UCL News


UCL student named as one of UK’s top 10 Rare Rising Stars

16 August 2021

Congratulations to UCL PhD student, Hope Oloye, who has been celebrated as one of the UK’s top ten black African and Caribbean-descent university students, for her work founding educational programme, Thinking Black.

Hope Oloye

The accolade comes as part of Rare Recruitment’s annual awards ceremony, which aims to share positive stories about black students, and to inspire future generations by providing them with access to role models.

The event has been running for over 10 years and celebrates students who have achieved academically as well as in business, charity, community organising, music, sport and technology.

Commenting on being selected as one of the top black students in the UK, Hope Oloye, said: “It feels great to receive this praise for my work. Being recognised alongside such inspirational people is incredible.

“I never imaged that Thinking Black would receive such recognition. I had hopes that it would grow to support students across the UK and it’s so amazing to see it being recognised and celebrated.”

Hope began studying at the UCL Ear Institute in 2019, and she is working towards her PhD as part of the fully funded Ecological Brain Doctoral Programme, specialising in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience.

The student founded Thinking Black in 2017 while reading Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, to tackle inequalities and provide academic enrichment and further study outside of the formal curriculum to black students from under resourced schools.

The educational organisation seeks to engage students from Year 8 to Year 12 in various expressive mediums, including creative writing, public speaking, critical thinking and formal essay writing – in the hope that it will provide them with the opportunity to demonstrate their passion for a subject and enable them to apply for top university places.

In 2017, Hope secured £100,000 in funding towards the Thinking Black project from Pembroke College at Oxford University.

And since then, the flagship Essay Writing Programme has helped over 200 Year 12 students, many of whom have gone on to study at Oxford, Cambridge and a number of Russell Group universities.

Thinking Black also provides skills sessions and mentorship, alongside interdisciplinary courses run by paid Oxford students, which explore the interactions between race and subjects such as feminism and healthcare disparities.

Hope said: “The main inspiration for the project was trying to tackle educational disparity.

“Seeing that University progression demographics didn’t match up with the UK’s diversity was awful. The hope is that by redistributing resources through skills workshops and by making studying personally relevant through exploring the intersection between various subjects and contemporary societal issues, we hoped to make academia supportive and celebratory of black people and their contributions.

“I hope that in the future we’ll have programmes supporting even more specialisations, including Brain Sciences and Computer Science. I hope to also support the winner and participants of our prizes with scholarships and publications.”

Alongside her PhD, Hope is also part of a consultative group at Pembroke College, Oxford, helping to inform equality and inclusion policy, which involves providing research for racial equality reports and conducting discussion groups with past and present students.

Hope was also recently awarded a place as part of the alumni portrait award series and is the youngest person to have their portrait hung in Pembroke college’s Main Hall.

As a result of all her work, Hope was selected for the Rare Rising Stars award by this year’s judging panel, which included Kem Ihenacho, Sophie Chandauka, Tia Counts, Jean Tomlin and Tom Chigbo.

All the winners were marked in categories such as determination, depth of achievement, breadth of talent, initiative and leadership, and selected from a shortlist of high achievers.

The Rare Rising Stars ceremony is usually held at the House of Commons and sponsored by David Lammy MP.

However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year the event was held virtually and streamed on YouTube.