Tech Entrepreneur Arlan Hamilton Launches New Scholarship Fund for Black Undergrads at UK’s Oxford University

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Tech entrepreneur and investor Arlan Hamilton is no stranger to giving back. This time, she’s made it her mission to make education available to Black students at the prestigious Oxford University.

This week, Hamilton announced the creation of a new scholarship fund benefiting undergraduate students of African and Caribbean descent who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The grant is a first for the U.K. university and will cover a student’s fees and living expenses for up to three years, starting in 2020, USA Today reported.

Arlan Hamilton
Arlan Hamilton is the founder and managing partner at Backstage Capital, which invests in startups led by women, minorities and members of the LGBTQ community. (Photo: Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for REVOLT)

Currently, Black students comprise 2.6 percent of Oxford’s undergraduate students, and Hamilton said she hopes her scholarship will help to change that. It’s also her hope that it might inspire others to create opportunities for Black students in higher ed, from historically Black institutions in the  U.S. and beyond.

In fact, she has plans of launching a similar fund at Dillard University in New Orleans next spring.

“I plan on doing this for several schools over the next decade, and starting with Oxford because I’ve spent a great deal of time with their students and faculty, and Dillard [University] because it’s my mom’s alma mater and it shaped her,” she told the newspaper in a recent interview.

As the founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, Hamilton backs women, minority and LGBTQ business owners who are routinely passed up by Silicon Valley investors, helping them overcome hurdles that often keep them from achieving the same success as their straight, white and majority male counterparts. Lack of access to venture capital funds has proved to be a monstrous issue for Black women founders in particular, with less than 0.2 percent of all venture deals going to Black women-led start ups.

Hamilton took it upon herself to help these underestimated groups by launching a $36 million fund specifically for Black female entrepreneurs last year.

“We are no longer accepting the scraps at the end of the dinner table in venture capital and beyond as Black women,” the former music tour manager told AfroTech in 2018. “We asked nicely, and now it’s our turn.”

Today, she’s extending that same effort to effect change at Oxford. As part of her scholarship, undergraduate students will receive financial assistance in addition to a $3,900 internship grant to prepare them for jobs in their desired career field, according to the university. Scholarship recipients will also have the chance to work closely with the Oxford Foundry, an Oxford entrepreneurship center where Hamilton is an adviser.

The new scholarship fund is valued at nearly $300,000 (or £220,000) and stands to help a number of students. The gift comes amid the  university’s efforts to diversify its campus by recruiting more students from minority and underrepresented backgrounds. Their hope is that these students will comprise at least one-fourth of the student body by 2023.

“I am delighted that Arlan has chosen Oxford for this generous gift,” professor Martin Williams, pro-vice-chancellor for education, said in a statement. “Finance should not be a barrier to opportunity or education, and I hope that this announcement reminds black students across the country that there are opportunities for them at the University.”

Just last month, the Oxford Union, a prominent debate society independent of the university, faced controversy after a blind postgraduate student from Ghana was forcibly removed from a debate hall “by his feet.” The group has since apologized.

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