Ibz Mo at the Union: Speaking About Cambridge Bursaries, Networking and Social Mobility

We spoke to one of Cambridge’s biggest Youtubers

Ibrahim Mohammed, better known as Ibz Mo, is one of the most prolific YouTubers to go to Cambridge with over 136,000 on his Youtube channel. Reading PBS at Wolfson from 2016 to 2019, he chronicled his experience at Cambridge as a first-generation university student through a vlog series titled ‘Week in the Life of a BAD BITCH’.

Despite the humorous tone of many of his videos, he also addresses more serious topics, such as his experience of elitism and racism as a Cambridge student. He has also led outreach projects that encourage first-generation and ethnic minority students to apply to top universities. The Tab spoke to Ibz about these projects after he took part in the Union’s Class Panel.

(Photo credits: Ibz Mo on Instagram)

What can colleges do to ensure social mobility is at the forefront of their mission?

Speaking to the Tab, Ibz criticises Cambridge colleges who “put the burden on first-generation university students, Class Act, on the 93% Club, on BAME societies” to help them with their social mobility projects. He argues that it is the responsibility of each college to place social mobility at the forefront of their activities, rather than relying on student-led organisations to provide them with initiatives.

“As selfish as it sounds, you have to put yourself and the structure you are trying to break first,” he describes, referring to the challenges that first-generation and minority students face attending a university that has historically catered to the white middle and upper classes.

He argues that colleges should prioritise social mobility from the initial employment process for college staff. Cambridge staff should be asked  “what have you done for social mobility?” and this value should become a key performance indicator. His view is that no matter how many students speak to college committees as BAME officers or from social mobility societies, if senior staff members don’t recognise the social problems that exist, there will never be a substantial change.

(Photo credits: Ibz Mo via Instagram)

The ‘Free School Meal Student Experience of Oxbridge’

Ibz goes into detail about his research into ‘The Free-School Meals Experience at Oxbridge.’ While Cambridge has increased its state-school offers in recent years, Ibz points out how this fails to acknowledge the fact that very few of these offers are to students who recieve free school meals. At less than 5 per cent, this representation hasn’t significantly improved in the past few years. 

In the panel, Professor Lee Elliot-Major pointed out that students on Free School Meals are 55 times less likely to go to Oxbridge than if they go to a private school. This highlights the issues that students from lower-income backgrounds face when trying to get into competitive universities. 

Ibz adds that “Oxford don’t even put free school meals on their access plan, which they legally need to publish. This issue is something that is hidden.” As he says, this matter has remained under the radar because grade attainment remains the biggest issue for students from the lowest-income backgrounds trying to gain admission to Oxbridge, which Ibz believes continues to fail its existing students who come from such backgrounds through these issues with outreach and access.

Increasing the Cambridge Bursary

When we asked Ibz what he thinks Cambridge should do to change their perception as an institution not doing enough to support their current students from non-traditional backgrounds, he said that increasing student bursaries is part of the answer.

“While it may seem a privilege to have fun [through formals and societies] you also network so much”  and “having a network is so important”, says Ibz. This means that the university’s failure to provide sufficient financial support for students restricts their opportunities.

The fact that Cambridge students aren’t allowed to have a job during term makes lower income students even more reliant on bursaries. Ibz argues that a centralised increase in student bursaries can work to remedy this.

(Photo credit: Ibz Mo via Instagram)

Networking on a budget

As ibz highlights, a significant aspect of the Cambridge experience is networking – much of which is done through pricey society memberships and May Balls. Ibz’s advice to students on a budget who want to network is to take the initiative and introduce yourself to everyone. His blueprint is to use the phrase “hello, can I introduce myself?” when meeting people at formals, meeting and other events. 

He also points out the importance of finding a solid group of friends and joining societies that can support you – such as Class Act and The 93% Club. These societies provide a space for non-traditional students to discuss their experiences with like-minded people.

You can watch Ibz Mo at the Cambridge Union’s Class Panel here.

Feature image credits: Ibz Mo via Instagram

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