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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Oxford University launches new education and enterprise initiative for BAME students

Jill Cushen reports on the University's new entrepreneurship initiative.

Oxford University has launched an Entrepreneurial Fellowship Initiative to drive inclusion within business, start-ups and venture capital and ensure equality for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups in senior leadership positions. Twenty BAME students studying at Oxford University will undertake eight-week funded internship placements with start-ups from the Oxford Foundry’s portfolio this July. The initiative aims to provide fellows with skills and experience in venture-building areas as well as opportunities to help them achieve their personal and professional goals. 

Throughout the placement they will be supported by world-leading entrepreneurs and business ambassadors and more than 50 mentors. Ambassadors include Angela Ahrendts DBE, former Senior Vice President of Apple Retail, Ric Lewis, Executive Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Tristan Capital, and Biz Stone, Co-founder of Twitter and Chair of the Oxford Foundry Advisory Board. 

The University described the initiative as “game-changing” stating: “Crucially, the programme will provide Fellows with a platform and strong support community of peers to help navigate and combat the barriers and biases which regrettably still systemically exist in entrepreneurship.” The University also referenced updates to the Parker Review published in March 2021 which found that nearly a fifth of FTSE 100 companies lack board-level ethnic diversity, and other reports that show over the past 10 years, less than 1% of venture capital investment in the UK went to Black entrepreneurs. 

Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at Oxford University, said: “The under-representation of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic students in higher education, academia and entrepreneurship, is well documented, and something that the University continues to strive to address. Closing the opportunity gap for all Oxford students and promoting inclusion and fairness in entrepreneurship is at the heart of the Oxford Foundry’s mission. This fantastic programme will take that work a step further towards supporting and guiding the careers of the innovation leaders and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.”

Director of the Oxford Foundry, Ana Bakshi, said: “Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not – and that is the primary focus of our Entrepreneurial Fellowship Initiative; to provide access to the support and career pathways all students need to succeed, when they need it most. Now is the time to invest and to make this a reality. We have the potential to dramatically shift the landscape of people from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds and other under-represented groups within senior leadership positions, and to substantially, and sustainably, improve fairness within our global entrepreneurial ecosystems. We can create a world that is reflective of the world we want, and it all starts with education and entrepreneurship.”

Sean Sinanan, President of the Oxford African and Caribbean Society, and a third year undergraduate studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Mansfield College, said: “There is an unspoken dilemma that many students face. You either enter a corporate career upon graduation or find something else. However, the incredibly important work of the Oxford Foundry via these Fellowships helps mitigate this issue. The Fellowships inspire students from under-represented backgrounds to tap into their own creativity and explore alternative pathways in a sector that has been wrongly deemed as risky.”

“The prospects of high-level mentorship to develop skills, paired with work experience in exciting start-ups which also have a social impact, not only demystifies the venture capital world but also offers a genuinely unique opportunity for students who are not interested in ‘traditional’ career paths. I am extremely excited to promote this to the Oxford ACS. I have seen how creative and ambitious students of the society are – and thus, I believe this Fellowship Initiative will truly nurture and empower such talents.”

Image Credit: Oxford Foundry

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