On the 25th of June, King’s hosted its first Open Day for prospective students from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. Organised by the current BME Officer Tega Akati-Udi, former KCSU president Nina Grossfurthner, and with support from the King’s Admissions Office, the event was designed to address the challenge of under-representation of BME students at Cambridge, and to play a role in ensuring that the University remains accessible to all, regardless of culture and creed. It worked off the precedent set by various student-led initiatives aimed at increasing the numbers of Black and Minority Ethnics at Cambridge, such as the Black History Month Exhibition and annual BME Dinner, which showcase the achievements, successes and impressive contributions of BME students to King’s and the University more widely.
On the day, approximately 40 students from around the UK engaged in a series of activities, starting with a talk on admissions from King’s alumnus Qasim Alli (KC 2012), who currently works as Outreach Officer for the Faculty of Classics at the University of Oxford. This was followed by a Q&A session with Admissions Tutors Bill Burgwinkle and Cesare Hall, who addressed some enquiries regarding personal statements and the Cambridge-specific Supplementary Application Questionnaire. The students then got then a chance to speak with Fellows about their respective subjects and were later joined by current students who were able to shed some light on their academic experience from an alternative perspective.
After lunch and tours of the College, we welcomed King’s alumnus and acclaimed spoken word performer George the Poet (KC 2010), who met the students in Keynes Hall for an Empowerment Session in the afternoon. George spoke about his experiences studying Politics, Psychology and Sociology and how it not only influenced his work as a spoken word artist, but also shaped his perspective and personal world-view. George’s appearance was a great success and the students engaged enthusiastically with his speech, asking a number of pertinent questions afterwards. A video of the Empowerment Session and subsequent Q&A session can be found below.
The day ended with a ‘Demystifying Cambridge' Q&A in which a panel of current students answered any outstanding questions, giving an honest and reflective glimpse into life at Cambridge as a member of the BME community. Alongside the student Q&A, King’s Outreach Officer Caro Schade hosted an information session for parents and guardians, who were able to ask questions and lay any queries about admissions and applications to rest.
After the event, co-organiser Nina Grossfurthner said:
King’s College has a well-founded reputation as a welcoming, academically charged and politically active college. Its high acceptance of state school students, its engaged student union and central location all contribute to the long list of features that makes King’s attractive to prospective students. Despite this, the ethnic diversity of students who apply remains a point of concern, with students from Black British and Bangladeshi ethnic backgrounds particularly under-represented.
The goal of the first King's BME Open Day was not only to combat the statistical problem of under-representation, but also to address the root cause behind it, namely the lack of confidence and support that too often discourages young and talented BME students from even considering an institution like Cambridge as a viable place to foster their intellectual curiosity.
The importance of the Open Day cannot be overstated. As a College committed to rewarding the merits of academic excellence and one that prides itself on the welcoming and open community it fosters, the Open Day signified King's' sustained commitment to its values. Above all it was a reflection of the hard work and commitment that BME students at King’s have shown to paving the way for their successors.