A YouTube influencer is fronting a series of films encouraging more black students to apply to Cambridge in the latest push by the University to widen its pool of applicants.

It’s true the gates of Cambridge were once closed to people like me. However, here I am a Cambridge graduate – I’ve done it and people who look like me can see they can do it too

YouTube vlogger and Robinson College alumna Courtney Daniella

Cambridge announced last week (6 June) that it was making progress on widening access to the university with the proportion of Black and Minority Ethnic students at a record high of 23.5%. However, 2.4% of the undergraduate population in this year’s intake were Black compared with 3.4% of the UK population.

YouTube vlogger Courtney Daniella, herself a Cambridge graduate, presents five films addressing popular misconceptions about Cambridge, offering tips on how to make a successful application and finding out what sixth formers really think about the institution.

The social media campaign Get In Cambridge launched on 10 June with Courtney taking a wry look at Cambridge ‘Myths Versus Reality’, which address untrue assumptions about the university that put students off applying.

The series features 26 films encouraging students from under-represented background to apply. These range from students at schools with low numbers of pupils going on to university, to the UK’s Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities.

When at school, 22-year-old Courtney was told by teachers she was not good enough for Cambridge and struggled to overcome her doubts - one of the main reasons she wanted to give out a different message to students like her.

“I used to tell myself every day that Cambridge wasn’t for a person like me partly because I’d never known anyone who’d gone there, and I’d never seen a black Cambridge student, ever,” she says.

“Now I want to say to anyone who believes that to stop putting yourself and Cambridge in a box and start thinking ‘I have so much that I could bring to this university – it would be great for them to have me.’

“It’s true the gates of Cambridge were once closed to people like me. However, here I am a Cambridge graduate – I’ve done it and people who look like me can see they can do it too.”

In one film, entrepreneur Courtney charts her journey from a North London schoolgirl caring for her mum and working part time to provide for her family, to studying Human, Social, and Political Sciences at Robinson College.

Each of the 26 films features current undergraduates – who all attended state schools - telling the stories of their journeys to Cambridge as they invite cameras into their rooms, libraries, supervision sessions and nights out.

Vloggers are increasingly working with universities to boost such access efforts. Director of the Cambridge Admissions Office Jon Beard said: “While filming the series, at least half a dozen students stopped Courtney on the street to thank her and tell her she was the reason that they were here. It shows what a huge influence they have.

“Admissions statistics released on Thursday show a rise in the number of students who are from state schools, disadvantaged backgrounds, and ethnic minorities. But there is still work to be done in reaching those with the talent and drive to study here who think Cambridge is not for them.

“We hope these films will complement the University and College efforts to widen access, which include a range of initiatives to offer additional academic and financial assistance for students who may have suffered educational disruption or disadvantage.”

Cambridge will continue to work with development programme for black African and Caribbean pupils Target Oxbridge on a range of initiatives including a three-day residential and an additional one-day conference in London, which will take place for the first time this summer.

Grime artist Stormzy launched Cambridge scholarships for Black students last year. Black students starting at Cambridge this October will be able to apply for the next round of Stormzy scholarships when applications open on A-level results day.

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