The rapper AJ Tracey is launching a fund to support Black and Minority Ethnic students at St Peter’s College. He hopes the fund will “level the playing field” in terms of access and student experience at Oxford University, with the aim of assisting current BAME students and encouraging more to apply.
Visiting Oxford on 17th October, Tracey told Cherwell that he created the fund because “Oxford is an amazing place to be and if I can make it easier for underrepresented students then that’s an achievement in itself.”
Improving access to high-ranking academic institutions is a matter close to Tracey’s heart. Having grown up in Ladbroke Grove, an area of London with high inequality, he recalls aspiring to attend Oxford before deciding not to apply, due to the unexplained rejection of other BAME pupils from his school.
Now a successful artist, reaching the Top 20 in the Charts with his singles “Ladbroke Grove” and “Butterflies”, he hopes the AJ Tracey Fund will improve access for a new generation of BAME students at Oxford. He sees this as particularly important, given the need for minority representation in the curriculum and ongoing disputes over the imperialist Cecil Rhodes statue at Oriel College.
Money from the AJ Tracey Fund will be awarded to BAME students at Peter’s on a case-by-case basis. Tracey says this will likely be used to help with the cost of practicalities, such as travel expenses and new technology. The package will be trialled with donations of £40,000 per year for the first three years, and Tracey hopes that a higher standard of living for BAME students will assist better results in outreach programmes. He also aims to sponsor careers mentoring for BAME students.
In 2022, only 28% of undergraduates admitted to Peter’s were from BME backgrounds, although this is still one of the highest percentages at any Oxford college. Notably, Peter’s was also the first college to admit black undergraduates in 1929, which Tracey says is a factor that encouraged him to approach them.
One student at Peter’s told Cherwell, “It’s great to see the college partnering with such a big name. St Peter’s is very welcoming, and it’s nice to see that spread.”
The head of St Peter’s, Judith Buchanan, has also said she is “delighted to have AJ Tracey in our world”.
As part of the college’s celebration of Black History Month, Peter’s will host the AJ Tracey dinner on 17th October, which Tracey will attend after speaking about his visions for BAME access at the Oxford Union. St Peter’s told its students that the dinner would primarily be an opportunity for students from minority backgrounds to celebrate their identities.
However, AJ Tracey is also prepared for criticism, saying “some people see it as unfair that white students are not getting the same funding.” These concerns are partly due to the backlash received by the rapper Stormzy, who launched a similar access scheme at Cambridge University. In response to this, Tracey points out that “society is largely catered towards white people, so anything that helps is a good thing.”