Two students in UAE win scholarships to Oxford

An Emirati and an Austrian woman were selected for the programme, which is administered by the Rhodes Trust.

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ABU DHABI // Two students from New York University Abu Dhabi have been offered places on the inaugural Falcon Scholars programme and will this year conduct postgraduate studies at Oxford University in England.

The scholarships are administered by the Rhodes Trust, which was founded in 1903 by Cecil Rhodes, a British colonial financier and statesman in South Africa.

The trust has enabled nearly 8,000 individuals to study at the prestigious British university.

In October this year, Shamma Sohail Faris Al Mazrui, an Emirati, and Charlotte Wang, of Austria, will join the 83 Rhodes Scholars selected annually from countries including Australia, Bermuda, Canada and Zimbabwe.

The Falcon Scholarships will be awarded each year to one or two exceptional students who have completed an undergraduate degree from a college or university in the UAE. It is intended to open opportunities to students from countries which were not previously eligible under the Rhodes Scholarship, including the UAE.

Ms Al Mazrui, 21, studies economics. Her thesis focuses on the labour market prospects of Emirati women, and she was a co-designer of the NYUAD Al Nahda Institute, which provides a framework for exploring social and gender equity. She plans to pursue a masters in public policy at Oxford.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Ms Al Mazrui said. “I’m excited and not feeling nervous. I’ve studied at NYU in New York and interned in New York so I’m used to being away from home now. I want to be an ambassador for NYU Abu Dhabi and the UAE.”

She said it was not only her academic excellence which secured the scholarship, but her leadership in a Down syndrome initiative. Her extra-curricular work, leadership skills and strength of character were also factors.

“One of the key values of the Falcon is someone who values public service and I have a devotion to duty. I want to be an active participant in contributing to my country.”

Ms Wang, 21, lived in the US before joining NYUAD, and studies social research and public policy. She, like Ms Mazrui, is also active beyond her studies, which now focus on hybrid identities among the Chinese migrant community.

She is the leader of curriculum development for the student humanitarian group and is an editorial board member for the NYUAD Journal of Social Sciences. It will be her first time visiting the UK when she goes to study sociology and demography.

“I was quite touched that there was this scholarship available in the UAE and open to people who are not only UAE nationals as I wouldn’t have been eligible for the Rhodes Scholarship before,” Ms Wang said. “This is showing that the UAE and Rhodes Trust are leading the way in showing education is not based on our nationality, which is an exciting thing for me.”

A local selection committee was chaired by Dr Allan Goodman, president of the Institute of International Education, and included Michael Corbin, the US ambassador to the UAE, Dr Jane McAuliffe, former president of Bryn Mawr College, Zaki Nusseibeh, adviser to the Ministry of Presidential Affairs and three Rhodes scholars who live in the UAE.

Charles Conn, warden of Rhodes House, said he was pleased to have two “such strong candidates” in the first year of the Falcon Scholarships.