About 50 Oxford graduates have formed the association and aim to be role models for young people worried they will not fit in at the institution.
Members of the Oxford Black Alumni Network also hope to address the lack of black people in high-profile jobs.
The group is made up of graduates from the past 15 years, including the first black president of the university’s student union, a professional cricketer, a trainee Linklaters solicitor, a writer and an assistant producer at the English National Opera.
Naomi Kellman, the network’s co-chair, who took a PPE degree in 2011, said she hopes to inspire more black students with university ambitions to apply to Oxford.
She said: “There is still a concern among black students that if they apply they might be the only one — they might think Oxford is not for ‘people like me’. But we want to show that’s not true. There is a long history of black students at Oxford doing well and being happy.”
The network will work with schools and ask alumni to mentor prospective students. It is also considering setting up a “buddy” system between black undergraduates and past students. The latest statistics from the University of Oxford show that in 2016 there were 225 black or mixed race students, compared with 140 in 2006, of a total 9,393 students.
Dr Samina Khan, director of undergraduate admissions and outreach at Oxford, said the figures show increasing numbers of black applicants.
She said: “We’re encouraged by this, but we realise there is still more to do… One of the challenges to making progress in this area is prior attainment, and we are also working with teachers to help them support their most talented students in realising their aspirations.”
Ms Kellman, 27, from Croydon, said she was often asked if she was worried about the number of other black students when she applied. She said: “It was definitely a concern for me… But I would say to prospective students now — definitely apply. Oxford does have diversity and you won’t be the only person like you.”
Dr Khan added: “We are delighted that so many of our brilliant black alumni decided to come together to demonstrate that race is no barrier to success at Oxford.”