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Last Updated: Friday, 10 September, 2004, 22:20 GMT 23:20 UK
Perceptions of black students
Diggy Dan Darkness
Diggy Dan Darkness is about to start a law degree
An education conference in London is again debating the issue of underachievement by black pupils - and encouraging them to aim higher.

Anjool Malde has been taking soundings among some young black people who are doing well.

Pamela Dusu, a Cambridge graduate who was featured on BBC Two's Black Ambition earlier this month, says the British curriculum does not cater well for black students.

They found it hard to identify with questions about Shakespeare, for example.

"If English is not your first language and you use colloquialisms or London slang then you end up misinterpreting at every stage."


Many black sixth form students I spoke to were misinformed about the Labour government's top-up fees proposals.

"I can't believe they're trying to make us pay 3,000 a year up-front, it's not fair to poorer students," said one visiting Oxford via the university's access scheme - unaware that fees would not be paid up-front and less affluent families would be exempt.

"Yes, the false perceptions regarding top-up fees is very worrying," said Pav Akhtar, black students officer at the National Union of Students.

"But perceptions are always based on something - even with bursaries, university can still be too expensive for less wealthy families to consider."

Furthermore, it was disturbing that several black schoolchildren referred to Britain's elite universities as exclusive to whites.

"I wanted to apply to Durham this year," a girl from London said. "So my mates said they thought I was too good for them, and that I should just apply to Greenwich or South Bank like they are."


Many African-Caribbean students referred to the music industry as being a popular aspiration for their peers. But does this "alternative route to success" hinder their likeliness to succeed in education?

"Yes, the music industry may have its negatives for education as a lot of African-Caribbeans are talented in that area and see it as an easy and natural route to express themselves," said BBC 1Xtra's 18-year-old MC, Diggy Dan Darkness, who will be commencing a law degree at Brunel University this month.

You see a growing number of blacks as lawyers and in the finance industry
Marcus Dubois
"But the music industry can also have a good effect in giving African-Caribbeans something to aspire to and pursue."

"The stereotype of blacks being good at just music can be very damaging," said Marcus Dubois, who graduated from Oxford University and now works for Universal Music.

"But the future looks good. You see a growing number of blacks as lawyers and in the finance industry, and you can see active recruitment taking place."

Actively recruiting African-Caribbeans into the professions without appearing to discriminate against other races may prove challenging, however.

"I feel that it is necessary for people to succeed regardless of their colour but purely due to their aptitude," said Rob, a black student applying to Cambridge University this month.

"Boosting the number of blacks in Parliament is not the way forward. Instead you need to look at things from a grass roots level to redress the balance."

Black schooling 'a class issue'
10 Sep 04  |  Education
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07 Sep 04  |  London
Call to end educational 'racism'
06 Feb 04  |  Education
New scheme to help black pupils
24 Oct 03  |  Education

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