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New access initiative for Year 10 black students

Target Oxbridge and Trinity College have launched a unique programme to de-mystify Oxford and Cambridge and help more 14 and 15 year olds of black heritage prepare to apply to and gain places at leading universities.

The 2021 Year 10 programme features webinars with Trinity College academics and students, and Target Oxbridge alumni providing advice to Year 10 black British students who are considering university.

Target Oxbridge students at Trinity in 2019. Photo: Graham CopeKoga

Up to 100 places are available for students with high academic potential on this free online programme devised by diversity recruitment specialist, Rare, and Trinity College. Naomi Kellman, Rare’s Senior Manager for Schools and Universities who co-designed the Year 10 programme, said:

I am a firm believer that the next step in improving the number of black students at Oxbridge is broadening outreach to younger students. I am therefore very pleased to be working with Trinity College Cambridge on this programme and cannot wait to virtually meet our first Year 10 students.

The webinars aim to de-mystify Oxford and Cambridge, offer insights into what College life is really like, provide information on the application process, and guidance about preparing applications. Students will also learn about how degree subject choice can affect career options. The series will conclude with students taking part in a short lecture, followed by a Q&A with a Cambridge academic.

Ms Kellman said there were three key reasons the Year 10 programme was vital.

First, research shows that students who lack good advice about Oxford and Cambridge may take the wrong combination of A-levels. By working with students in Year 10 we will be able to ensure students do not accidentally limit their degree options.

Second, there is a significant black attainment gap at both GCSE and A-level. Nationally, 5.5% of black students achieve three A grades or more at A-level, compared to 13% of the population.

Third, a large proportion of black students still perceive that Oxford and Cambridge are not for them, which is exacerbated by a lack of access to role models. This new programme will eliminate this barrier, allowing students to focus on the academic challenge at hand, and removing the need to worry about being the only ‘student like them’ at Oxford or Cambridge.

A roundtable discussion as part of Black History Month 2020 at Trinity. Photo: Sonum Sumaria

Outreach Coordinator at Trinity, said the College was ‘delighted to collaborate with Target Oxbridge on this inspirational and life-changing programme.’

We aim to provide a springboard for Year 10 black students so that, when the time arises, they have the self-belief and information necessary to make competitive applications to highly selective universities. It is critical that participants relate to and are influenced by people ‘like them’ and on the programme we will have current students as well as Trinity alumni as living proof that black students can thrive at Cambridge.

Target Oxbridge’s connection with Trinity and Cambridge dates back to 2016. Then Trinity Politics student Sarah Lusack worked at Rare, which had been running their free mentoring programme for Year 12 and Year 13 students since 2012. Sarah got involved in the diversity specialist’s discussions that led to University of Cambridge support for the expansion of Rare’s Target Oxbridge programme.

Alumna Sarah Lusack

After training with the prestigious National Youth Theatre, Ms Lusack is pursuing an MA in Creative and Critical Writing at Birkbeck, before resuming her acting career post-pandemic. She welcomed the new access programme for Year 10 students.

Year on year, Target Oxbridge makes a huge impact on the lives of black students on the programme. It’s so inspiring to see these students go on to make their mark at Cambridge and beyond, which is why I’m really excited by the new collaboration between Target Oxbridge and Trinity College.

Younger black students will now have the opportunity to have earlier access to the right information, guidance and support to make informed choices about their futures. Don’t think twice about applying! This programme could be the start of a very exciting journey.

Since launching in 2012, Target Oxbridge has supported more than 200 students of black African and Caribbean heritage to gain offers from Oxford and Cambridge universities. For the academic year 2020, 74 Target Oxbridge alumni began their academic journeys at the two universities – a record high.

The original programme targeted Year 12 and Year 13 students; Target Oxbridge and Trinity recognised the need to engage with younger students.

Applications are open to UK students of black African and Caribbean heritage (including students of mixed race) who are predicted at least three GCSEs at Grade 7 or above. A teacher reference will be required. Applications can be submitted at The deadline for applications is Sunday 7 February 2021.

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