DUBAI // Nine pupils from a school in the emirate have received letters of acceptance from Britain’s top two universities.
They are from Dubai College and the acceptance rate marks a record for the institution.
They had to complete a gruelling series of interviews and, in some cases, tests by the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.
“I couldn’t believe it when I found out I had been accepted,” said Daniyal Malik, a Pakistani.
The 18-year-old has been offered a place at Homerton College, Cambridge, to study land economy.
“I knew there was a lot of competition for places, so I wasn’t sure I would make it. But now I’ve got a real target to complete my final year,” he said.
Like all the pupils, Daniyal has been given a conditional offer depending on his final A-level and AS-level grades this year.
“We had some Oxbridge alumni visit the college, and that really inspired me to do my best in my exams and aim for a place at one of the universities,” he said.
For Devina Singh, 18, from India, it was a moment of unbridled joy when she was told that St Hilda’s College in Oxford had accepted her to read biological sciences.
“I was in the library with a friend when I found out. I screamed when I was told,” she said.
“My family members were all really happy about it, but to be honest it’s still sinking in.”
Zoe Curtis, 17, from Wales, had the additional task of passing a difficult entrance exam before she was even considered for an interview at Oxford.
“I want to study biomedicine. To do that you have to get a good score in the exam, otherwise they won’t even look at your application,” she said.
She spent much of the summer preparing for it.
“The hard work was worth it and the interviews went really well after that,” said Zoe.
She has been given an open offer, and depending on her final grades she expects to be at a college in Oxford this time next year.
Ollie French, 17, from London, has followed in the footsteps of his older brother by getting a place at Oxford.
He has a spot at Lady Margaret Hall to read classical archaeology and ancient history.
“I’ve been interested in the subject since I was four years old, when I used to go to the desert in Al Ain with my father and we used to find bits of arrow tips,” he said.
“I’ve always been very competitive with my brother and he is already doing engineering at Oxford. So that was a big incentive for me to do my best last year and make sure I get the results I need this year.”
Anya Malik, 17, from India, got an offer to read economics at Sidney Sussex College at Cambridge.
“I was really nervous before my first interview and thought I had made a mistake. But the second one went much better and they accepted me,” she said.
“I was shocked and I still am, to be honest, but I feel a real sense of pride as well.”
Sara Ali, 17, from London, had set her sights on Cambridge after visiting the city. She was relieved and excited about being offered a place at Murray Edwards College in Cambridge to study medicine.
“I’ve always been really interested in medicine and learning how and why treatments work, so this is a dream come true for me,” she said.
Imogen Lemon, 17, from Derbyshire, initially wanted to study languages, but she chose to apply to study linguistics at Christ’s College at Cambridge after learning more about the subject. She researched linguistics extensively before her interview and her hard work paid off when she got the offer.
“I’m not too sure what I want to do after I do the degree, but I think learning about other languages is fascinating and will really help me in the future,” she said.
Matthew Laven and Simran Kashyap have also been accepted by the two universities.
Dubai College attributes its students’ success in part to its “Top Up” initiative, which encourages students to be more involved in their extracurricular activities.
That includes completing online courses and even starting their own businesses.