Oxford launches new Pakistan programme

By News desk

The University of Oxford has launched the Oxford Pakistan Programme (OPP) — the first initiative of its kind through which a concerted effort is being made to generate momentum on various Pakistan-related activities at the varsity.

The OPP launched its constituent initiatives on Thursday at Lady Margaret Hall (LMH) — situated at the University of Oxford — where both ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai studied for their undergraduate degrees.

The ceremony was attended by around 200 distinguished guests, including Malala, High Commissioner for Pakistan to UK Moazzam Ahmad Khan, MP Naz Shah, MP Yasmin Qureshi, and businessman Sohaib Abbasi, a statement from the programme read.

Meanwhile, senior academics and administrators from within the University of Oxford were also in attendance — including Professor Christine Gerrard (Principal of LMH), Helen Mountfield QC (Principal of Mansfield College), Dr Saira Sheikh (Academic Registrar), Dr Samina Khan (Director of Undergraduate Admissions & Outreach), Dr Nadia Pollini (Director of Graduate Admissions & Recruitment) and Liesl Elder (Chief Development Officer).

According to the statement, the OPP has three core objectives:

To address the underrepresentation of Pakistani and British Pakistani students at Oxford, to raise the academic profile of Pakistan and Pakistan-related areas of interest amongst Oxford’s faculty, and to promote the global connectivity of Pakistani academic institutions by promoting academic exchange between them and Oxford.

Dr Talha J. Pirzada DPhil C.Eng IMechE , a co-founder of the OPP, revealed that the programme has secured commitments of just under £1million over the next five years to fund various initiatives as part of the OPP, including a scholarship programme for graduate students at Oxford of Pakistani origin.

He explained that over 20 students from Pakistan each year are unable to take up graduate offers to study at Oxford due to a lack of funding, while there are only 13 undergraduate and 45 graduate students from Pakistan at the University, despite over 60% of Pakistan’s population of 220 million people being under the age of 30.

Dr Pirzada announced that the OPP would be offering up to three scholarships in its initial round, with the first set of OPP graduate scholars commencing study at LMH in October 2022, allowing these students to take advantage of Oxford’s world-class facilities and teaching programme, as well as its plethora of wider academic opportunities.

He also announced the launch of the OPP’s Visiting Fellow Programmes, including a programme developed in partnership with the Malala Fund, the Government of Sindh and non-profit Durbeen, to provide opportunities for Pakistani academics to take advantage of Oxford’s research facilities and global academic network.

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