Stormzy has announced that he is funding two scholarships for black British students to go to Cambridge University.
The grime artist will pay the students’ tuition fees as well as a maintenance grant for up to four years of an undergraduate course.
Speaking on 16 August at his former school, the Harris City Academy in Croydon, south London, where A-level students were opening their results, Stormzy told BBC Breakfast: “If you’re academically brilliant don’t think because you come from a certain community that studying at one of the highest education institutions in the world isn’t possible.”
The 25-year-old, who won best album at this year’s Ivor Novello awards, has previously been praised for tackling social injustice, including advocating on behalf of victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. He is funding two places this year and two next year.
The move comes amid concerns about lack of diversity at the Oxbridge universities. Figures published in June showed some Cambridge colleges admitted no black students or accepted as few as one a year between 2012 and 2016.
Stormzy said that when he was at school he had ambitions to study at Oxbridge but some people did not realise the option was open to them.
“I was always reminded by my teachers that I was destined, if I wanted, to go down that road and study at one of the top universities,” he said. “I diverted and ended up doing music so it didn’t happen for me. I thought I was quite a rare case in that I knew that was possible.
“That’s not always the case. When students are young, academically brilliant and getting great grades, they should know that’s an option.”
Last year he donated £9,000 to a crowdfunding initiative set up by a student from south-west London to enable her to study at Harvard. He said he coasted through GCSEs – he got six A*s, three As and three Bs according to the BBC – but “didn’t do too great at A-levels”.
In 2016, when he was a guest speaker at the Oxford University Guild, Stormzy told students: “It was my dream to come to Oxford and study political science.
I always thought Oxford is better [than Cambridge] anyway, it’s got a ring to it.” By offering the scholarships, he is following a number of rappers, including Jay-Z and Nicky Minaj in the US, where the practice is popular.
The application deadline is 30 August for this year and is open to any black student with an offer to study at Cambridge, according to the BBC. The students will be selected by a panel of university staff.