Friday 17 May 2019

Lack of Afro-Caribbean hairdressers ‘puts black students off applying to Cambridge’

‘If you have afro hair, the expertise is needed – things that are really basic and simple become quite a big challenge’

A shortage of Afro-Caribbean hairdressers in Cambridge is deterring black would-be students from applying to study at the university, a pro-vice-Chancellor has said.

Professor Graham Virgo said detailed research on obstacles to applications, particularly among young people in London, had thrown up the “unexpected” finding.

But an expert in ethnic minority education cast doubt on the survey result, and said students needed to learn to adapt to situations where they were the “only one”.

Cambridge undergraduates and sixth-form students were interviewed for the research as the university prepares a new campaign to encourage more black students to apply.

Would-be students reported being put off by a shortage of Afro hairdressers ( Getty Images )

Prof Virgo, senior pro-vice-chancellor for education and a law professor, said: “We have been doing some quite detailed research, particularly with black students, particularly in London, looking at obstacles to applying to Cambridge and thinking about Cambridge. And number three on the list was hairdressers.

“It’s unexpected but we need to look at applying to Cambridge from their eyes. For those students this is their concern.

“Really being able to engage with these perceptions enables us to say ‘how are we going to respond to that?’”

Other concerns by would-be students were whether they would have enough money and whether they would fit in, the Telegraph reported.

Naomi Kellman, founder of Target Oxbridge, which helps black students with Oxbridge applications, said the hairdressers question “comes up really frequently”.

“If you are from a majority group you assume you will be catered for, anywhere in the country can manage your hair,” she said. “But if you have afro hair, the expertise is needed. Things that are really basic and simple become quite a big challenge.”

But Dr Tony Sewell, chief executive of Generating Genius, a charity that encourages youngsters from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue science, technology, engineering and maths, doubted the findings.

“It may be another lame excuse – kids need to get more resilient and get with it,” he said. “As a minority, you will have to be confronting a situation where you are the only one. You have to face that and learn how to adapt to that. That’s the key issue.”

The higher education regulator wants universities to admit more students from ethnic minorities and disadvantaged backgrounds.

Some Cambridge University colleges admitted no black students or accepted as few as one a year between 2012 and 2016, according to figures released last year.

The failure of Oxford and Cambridge to take in more students who are black or from less privileged backgrounds is staggering, universities minister Sam Gyimah has said.

Cambridge University has been asked to comment.

(Source: Independent)

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