stormzy: Hopes the scholarships are a reminder of the opportunities available for black students Credit: PA Images

Two of the first students to benefit from the scheme in 2018 described its impact.

Drew Chateau, 24, from south London, graduated in 2021 with a 2:1 in Law and is now a trainee solicitor at a leading London law firm.

She said: "Financial pressures and burdens had placed restrictions on my life and on those around me, which made it difficult to concentrate on education due to the circumstances we found ourselves in.

"The scholarship helped reduce the gap between myself and those from a more stable upbringing. Thanks to the award I didn’t have to worry about my next meal, how to support my family or even getting to university each term."

Joseph Vambe, 23, also from south London, graduated in 2021 with a 2:1 in Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS) and stayed in Cambridge an extra year to complete his Masters.

Now a fundraising and engagement officer for the charity, Christian Aid, he has also been elected as a Labour councillor on Southwark Borough Council.

"Throughout my life, the financial burden has always been a barrier to every great opportunity," he said.

"This time was different – the Stormzy Scholarship alleviated that burden and I was able to pursue my degree without worrying about the financial costs which have proved so detrimental and burdensome, time and time again in my life. It is for this precise reason that I am grateful for the Stormzy Scholarship."

HSBC UK has pledged a further £2m in support of 30 new Stormzy Scholarships over the next three years (2024-26).

The #Merky Foundation will continue to fund two students per year in addition to the new places.

Stormzy, said: "For a further 30 black students to have the opportunity to study at Cambridge University - the same year we celebrate five years of the scholarships’ launch - feels like an incredible landmark moment.

"I hope these scholarships continue to serve as a small reminder to young black students that the opportunity to study at one of the best universities in the world is theirs for the taking."

Prof Bhaskar Vira, pro-vice-chancellor for education at the University of Cambridge, said: "We know these scholarships are truly transformative in the opportunities they provide and we look forward to welcoming more Stormzy scholars to Cambridge over the next few years."

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