Updated Mar 3, 2023, 9:12am EST

Cambridge University’s newest professor couldn’t read or write until he was 18

Jason Arday has been appointed as Professor of Sociology of Education at Cambridge University
Cambridge University / Faculty of Education News

Sign up for Semafor Flagship: The daily global news briefing you can trust. Read it now.

Title icon

The News

A sociologist who was unable to read or write until the age of 18 was appointed Cambridge University’s youngest-ever Black professor. Jason Arday, 37, will start his new role as professor of sociology of education next week.

Title icon

Know More

Arday will be one of the few Black professors at the university. According to the BBC, there are currently only five Black professors at Cambridge. Across the U.K. only 155 of more than 23,000 university professors are Black, according to 2021 figures.

Arday has shattered boundaries in other ways, too. Born and raised in south London, the 37-year-old was diagnosed with autism as a child and was unable to speak until he was 11. He went on to acquire a degree in physical education and education studies and train as a PE teacher, before completing two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in educational studies.

According to CBS, Arday’s work at Cambridge will focus on boosting Black representation in higher education and academia — both across the world and especially in the U.K.

Title icon


“[Arday’s] experiences highlight the barriers faced by many under-represented groups across higher education and especially at leading universities,” Cambridge University said in a press release announcing Arday’s appointment. “Cambridge has a responsibility to do everything it can to address this by creating academic spaces where everyone feels they belong.”