Meet Wolfson’s Aziz Foundation Scholars

Omer Bilal and Mehreen Syed, Wolfson's Aziz Foundation Scholars
03/06/2024

Last year, Wolfson announced a joint initiative with the Aziz Foundation, one of the UK's largest postgraduate funding bodies, to launch a new scholarship programme to support the postgraduate education of students from British Muslim communities. 

Omer Bilal and Mehreen Syed, Wolfson's Aziz Foundation Scholars

As one of the Aziz Foundation’s preferred partners, Wolfson accepted two Aziz Foundation Scholars for the 2023/2024 academic year: Omer Bilal and Mehreen Syed. 

Omer Bilal (MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development)

When Omer arrived in the UK as a teenage refugee from Afghanistan, he struggled—not only with English, a language he barely spoke, but with the complexities of the foreign schooling system, and the shock of a new country. 

This year, Omer will graduate from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development, following a degree in Civil & Architectural Engineering from the University of Bath. Before Cambridge, Omer worked in London as a Structural Engineer for a number of firms. It was during that time, he says, that he became interested in the agenda of sustainability and climate change, and what his responsibilities were as an engineer to the planet, and its people. 

“I grew up in Afghanistan and I knew what not having access to some of the basic needs or resources means to people: food, water, all the things that are threatened by climate change. The course at Cambridge appealed to me because I wanted to enhance my understand of the bigger picture and be in a position to shape policies that are put in place. The duty of care towards our planet and the environment is a sacred responsibility according to my faith. Growing up as Muslim has instilled me with a deep sense of ownership and accountability towards our planet and the preservation of its natural resources.  Motivated by this moral duty and inspired by the teachings of our Prophet, I am committed to advancing sustainable practices in all aspects of life, especially within the engineering industry. I firmly believe that sustainability is not just an option but an essential element for our existence and those of our future generations.”

But as much as the MPhil seemed the perfect fit, Omer thought coming to Cambridge was impossible, citing how difficult it is to get a scholarship as a British student. But through his local mosque, Omer came upon the Aziz Foundation Masters’ Scholarship. 

“I want to express my gratitude to Wolfson and to the Aziz Foundation. It’s been fantastic, being here. With Wolfson having mature students everyone has a good understanding of what they’re doing, and that’s reinforced by speaking to the staff, from the Porters to the Tutors. One important aspect of this scholarship is allowing and providing access to institutions like Cambridge, and getting rid of that barrier and stigma.”

Mehreen Syed (LLM, Master of Law)

After a last-minute decision to study Law for her undergraduate degree, Mehreen has never looked back. During her first year as a student researcher, she worked on the RAFA 2 project—aimed at targeting the attainment gap in higher education—and after graduation went to work at the UK Supreme Court, leading a key project in their educational outreach strategy and learning the ins and outs of litigation: listing cases, filing, reviewing key documents, all on behalf of the Court. 

“My first exposure to International Law was in Pakistan, where I spent a few years. I applied to Cambridge because I wanted to pursue further education, and I was especially keen on the International Law, Climate Change and Environment paper, which has been one of the highlights of my experience so far.”

Since coming to Wolfson, Mehreen says she has thrived, getting involved as soon as she could in the variety of societies and initiatives the College and Cambridge has to offer. 

“It’s a really unique experience to be able to meet people from so many backgrounds, across so many degrees. I was super keen to get involved as soon as I started my degree and so I volunteered as a student representative for the Wolfson LLM students on the Staff-Student Consultative committee to provide feedback on the course. I’ve also held the position as Treasurer of the Cambridge Graduate Law Society since November 2023, which has been a great way to stay involved with the wider cohort and people from other Colleges. I have had the opportunity to live at Wolfson, which has contributed to my ability to really enjoy College life as everything is in such close proximity. The Lee Library being open 24/7 has been a real life-saver, and the Old Combination Room has been home to many of my friends—who almost exclusively came over to Wolfson for a whole term just because they loved it so much!”

Aziz Inclusion Award

We are thrilled to announce that Wolfson has been longlisted for the Aziz Inclusion Award, which celebrates a university partner that has demonstrated excellence in bettering the British Muslim student experience on campus, demonstrated through work undertaken in the areas of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and Widening Participation (WP). The shortlist will be announced in July, and the winner in September.

Apply Now

The 2024/2025 Masters Scholarships applications are open until 14 June. Visit the Aziz Foundation website to read more about eligibility and how to apply. 

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