Trinity alumna Sarah Lusack has played a pivotal role in Cambridge partnering with Target Oxbridge, an innovative programme that aims to increase successful undergraduate applications from black students to Oxford and Cambridge.
Since 2012, 46 Target Oxbridge students have received offers from the two universities. Eleven participants are currently studying at Cambridge.
Target Oxbridge provides 16-18 year-old African and Caribbean students with detailed advice, mentoring and role models in a structured, one-year programme that includes residential visits and academic sessions. When they visit Cambridge, participants will have an immersive experience of life at the university, including taking part in tutorials and meeting staff and current students.
The new partnership between the University of Cambridge and Rare, a specialist diversity recruitment company, will increase the number of places available on Target Oxbridge from 45 to 60 in 2018. The University of Oxford is also sponsoring the programme.
After graduating in 2016, Ms Lusack worked at a venture capital firm before joining Rare, which set up the free mentoring and advice scheme for students with African and Caribbean heritage in 2012.
Target Oxbridge was ‘a significant factor’ in her decision to join the company, she said.
I am particularly pleased that I was able to contribute to the discussions leading up to Cambridge sponsoring the programme. Cambridge will fund 15 additional places on the 2018 programme.This has come at a particularly important time for Target Oxbridge – we received an unprecedented 170 applications for 45 places.
As a politics student at Trinity, Ms Lusack founded Trinity’s BME Student Conference and volunteered to mentor participants on Target Oxbridge.
Target Oxbridge has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. I’ve interviewed nearly 100 ambitious black students and I now work closely with 45 students who were selected to be on the programme.
She said the programme would contribute to the multi-faceted approach needed to improve the diversity of applicants at Cambridge and Trinity specifically. Students, especially those from families with no experience of university, could be hindered during their journey towards leading institutions such as Cambridge.
Engaging with students earlier on was vital to provide guidance, advice on exam subjects, and to make coming to Cambridge an attainable goal. Efforts to inform and involve teachers and parents in the application process so they could support their son or daughter could be improved, Ms Lusack said.
This problem is magnified for students from underrepresented backgrounds who come from schools where very few people get into Oxbridge/Russell Group universities, whose parents may not to have gone to university, and where (sometimes harmful) myths of Cambridge persist.
Ultimately this challenge is too big for one organisation alone. This underpins the importance of the partnership between the University of Cambridge and Target Oxbridge. By building networks and sharing resources, together we can improve the chances for underrepresented groups to attend an institution like Cambridge.
Incoming Admissions Tutor at Trinity, Dr Glen Rangwala, said the partnership was a welcome addition to the range of widening participation schemes offered by Cambridge and the outreach work done by Colleges.
He said: ‘I’m looking forward to participating in Target Oxbridge’s Summer Development Programme this year. Trinity is determined to demonstrate to young people who wouldn’t otherwise think of applying to a university like this that we are committed to admitting students with great potential, irrespective of school or social background.’