Cambridge pro-vice-chancellor says students not applying ‘because there’s not enough hairdressers’

Cambridge pro-vice-chancellor says black students are not applying for places ‘because there’s not enough specialist Afro-Caribbean hairdressers in the city’

  • Professor Graham Virgo sited new research conducted by the university
  • Other experts said lack of hair care is an issue that is frequently talked about 
  • Prof Virgo said the revelation sent a ‘really important’ message to the university.

The pro-vice chancellor of Cambridge University has claimed that black students aren’t applying for places at the prestigious institution due to a lack of ‘specialist Afro-Caribbean hairdressers in the city’.

Professor Graham Virgo sited the ‘unexpected’ research findings during an event at King’s College, Cambridge, and stated that this was one of the barriers from stopping black students applying.

It comes as the founder of a programme to assist black student applying to Oxford or Cambridge, Naomi Kellman, said it’s a problem that ‘comes up frequently’.

Speaking at an event, Prof Virgo, who is also a QC and expert in criminal law said: ‘We have been doing some quite detailed research, particularly with black students, particularly in London, looking at obstacles to applying to Cambridge and thinking about Cambridge. And number three on the list was hairdressers.

Black students are said not to be applying for places at Cambridge (above) due to a lack of hairdressers in the area

He added that the revelation sent a ‘really important’ message to the university.

The research surveyed some Cambridge undergraduates and sixth form students and was carried out ahead of a new campaign launch to encourage more black students to apply for university, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Prof Virgo said researchers had asked prospective students what the obstacles were in applying to Cambridge.

‘The real message was about hairdressers.

‘It’s unexpected but we need to look at applying to Cambridge from their eyes. For those students this is their concern. Really being able to engage with these perceptions enables us to say ‘how are we going to respond to that?’

Other concerns included whether or not students would fit in and if they would have enough money.

The comments were made at a panel discussion on Wednesday evening.

It comes as universities face more pressure from regulators to admit more students from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds.

Figures from last year showed that six of Cambridge’s colleges had admitted fewer than ten black British students in five years.

At the time the university said that it could not change diversity on its own, and called upon ethnic minorities to apply.

Experts said if you are from a majority group - you assumed you will be catered for (stock image of woman getting her hair cut)

Experts said if you are from a majority group – you assumed you will be catered for (stock image of woman getting her hair cut)

Naomi Kellman, founder of Target Oxbridge, a programme to assist black students with Oxford and Cambridge applications, said if you are from a majority group you assume you will be catered for.

‘Anywhere in the country can manage your hair.

‘But if you have afro hair, the expertise is needed. Things that are really basic and simple become quite a big challenge.’

Other concerns include what the night life and food will be like.

Cambridge has a handful of hairdressers including several claiming to specialist in ‘Afro and European hair care’.

Dr Tony Sewell, CEO of Generating Genius, shunned the research and said a lack of hairdressers was not the reason black students were not applying.

Dr Sewell who runs the charity which encourages those from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue STEM subjects said: ‘It may be another lame excuse – kids need to get more resilient and get with it.

 ‘As a minority, you will have to be confronting a situation where you are the only one. You have to face that and learn how to adapt to that. That’s the key issue.’

MailOnline has contacted Cambridge University.