Black students at Oxford University to get scholarships from black American tech entrepreneur


SAN FRANCISCO — Technology investor and entrepreneur Arlan Hamilton is funding a new scholarship for black undergraduate students at Oxford University, a first for the educational institution.

The scholarship, partly named for Hamilton’s mother, will cover fees and living costs for one undergraduate student a year for three years beginning in 2020. The value of the scholarship fund is about £220,000 (or nearly $300,000), Oxford said.

A black woman who has written her own unique success story as an entrepreneur and investor in the mostly white and male tech sector, Hamilton is a former music tour manager without a college degree who bought a one-way ticket to San Francisco with the goal of backing underrepresented entrepreneurs. She was so broke that she met with tech investors by day and slept on the floor of the San Francisco airport at night until one of them cut her a check.

Today, she runs Backstage Capital, a venture capital firm that backs women, minority and LGBTQ founders who are overlooked by Silicon Valley and reflects Hamilton’s determination to overcome the complex set of biases and barriers that begin in preschool and persist in the workplace that keep women and people of color from gaining equal access to some of the nation’s highest-paying jobs.

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Now, Hamilton says she’s expanding that mission to Oxford, an elite and storied university considered the oldest in the English-speaking world. She says her goal is to make an Oxford education available to more black U.K. students. Currently at Oxford, black students make up 2.6% of the annual undergraduate student body intake. This is the first scholarship for black scholars at Oxford, Hamilton told listeners in a podcast.

Recipients of the scholarship will be of African and Caribbean heritage and from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, she says. They will have the opportunity to work closely with the Oxford Foundry, an entrepreneurship center at the university that she advises, and with the L.E.V8 accelerator. Each student will get an internship grant of £3,000 (or about $3,900) to prepare them for jobs in their chosen field, the university said.