(L to R) Sara Fekri and Gustė Gurčinaitė will being their academic year at University of Oxford in October 2023 Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The selection committee for the Rhodes scholarship for the UAE has awarded scholarships to two UAE-based students to study at University of Oxford in the UK.

Sara Fekri and Gustė Gurčinaitė were chosen for their “exceptional intellect, character, leadership and commitment to service”. They will being their academic year at University of Oxford in October 2023.

The UAE Rhodes scholarship selection committee, comprised of UAE leaders and former Rhodes Scholars, is chaired by Omar Saif Ghobash, Assistant Minister for Cultural Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with Deputy Chair Shamma Bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth, and Dr Robert Buckley, National Secretary for the UAE Rhodes Scholarship, in addition to four other members of the committee.

‘Rigorous process’

The selection follows a “highly competitive and rigorous” application process involving personal statements, academic transcripts, and interviews. The committee, chaired by Ghobash, interviewed nine finalists in Abu Dhabi. This is the first time the committee has met with the finalists in-person since the onset of COVID-19, during which the selection process was held online.

Ghobash said: “I am pleased to chair this prestigious award. When I was eight, my mother told me that my father wanted me to attend one of the world’s top educational institutions. From then until I was 17, I focused solely on gaining admission at a top university. I went to Oxford and met Rhodes Scholars. I remember wishing that I could apply for the scholarship as an Emirati. I am so proud that the UAE has made this opportunity available for eligible students in the country.”

The selected students, Sara and Gustė, applied for the scholarship along with more than 60 students earlier this year when the application opened in June. On Saturday, the committee met with the finalists and confirmed the selected scholars’ names.

Plans for Oxford

Sara, an Emirati student at King’s College London, is completing a BSc (Honours) in Physics. She aims to pursue an MSc in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford.

Gustė, a Lithuanian student at NYUAD, is completing her BA in Political Science. She proposes to do an MPhil in Environmental Change and Management at the University of Oxford.

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Angela Migally, Executive Director of the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, said: “Rhodes scholarships have been awarded in the UAE since 2014 under the patronage of the Foundation and in cooperation with the Rhodes Trust. We are pleased to extend our support to talented scholars pursuing their academics further to become socially responsible and determined young ethical leaders that will contribute to the future of the UAE and worldwide”.

In 2021, Emirati student Rashid Alrafie and NYUAD student Uljad Berdica were selected as UAE Rhodes Scholars.

Since 2014, a total of 18 UAE-based students have been awarded the scholarship.

Established in 1903, the Rhodes Scholarship is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious higher education awards. It provides opportunities for exceptional students to complete postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford.