A renowned sociologist who was diagnosed with autism as a child and didn’t learn to read or write until the age of 18 will become the youngest Black professor ever appointed at the University of Cambridge in England.
Prof Jason Arday is a well-known scholar of race, inequality and education. He was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old and did not learn to speak until he was 11. His family was told he would likely require lifelong care, but he defied all expectations.
Now 37, he will start as a professor of sociology of education at Cambridge in March and hopes that his story will inspire others from under-represented backgrounds to pursue higher education.
At Cambridge, Arday will build on his previous work at Durham and Glasgow universities, addressing the scarcity of Black and minority people in higher education, their under-representation in academic careers, and the challenge of creating more equitable educational experiences and outcomes for all.
“My work focuses primarily on how we can open doors to more people from disadvantaged backgrounds and truly democratize higher education,” he said in a release shared by the University. “Hopefully, being in a place like Cambridge will provide me with the leverage to lead that agenda nationally and globally.”
Arday added: “Talking about it is one thing; doing it is what matters. Cambridge is already making significant changes and has achieved some notable gains in attempting to diversify the landscape, but there is so much more to be done – here and across the sector.”
Ten years ago, while studying for his Ph.D., Arday wrote down a set of personal goals on his mother’s bedroom wall. The third on his list read: “One day, I will work at Oxford or Cambridge.” On March 6, that dream will become a reality.
“As optimistic as I am, there’s just no way I could have thought that would have happened,” he said. “If I was a betting person, the odds on it were so long. It’s just mad.”