La La Land! Wait…
For lots of people, an offer for a place at Oxbridge (either Oxford University of Cambridge University), two of the most highly esteemed educational institutions in the world, would be reason to be up shouting from the rooftops.
But here at Push, we’re the first to say that there is no “perfect” university, no uni is the “best”. Trust us, ignore the league tables.
It’s all about what’s right for you as a person, how you learn, what type of city or town you’d like to live in, whether you care about sport societies or film societies or pole fitness, Doctor Who or Quidditch.
Every university offers something different, and student Anoushka Mutanda Dougherty has found just that. Anoushka, interviewed by the BBC over her uni search and applications, was offered a place at Cambridge University to study History.
As a mixed-race student from a state school however, Anoushka has faced some doubts over accepting her place at the elite institution, where only 3% of students starting a course in 2017 were black, or mixed-race with black heritage. That’s a whopping total of 14 students.
As Anoushka says: there’s no escaping the fact that Cambridge is a majority white and majority posh (!) institution.
Growing up with a Ugandan mother from mixed Indian/Ugandan descent, Anoushka’s more aware than most of the British minority experience. No wonder she’s developed such an interest in unwritten histories, which she’s planning to study over the course of her degree.
Her heritage is one of the many reasons why she’s looking for racial diversity at the university she chooses, and her shortlist includes Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge and King’s College, London.
Anoushka said “they all offer history courses that I would love, but widely differing student experiences. It's this caveat that has led many of my friends - even the most academically able - not to apply to Oxbridge.”
“In some cases it's the fear of being worked so hard that there's no time for social life, in others it's the fear of being pushed to behave like someone from a specific socio-economic group, just to fit in.
However going on campus tours, speaking to current students, professors and even the press officer at Cambridge University, Paul Seagrove, helped Anoushka with her concerns.
She reported that “Paul described outreach activities that are trying to ‘bust the myth that Cambridge isn't the right place for someone like me’. For example, it's trying to get more black school students to attend an Easter residential course that gives them a taste of university life."
She even went as far as saying she enjoyed the “thought-provoking and not even that scary” interview process, with “academics who were willing to listen to [her] ideas and explore [her] reasoning in a way that was encouraging and interesting.”
Although she’s yet to decide whether Cambridge is the place for her, Anoushka rounded up her interview with a final, brilliant point:
It seems that there is a self-perpetuating cycle. Smart kids from diverse backgrounds won't apply because they think they won't fit in, because they don't see people like them. This in turn means that the demographic of students will never change, so the view that it's not the right place for people of colour will persist.
Thinking about applying for Oxbridge? Head here for our info on the process. Not sure which is the uni for you? We’ve got loads of advice on picking the perfect match for you.
LUCY HARDING is the Editorial manager for Push. She is an English Literature grad and an MA Publishing student at UCL. She is passionate about international relations and cultural diversity, having worked closely with her university’s Erasmus society to support European students. She also spent a year abroad studying at California State University: Long Beach
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