Professor Jason Arday, who couldn’t read or write until he was 18 is about to become Cambridge University’s youngest-ever black professor.
Arday, one of four kids, was born and raised in Clapham, a neighbourhood in south London. He utilized sign language until the age of 11 and worked with speech and language therapists a lot as a youngster. Though it was predicted that he would require lifelong care, he surprised everyone.
Arday studied for a BTEC at college after earning two GCSEs in physical education and textiles. He then finished his first degree in PE and education studies, then at Liverpool John Moores University, he pursued two master’s degrees, a PGCE to become a PE teacher, and a Doctorate. He worked part-time jobs at Sainsbury’s and Boots to pay for his studies.
He believes that by sharing his remarkable journey, which will begin next month as he assumes the position of professor of sociology of education at Cambridge, others from underrepresented backgrounds will be motivated to pursue higher education.
The lack of black and minority ethnic students in higher education, their underrepresentation in academic careers, and the difficulty of ensuring more equitable educational experiences and outcomes for all will be addressed by Arday, building on his earlier work at the universities of Durham and Glasgow.
My work focuses primarily on how we can open doors to more people from disadvantaged backgrounds and truly democratise higher education,” he said. “Hopefully being in a place like Cambridge will provide me with the leverage to lead that agenda nationally and globally.
On his mother’s bedroom wall ten years ago, he scrawled a list of personal objectives while pursuing his Doctorate. He wrote, “One day, I’ll work at Oxford or Cambridge,” as the third item on his list. That aspiration will come true on March 6. Even if I’m optimistic, there’s no way I could have anticipated that would have occurred, he added. “The odds on it were so long, if I were a gambler. It’s simply crazy.
For other young people from underrepresented backgrounds, his tale serves as a reminder that “anything is possible,” according to Arday. Although I was aware that I didn’t necessarily possess a lot of talent, I was also aware of how much I wanted it and was willing to work hard for it.
According to Arday, out of the 24,000 academics in the UK, just over 160 were black, and just over 50 were black women. Black women were also among the lowest paid in the field. “It’s going to require a persistent commitment by institutions to truly think about how they interact with the politics of race,” he added if things were to change.
Jason Arday is a distinguished researcher on issues of racial inequality, education, and policy, according to Prof. Bhaskar Vira, pro-vice-chancellor for education at the University of Cambridge. He will make a substantial contribution to Cambridge’s research in this field and to efforts to address the underrepresentation of individuals from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly those from Black, Asian, and other Minority Ethnic Communities.
His experiences highlight the barriers faced by many under-represented groups across higher education and especially at leading universities. Cambridge has a responsibility to do everything it can to address this by creating academic spaces where everyone feels they belong.