Cambridge scholarships for Pakistani students

Cambridge trust seeks funds to raise scholarships for Pakistani students
Karachi, Jan 26: The Cambridge Commonwealth Trust is looking for partners in Pakistan to help increase the number of scholarships being offered to Pakistani students at the University of Cambridge.

Discussions with the Higher Education Commission are also under way to establish a postgraduate scholarship scheme at the doctoral level for all academic disciplines this year.

These views were shared on Tuesday by Micheal O' Sullivan CMG, director of the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust and the Cambridge Overseas Trust. Mr Sullivan spent much of his earlier career in China, serving as the director of the British Council, and later as the secretary-general of the European Chamber of Commerce.

Mr Sullivan is visiting Pakistan to hold meetings with eminent educationists, businessmen, diplomats and alumni of the Oxford and Cambridge universities to raise scholarship funds for Pakistani students.

Mr Sullivan said the trust was established in 1982 by the University of Cambridge, as a charity to support students from member countries of the Commonwealth, who wished to study at Cambridge. Scholarships were awarded on degree courses of all levels, both undergraduate and postgraduate.

"We have always offered scholarships to Pakistan since the formation of the trust. However, the types of scholarships have changed over the years. Many scholarships are openly competed for while some are specific in nature as we work with different partners," he said.

Regarding the objectives of his visit, he said that his aim was to provide opportunities to talented students from less privileged backgrounds to study at an institution of excellence, but this was not possible without the availability of adequate funding.

"We started the 800th anniversary scholarships for undergraduates in 2008 in Pakistan with the support of the Cambridge Assessment (Pakistan) and the University of Cambridge and would like it to expand it further by increasing the funding.

"At Cambridge, the IDB (Islamic Development Bank) offers PhD scholarships in science and technology to students from all member countries, including those from Pakistan. The Noon Educational Foundation (Pakistan) is also supporting a scholarship programme at the university," he said, adding that students could also apply for the Commonwealth Shared Cambridge scholarships meant for one-year postgraduate studies and being run with the support from the British government.

Answering a question as to why the 800th anniversary scholarships were not being offered in medicine and veterinary medicine, he said the reasons included the high cost of education. Besides, access to those programmes was limited by the government quota.

Every year, 10 to 20 students from Pakistan studied at the Cambridge University with the trust's support. "We get a fairly good number of applications and there is no fixed quota for students who are selected according to the set criteria. Sixty-seven Pakistani students with scholarships have studied at Cambridge over the last five years in its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes," he said.

According to Mr Sullivan, the trust is currently supporting 577 students from 29 countries of the Commonwealth, including 34 students from Pakistan.

China topped the list of students securing scholarships, followed by the United States and India. The trend was also reflective of the number of students studying at the institution.

He said undergraduate students who went through the Cambridge or the IB (International Baccalaureate) system were likely to be called for interviews.

"This is a practical constraint. Fortunately, in Pakistan there are many schools offering the Cambridge system where support from philanthropists is also available. So, access to studying at a prestigious institution is not limited in a way."

Referring to the Gates scholarship programme at Cambridge, he said the highly competitive postgraduate scholarships were open to all nationalities and were fully funded by the foundation.

Apart from considering academic excellence and individual motivation, students were also examined for leadership skills, which was not part of the selection criteria for other scholarships.

According to Mr Sullivan, Gates Cambridge scholarships were gained by one Pakistani scholar in 2008-09 and two in 2009-10.

Asked about the utility of investing in foreign student scholarships in developing countries where most students did not return to their home country, Mr Sullivan said it was a question of employment opportunities and quality of life.

"There are developing countries which are encouraging their nationals to return and work. For instance, China has started many attractive progrmames for this purpose. Brazilian students studying abroad are now inclined towards returning to their homeland because of the growing economy of their country."

Regarding the performance of Pakistani students, he said they were highly motivated and had a good reputation at Cambridge. "Many of them are studying as science and engineering students. I wish to see them more in the social sciences.

"Interested students should visit our website to get specific information." Dawn

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