A major new academic initiative on Pakistan was launched at a high-profile event in London on 30th September 2021 at the High Commission for Pakistan. This initiative, the Oxford Pakistan Programme (the OPP), aims to promote various Pakistan-related activities at the University of Oxford. This will include graduate scholarships for deserving students, visiting fellowships for Pakistani faculty members and special lectures on Pakistan. The OPP has drawn strong support from the University of Oxford, the High Commission for Pakistan in London, and the British High Commission in Islamabad. The Programme has raised pledges of over £500,000 from Pakistani businessmen and key members of the Pakistani diaspora in the UK. The OPP is the brainchild of Professor Adeel Malik of the University of Oxford, Talha J. Pirzada, Lecturer in Material Science and a JRF at Linacre College, and Haroon Zaman, Trainee Lawyer at Travers Smith, London. They were assisted in this effort by Oxford alumni Minahil Saqib and Dr Mohsin Javed.

The inception of the programme traces it roots back to conversations of the OPP team held in the gardens of Linacre College about two years ago. The OPP’s principal aims are to:

 i)      increase the representation of Pakistani and British Pakistani students at the University of Oxford;
 ii)     act as a bridge between Oxford and Pakistan’s academic communities through the exchange of scholars and the sharing of scholarship; and
 iii)   raise the academic profile of Pakistan and Pakistan-related studies at the University of Oxford.

Around 21 Professors and Fellows of University of Oxford were in attendance, including four Heads of Oxford Colleges. These included Mr Alan Rusbridger, the former editor of The Guardian and the outgoing Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Professor Christine Gerrard, the current Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Dr Nick Brown, Principal of Linacre College, Sir Tim Hitchens, President of Wolfson College, Mr Ed Nash, Senior International Officer at the University of Oxford and Dr Samina Khan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach at the University of Oxford. The Warden of Rhodes House, Elizabeth Kiss, attended the event virtually. At this event Dr Nick Brown lauded the initiative as one of the key access platforms that would play a major role in increasing the number of Pakistani scholars at the University.

Malala Yousufzai, who has been a strong supporter for this initiative from the outset, announced that a major new scholarship that will allow one Pakistani girl from an underdeveloped background to study at Oxford every year. His Excellency Dr Christian Turner CMG, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, described the OPP as a milestone in strengthening the academic linkages between the UK and Pakistan. The OPP will be a bespoke programme on Pakistan which would focus on increasing access for Pakistani scholars to Oxford along with carrying out research on some of the key questions faced by the 220 million Pakistanis today.