RARE  RISINGSTARS - The UK’s Top 10 Black Students
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No. 8


Rihab El-Hussain

University of Cambridge
Academics and University Access

Theophina Gabriel

Born to first generation Sudanese parents, Rihab grew up in Harrow in northwest London, as the second oldest of five siblings. Rihab’s elder sister was born severely disabled, and she recalls travelling back and forth between doctor’s appointments as a child. Despite this, Rihab admits that she did not realise how a large a part of her childhood this was until she started at university, as family trips to the hospital and caring responsibilities were just a normal aspect of everyday life.

Rihab was state educated and attended Bentley Wood High School for the duration of her secondary schooling. She thoroughly enjoyed school, and developed a knack for leadership early on, becoming Head Girl in Year 13. As the only Oxbridge applicant from her school, the UCAS process was daunting and Rihab had to use her initiative to research the practical steps she would need to take. Furthermore, whilst Rihab’s family were always greatly supportive of her aspirations, neither of her parents had attended a UK university and could offer little practical guidance. Unperturbed, Rihab determined to study Law at Cambridge and successfully secured her offer with A*A*A at A Level.

Whilst balancing a rigorous Law degree, Rihab is also the founder of in2_law, a social initiative designed to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds study Law at top universities. In 2019, in2_law organised mock interviews for 65 students from access backgrounds. In 2020, in2_law increased their impact by over 300%, receiving over 500 applications to their programme and organising nearly 200 mock interviews for social mobility candidates with interview offers at Oxford and Cambridge. So far, eight Law offer holders have been confirmed across both universities, but this number continues to grow as students informally feed back to the organisers.

Rihab also organised a UCAS webinar for approximately 50 Year 12 students in the summer between school and her starting university. This consisted of four weekly sessions breaking down the UCAS application process and providing students with practical study tips and personal statement advice. Rihab has also run various Instagram Live sessions with Oxbridge students from across the UK, culminating in a collaboration with Team UPside, another youth-led community organisation that works to tackle information gaps and support young people reach their full academic potential. Most recently, Rihab organised an essay competition over the summer of 2020, encouraging entrants (20 in the prize’s first year) to consider five questions from various areas of philosophy, morality, politics, and international law. Through this essay prize, students were able to develop their academic reading and research skills. The pandemic has also provided opportunities for Rihab and her team to improve their regional outreach, and she is currently working with a school in Nottingham to formalise their mentoring programme.

Alongside this, Rihab is the Founder and President of the Cambridge University Sudanese Society, where she organises events providing the student community with opportunities to explore Sudanese culture and history. Rihab is also actively involved in student life at Downing College, Cambridge and has spearheaded a campaign to increase diversity and inclusion, leading to the college hiring a new member of staff that focuses specifically on diversity and inclusion training for all. Rihab currently sits on the Racial Justice Committee, along with other senior members of college, and has overseen the introduction of a Black and ethnic minority-specific mental health fund from October 2020.

Outside all of this, Rihab continues to work as an academic tutor at her secondary school, marking the girls’ A level work and running revision sessions to help them meet their target grades. She was also selected as a PASS scholar for the Inner Temple in January 2020 and was previously selected to complete a summer programme at Harvard Law School as the recipient of the John Butterfield Award.

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