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Man who was illiterate until 18 is now Cambridge University's youngest Black professor

Jason Arday is currently the youngest black professor at the world's second-best university after being "violently rejected" earlier.

Man who was illiterate until 18 is now Cambridge University's youngest Black professor
Cover Image Source: Cambridge University / Jason Arday

A professor diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition and global developmental delay as a kid is now breaking barriers. Jason Arday's goal of working as a professor at the prestigious Cambridge University in England has been accomplished. According to PEOPLE, Arday was informed over eight years ago that he would need to live in assisted homes and get lifelong support as an adult, but he refused to give up. He wrote a list of goals on his mother's bedroom wall. One said, "One day I will work at Oxford or Cambridge." He is currently the youngest black professor at the world's second-best university after being "violently rejected" to teach in higher education.



 

 

"As optimistic as I am, there's just no way I could have thought that would have happened. If I was a betting person, the odds on it were so long. It's just mad," said the 37-year-old. "When I started writing academic papers, I had no idea what I was doing. I did not have a mentor and no one ever showed me how to write. Everything I submitted got violently rejected. The peer review process was so cruel, it was almost funny, but I treated it as a learning experience and, perversely, began to enjoy it." He mentioned that he communicated sign language after being diagnosed. He earned two master's qualifications, a postgraduate certificate in education to become a PE teacher, and a Ph.D. from Liverpool John Moores University.

Student passing through a college campus in Cambridge Universitiy, UK - stock photo, (Getty Images / burcintuncer)
Student passing through a college campus in Cambridge University, UK - stock photo, (Getty Images / burcintuncer)

His friend and mentor, Sandro Sandi, encouraged  Arday to pursue his dream of becoming an educator. "I think you can do this," he told Arday. "I think we can take on the world and win." Despite the odds, Arday was laser-focused on his career. "A lot of academics say they stumbled into this line of work, but from that moment I was determined and focused — I knew that this would be my goal," Arday told The Times. "On reflection, this is what I meant to do." He submitted his first paper in 2018 and secured a position at two universities in England. He became the youngest professor in the U.K. after landing a job at the University of Glasgow's School of Education. 



 

 

He is set to start his academic session in Cambridge on March 6. "My work focuses primarily on how we can open doors to more people from disadvantaged backgrounds and truly democratize higher education," Arday said. "Hopefully being in a place like Cambridge will provide me with the leverage to lead that agenda nationally and globally." He 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."



 

 

He also believes that Cambridge's international reach can "lead the way as an inclusive space." "The University has some amazing people and resources; the challenge is how we use that capital to improve things for everyone and not just a few," Arday added. "Doing this right is an art: it requires real diplomacy and everyone has to feel inspired to work together. If we want to make education more inclusive, the best tools we have are solidarity, understanding, and love."

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