Businesswoman and media executive Sonita Alleyne was elected Master of Jesus College, Cambridge this week, making her the first black person to be appointed to lead an Oxbridge college.
Alleyne will take over from current Master Ian White this October.
She is also the first woman to lead the college since its establishment in 1496. Alleyne herself studied at Cambridge, reading Philosophy at Fitzwilliam College.
Commenting on her successful election as Master, Alleyne said in a statement: “It is an honour to be elected to lead Jesus College and I’m looking forward to becoming part of such an energetic and innovative community.
“Having met many Fellows, students and staff in recent weeks, I was struck by the positive and forward-looking ethos shared across the College.
“Supporting the work of the College to widen access and participation to all that it offers promises to be incredibly rewarding. “I left Cambridge thirty years ago, but it never left me. I am delighted to be returning.”
Alleyne, who was born in Barbados and brought up in East London, is currently the chairwoman of the British Board of Film Classification’s management council.
She previously held roles in production and media companies, including various board roles in prestigious organisations such as the National Employment Panel, the chair of the Radio Sector Skills Council and as a non-executive director of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Alleyne began her career working in the publicity department of Jazz FM before moving into production. In 1991, after being let go from the station Alleyne was a cofounder of production company Somethin’ Else, which she led as chief executive from until 2009.
She has previously been a judge for the Precious Awards which celebrate the achievements of black women in business, and has herself received the Award of Excellence from the European Federation of Black Women Business Owners.
Concerns have been repeatedly raised about Oxford’s lack of access to black students, with one in four colleges not admitting a single black British student between 2015 and 2017. As of yet, no black person has ever been appointed to lead an Oxford college.
Labour MP David Lammy has long been critical of Oxford’s failure to improve their admissions track record in terms of diversity. He said: “The university is clearly happy to see Oxford remain an institution defined by entrenched privilege that is the preserve of wealthy white students from London and the south-east.”
Last year, Cambridge admitted the highest number of black students in its history, although the 58 undergraduates represented only 2% of the University’s total intake.