Social Responsibility

Lemn Sissay launches innovative scheme to boost number of black males in legal sector

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 10:27:00 BST

Poet and broadcaster Lemn Sissay, the University's Chancellor, has launched a new university bursary designed to increase the number of black males embarking on careers in law and the criminal justice sector.

A first of its kind, the Lemn Sissay Law Bursaries take into account applicants’ race, gender and socio-economic background.The School of Law’s Black Lawyers Matter project was set up in 2016 by a group of academics, community leaders and legal practitioners on discovery that out of some 1,200 undergraduates, only 14 UK-based Black males of African and Caribbean heritage were registered on law and criminology courses, and of these none were from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Working with community organisations, schools, regulators and legal & criminal justice professionals, the project aims to address black and minority ethnic under-representation in higher education and the professions – as well as to promote the relationship between the University and Manchester's African and Caribbean communities.

The Lemn Sissay Bursaries specifically aim to address the obstacles faced by male students of African and Caribbean heritage who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. It will offer eligible applicants an annual grant of £3,000, funded by the School of Law.

Lemn commented: "I am immensely proud to have these bursaries named after me, as I fully understand how difficult it can be for people from my background to advance in life. One of the main goals of the University is social responsibility, which makes it unique in the UK. It does an awful lot to inform communities who may feel university isn’t for them that the opposite is true, through public engagement work and schemes like this one."

“It is a privilege to be part of this project, which will widen participation and improve the relationship with the local communities who often never benefit from the resources of universities,“ said barrister Tunde Okewale MBE. “This is something that would have benefited me had it existed when I was studying law. I believe that it will help to improve and increase the diversity within the legal industry, as well as facilitating a more open and transparent dialogue about racial inequality in higher education.”

“This initiative signals an important step in progressing with our local communities and partner organisations to ensure that people from all backgrounds feel a sense of ownership of and belonging to The University of Manchester and its cultural institutions,” said senior lecturer Dr Dawn Edge, The University’s Academic Lead for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion.

The bursary was launched at an event in September which featured debates with Greater Manchester Black & Asian Police Association, youth workers and musicians about combating the recent rise in violence, cuts to local services, the role of the police and making our communities safer. Attendees were also be able to get expert advice on making an application to the University, working there and accessing its cultural institutions.

Listen to Lemn Sissay speak about the bursary scheme on BBC Radio Manchester (at 30 mins into the programme).

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