Stormzy and HSBC pledge to fund 30 new scholarships for students at University of Cambridge

30 students of Black or mixed race heritage will each be awarded a £20,000 scholarship over the next three years

HSBC UK and Stormzy’s charity the #Merky Foundation, have partnered to expand the existing Stormzy Scholarship scheme, announcing they will fund the maintenance and tuition fees for 30 Black students at the University of Cambridge over the next three years.

This expanded scheme means that each year, for at least the next three years, ten eligible students will each receive an annual, non-repayable £20,000 scholarship, the acceptance of which does not affect their eligibility for an additional Cambridge Bursary. The combined support of HSBC UK, the #Merky Foundation and an anonymous donor means that the university is set to welcome 13 Stormzy scholars in Michaelmas term 2021.

The Stormzy Scholarship programme was launched in 2018 and has supported six Black students at the university so far, and Stormzy himself has described in a press release yesterday (29/07) that having “30 more Black students to have the opportunity to study at Cambridge University” “feels like an incredible milestone.”

He thanked both HSBC UK and Cambridge University for their support, and added: “I hope this scholarship continues to serve as a small reminder to young Black students that the opportunity to study at one of the best universities in the world is theirs for the taking.”

To receive the scholarship the student must have a confirmed place at the University of Cambridge and be a UK student of Black or mixed-race heritage. The recipients of the scholarship are chosen by a panel that includes University staff and experts from higher education and the President of the University’s student African-Caribbean Society.

The scholarships are funded by Stormzy’s #Merky Foundation which aims to provide funding to organisations, charities and movements that are committed to fighting racial inequality (Image credits: Frank Schwichtenberg and Wikimedia Commons via the Creative Commons Licence)

One Black Cambridge student commented that they think this is an “amazing pledge of support”, however, they also believe that “Stormzy is doing the job that Cambridge should be doing”, and that the scheme “shouldn’t have to exist,” especially as “Cambridge has a net worth that’s more than the combined GDPs of the world’s poorest countries.”

They added that “the fact that this has to be done by Stormzy shows a failing on the university’s part, especially as they keep talking about removing barriers to entry for Black students.”

Professor Graham Virgo, the Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, said that “since the Stormzy Scholarships were announced in 2018 we have seen a significant increase in the number of Black students applying to study here and being admitted.”

From 2017-2020, the number of Black British students applying to the University of Cambridge per year increased by around 50 per cent, from 58 to 137 students. The rise in the number of Black applicants (and those admitted) since the commencement of Stormzy’s scheme has been dubbed the “Stormzy effect.”

Professor Virgo added that the “exciting journey” to Cambridge undertaken by students eligible for the scheme “might not have been possible without the generous support of philanthropists like Stormzy.”

This new partnership also gives the scholarship holders the option to explore work experience, skills development and mentoring opportunities with HSBC bank. Ian Stuart, the Chief Executive of HSBC UK said that the bank is “proud to support the growth of the Stormzy Scholarships” as part of their desire to remove the “barriers to higher education” and “wider commitment to support racial equality in the UK.”

Launched in 2018, the Stormzy Scholarship programme initially intended to cover tuition fee costs for four Black students over the course of their undergraduate degree from 2018-2019. So far, the scholarship has supported six students, including two students that graduated this academic year with a 2.1 and a high 2.1 respectively.

The #Merky Foundation is a charity founded in 2019 by the Stormzy, and aims to provide funding to organisations, charities and movements that are committed to fighting racial inequality.

In June 2020, the Foundation announced that it would be donating £10 million over the next ten years to charities and other organisations committed to tackling racial inequality in the UK. HSBC UK’s donation to the Stormzy Scholarship scheme is in addition to the Foundation’s initial commitment, and the Foundation encourage other companies to follow suit and join them in pledging.

The expansion of the Stormzy scholarship scheme follows the University’s announcement of a foundation year for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and Mary Beard’s pledge to support two Cambridge classics undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds earlier this year.

The deadline to apply for the Stormzy Scholarship, available to those being admitted to the university for the academic year 2021-22, is Friday 27th August. You can find the application page here.

Feature image credit: Kim Erlandsen, NRK P3, Creative Commons Licence