Meet Karine, who has just returned from a Santander-funded research trip to Ethiopia…

Karine is studying for an MPhil (Master’s) in Development Studies at St John’s College. Her studies are fully-funded by Santander, the Clarendon Fund and her College. Here she explains how she came from Sao Paulo in Brazil to be studying at Oxford, and the difference the funding has made to her future career.

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Applying for an MPhil in Development Studies at Oxford was certainly one of the best decisions I’ve made, potentially only comparable to the decision to accept the Oxford offer. My application was entirely written as I sat on the floor of a slum in Sao Paulo, while working as an MIT D-Lab trip leader. The constant thought in my mind was a rather simple one: ‘I have no idea what my chances are, but I just have to try.’ And everything somehow fell into place…

My name is Karine and I was born and raised in Brazil. I completed my undergraduate studies in 2013 at MIT (USA), with a double BSc in Physics and in Political Science. All throughout my time there, I had been involved in development projects. But the final decision to pursue international development as a career came only as I received a scholarship to study at Oxford. The combined scholarships from Santander, the Clarendon Fund and St John’s College have allowed me to turn down an offer for a full time position at a management consulting company and follow my dream to study development – a difficult decision, but one I would have never been able to do without funding. Oxford has been a fantastic experience in so many ways! The academic rigour of the university is balanced by a rich social life that fosters connections between people working on the most diverse areas.

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The generous funding I am receiving has allowed me not only to come to Oxford, but also to go to Ethiopia for fieldwork. I spent this past summer in Addis Ababa, conducting fieldwork for my MPhil thesis and collaborating with a project in the Oxford Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE). My MPhil thesis is a continuation of a research project I worked on while at the World Bank, focusing on self-employment and entrepreneurship as engines for job creation. There is much we still need to understand about the nature of self-employment in developing countries. Under which conditions do urban youth opt for self-employment? Which circumstances allow them to remain in this occupation – and thrive? Finally, what makes them abandon self-employment, and what are their job prospects like once they leave self-employment? The collaboration with CSAE allows me to conduct qualitative and quantitative research with a random sample of individuals in Addis Ababa, a rare and precious opportunity.

Every day, I am reminded of how grateful I am for the opportunity to be here and to learn from the incredible people around me – be it in Oxford or in Addis Ababa. In addition to the material means to study at Oxford, the scholarships I received have also provided me with two invaluable things: the confidence that I belong in the field of development, and the drive to make the most out of my time here. If Oxford is your dream university, I highly encourage you to give it a chance and apply as well – everything might just fall into place for you too. 

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Introducing Riaz…

Riaz Agha has been awarded several scholarships during his time at the University of Oxford: firstly, to fund his studies for a part time MSc in Surgical Science and Practice at Kellogg College, and then to allow him to study at Balliol College for a doctorate. Riaz explains here how the funding he has received has improved his practice and brought benefits to patients.

Riaz Agha 2

As a trainee in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, I was delighted to be awarded two scholarships to study for the new part time MSc in Surgical Science and Practice at Oxford University. Gaining such financial assistance was crucial to me being able to complete the MSc without enduring excessive financial hardship.  The MSc itself was a fantastic programme and allowed me to acquire knowledge and skills that will be useful for the rest of my career.  For example in areas such as; evidence based healthcare, how to be a medical educator, human factors, teamwork and communication, leadership and management, quality and systems analysis and surgical technology and robotics.

It was during my MSc that I applied for a doctorate and was extremely lucky to be awarded a Clarendon Scholarship that would cover all my fees (including those of Balliol College!).  Scholarship funding has made me a more effective and well-rounded surgical trainee and is bringing real benefits to patients.  My development has become more holistic and crucially I have the opportunity to develop my clinical and academic careers congruently.  This has led to rich and unique synergies and collaborations with others internationally, on projects that really engage me, and link in with my clinical development.

Surgical trainees should definitely consider Oxford as a premier place to do a higher degree, develop themselves and their network further.

“Watching a student acquire funds and excel at Oxford is second to none”

Molly McParland is a Graduate Ambassador undertaking an MPhil in Russian and East European Studies at Wadham College. Being at Oxford gives Molly the feeling that she can do anything, something she would love to see available to as many people as possible. Here is her story…

Molly McParland
I applied to Oxford due to its reputation for academic excellence -it has exceptional teaching and academic support, and surely one of the most impressive collections of academic resources in the world. As an Area Studies student, specializing in Russia and East Europe, I was particularly drawn to the amount of expertise in this area at Oxford. However, it would be ridiculous to suggest that academia is the only thing that Oxford has to offer to students. I have never seen a university with so many opportunities! From fascinating lectures and debates with some of the foremost experts in the world; to opportunities to get stuck in to all manner of hobbies and interests such as sport, volunteering, writing and art; to the amazing quality of the student body in which I have met some of the most interesting and motivated people – Oxford is a place that is would be impossible not to feel inspired by. There is nothing that you cannot do in Oxford, and you can be assured of finding hundreds of people able and willing to support you. Whether its starting your own business, learning a language, editing a newspaper or running that extra 5k, the support here to learn and grow in every imaginable field is truly second to none.

Having spent several years working with students and children in underprivileged areas of the UK, as well as Russia and the former Soviet region, I have really come to appreciate just how vital access to these incredible opportunities are for people, their families, and even whole communities. For so many, the chance of an Oxford education does not seem realizable, despite their clear ability, and it is incredibly disheartening. On the other hand, the feeling of watching a student who felt they would never be able to apply to Oxford, not only acquire the funds to study but truly excel during their time here is second to none. Studying at Oxford gives you an overwhelming sensation that you can do anything – if you work hard at your chosen field, all of the resources, contacts, advice and support are there to help you succeed. Additionally, the inspiring people – the experts that teach or come to give lectures, as well as the peers that you live and work with – encourage you to keep learning, keep growing, and keep challenging yourself to do your best. I would love to see these opportunities available to as many people as possible.

In the future, I would like to return to the post-Soviet region and work in development and diplomacy – improving lives and fostering sustainable links between countries that can provide invaluable political, economic and cultural exchanges. I am certain that my experience of studying at Oxford, the people I have met here, and the ideas and worlds that I have been exposed to will be invaluable in my future career.

Studying at Oxford with a disability

Amy Price is a research graduate student in Evidence Based Health Care at Kellogg College and has recorded a short video about her experience of Oxford as a student with disabilities.

Amy is developing a public research platform with the guidance of her supervisor, Dr. Amanda Burls. The Public-Led Online Trials (PLOT) is a ThinkWell project that is creating an infrastructure  to enable people to set up and participate in online trials of interventions people can do for themselves. You can follow  progress at http://ithinkwell.org.

Introducing Marisa…

Marisa Benoit was determined to earn her DPhil in History of Medicine at Oxford but had to apply three times before she could take her place at Christ Church. Read her story here:

Marisa Benoit

I’m currently in the fourth year of my doctorate in the History of Medicine, and my research compares attitudes towards infertility in early modern England and colonial New England. Infertility is a medical issue that is experienced on a personal and societal level, with deep emotional resonance across time and space. My project examines this seemingly timeless issue within a specific historical context, and provides the opportunity to untangle the web of emerging anatomical discoveries, social ideas about gender relations and the family, and religious beliefs that characterised attitudes toward reproduction in the early modern period.

I come from a small town on the coast of Maine in the United States, and my life changed when I first arrived in Oxford, ten years ago, as an undergraduate study-abroad student.  It was an experience that literally opened up my world, and the strong professional relationships and personal connections that I formed in those first few terms made me determined to return for postgraduate study. It took two years of working in the private sector before I was able to take my place in the M.Sc. programme in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology.  The M.Sc. programme provided important training in methodological tools as well as the specialist subject knowledge required to embark on more advanced research. Having self-funded my M.Sc., I returned to work, but I was determined to continue my studies and earn my D.Phil.

After two more years working, I was very fortunate to receive partial funding that enabled me to finally take my D.Phil. place. The financial burden of attending Oxford for postgraduate studies is too much for many to bear, especially for international students. I was forced to turn down my place twice due to financial reasons, and it took a great deal of optimism and resolve each time the application period rolled around again. Further funding from generous alumni organisations has supported my studies, funded research trips, and allowed me to participate in conferences.  My research has benefited greatly from these bursaries, and I am very appreciative of the support that I have received.

Oxford is a transformative place. It inspires intellectual curiosity, academic excellence, and character development. My relationship with Oxford has shaped my personal and professional growth over the last decade, and I know that it will continue to enrich my life for many more years to come.  It is my hope that the work of the development office will enable other students facing financial pressures to join this remarkable community and experience education in its truest form.