We’re proud to announce that St Anne’s graduate student, Ibrahim Mohammed (MSc Education, 2020) – known widely online as Ibz Mo – is to be the official spokesperson of a major new access and outreach programme for British Bangladeshi and Pakistani students. This innovative online programme, which is for Year 12 school pupils, aims to help improve representation of British Bangladeshi and Pakistani students at top universities, by supporting them in making competitive applications. It has been created and developed by the Jesus College Access & Outreach team – Access Fellow Dr Matthew Williams and Access and Outreach Officer Shelley Knowles – in collaboration with all other Oxford Colleges and several Departments at the University of Oxford. Ibz Mo will be the official spokesperson and face of the new project.
Students from British Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds are still underrepresented at the UK’s top universities, due to a complex mix of factors that, says Dr Williams “include relative economic disadvantage, and a general perception that they will not be safe or welcome in institutions like Oxford.” The British Bangladeshi and Pakistani Year 12 Access Programme, which runs until December 2021, will include a variety of online information sessions and panel discussions that address these issues, as well as providing application support sessions, Q&As, academic lectures and competitions. Teachers and parents/carers are also able to participate and it is being run through a specially designed, secure web portal.
Today’s launch takes the form of a half-day virtual open day for students, with panel discussions, chaired by Ibz Mo, on life and studying at Oxford, how to go about applying to Oxford and a keynote speech from Dr Samina Khan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach at the University of Oxford. This will be followed by monthly drop-in application clinics, and admissions/ academic live events, with question and answer sessions to help participants build confidence and develop their applications.
As well as support for students, the programme will also provide support for teachers.
Ibrahim explained his involvement in the project as an outcrop of his passion for outreach and access. “Outreach has always been at the heart of my journey at Cambridge and Oxford, mainly as I had a firsthand perspective of just how hard it is to not only get here, but also thrive here. I went to a very low performing state school in Hackney. My mum is a disabled-single mother, I grew up extremely poor on FSM and so getting to Oxbridge was a journey within its self. As I became more familiar with the college system during student roles of Equality and Diversity Officer, and Vice President during my Undergraduate at Wolfson College, Cambridge, I then realised just how capable Oxbridge is in adapting their outreach work, application process, and equality and diversity policies.
Based on my background and my experience as an award-winning Educational Influencer, my insights were very valuable as I focused more on equity in admission as oppose to equality. This programme with Jesus College resonates with me as I am both British Bangladeshi and Pakistani, and so I also have an insight into the cultural barriers that can hinder a prospective student from making a strong application. I also facilitated the first Pakistan Access Conference alongside Malala at LMH in 2018 and I have facilitated the first Islamic Access Conference at Cambridge in 2018. I have spoken at over 100 access related events and have been on a variety of panels, as a speaker and moderator. So I’ll be leading a lot of the panel events for the access programme!”
Ibrahim is also the first St Anne’s MCR BAME Rep. He explains: “I chose St Anne’s as a college strategically. One of my biggest role models within Education is Professor Elizabeth Lee, who is the CEO of the Sunway Education Group in Malaysia and she informed me of how friendly and welcoming St Anne’s College is. I then reached out to Jenna Colaco, a 2nd year History student at Anne’s who confirmed the “friendly, progressive” atmosphere. However, I noticed an important gap. While St Anne’s has diversity, equality and inclusion at the heart of its ethos, there seemed to be more we could do around the communication, celebration and activism of BAME students. I realised that one problem could be the lack of experienced BAME Reps for the College. So, I applied to St Anne’s with the goal of becoming the first ever constituted MCR BAME Rep, knowing that I could help the college with my expertise to fill in that gap. So far, it’s going just as planned with a lot of ideas still in the pipeline.”
Applications for the new programme have already exceeded expectations. We look forward to sharing more information about Ibrahim’s involvement – as well as other forthcoming projects from our BAME community at St Anne’s.