The number of black students in higher education has almost tripled in the last decade. Over 130,000 Black African, Caribbean and Black British students enrolled on higher education courses at UK universities in the 2016/17 academic year, equivalent to 7% of all enrolments. Back in 2006/07, the Higher Education Statistics Authority recorded just under 43,500 black student enrolments.
The growth in African and Caribbean students attending UK universities has resulted in the formation of many campus-based student-led African Caribbean Societies (ACS). There are now around 125 ACS societies operating in the UK, representing nearly all UK University Institutions. African Caribbean Societies exist to empower, express and entertain, positively celebrating African-Caribbean cultures and experiences.
Student-led African Caribbean Societies take their roots from the first African-Caribbean community associations, societies and community centres which were developed to support the growing African-Caribbean populations in many British towns and cities during the 1950s and 1960s. During this time, concerns about discrimination and segregation resulted in many African-Community associations being formed by the communities themselves, often with their own appointed community relations officers. As well as improving community relations, African-Caribbean Associations also performed a social function by providing an environment for individuals to come together to participate in community and sporting events.
There are now over 150 registered charitable African-Caribbean community associations across the UK. Together, with many other unregistered informal groups and societies, these organisations support their communities through a variety of purposes, including community development work, supporting cultural networks and acting as a social function for the African-Caribbean population in Britain.
The black population in the UK currently stands at around 2 million people, equivalent to around 3% of the total. The Policy Exchange think-tank estimates that the ethnic population of the UK will almost double within the next three decades, increasing from around 8 million people (14% of the population) to around 20-30% of the population by the year 2050. The African and Caribbean university student population is also expected to grow significantly, with the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) reporting that over half (52%) of UK university institutions currently have one or more outcome targets relating to BME students, with two-thirds of these targets directly relating to raising access and entry rates for black and minority ethnic groups.
With African and Caribbean Societies now present in around 96% of UK university institutions, A-CAN now acts as a UK version of a fraternity for over 1,000 former ACS members and a wider network of 20,000 individuals seeking to support the progression of the UK’s African Caribbean communities throughout the UK.