A new scholarship will award up to £10,000 annually to 24 students, paid for by the Children of Sheikh Abdul Rashid and Fahmida (COSARAF) Charitable Foundation. The £300,000 support and mentor programme for underprivileged Muslim students will cover both tuition fees and living expenses.

It was launched at St Anne’s College on Friday. Other institutions are also involved with the programme, including any Cambridge college and the University of Warwick. Both graduate and undergraduate students will be eligible for the award, which will be made each year over the next three years.

They will also have access to a personal mentor and a tailored leadership support programme, paid summer internship at a leading charity and ongoing support from COSARAF.

COSARAF Charitable Foundation chairman Haroon Sheikh said: “One of our core objectives is to enable young people to realise their potential and this ground-breaking programme seeks to remove barriers to Muslim applicants to leading universities, increasing their participation and helping them to make a difference within their communities.

“However, the scholarship goes a lot further than merely boosting personal outcomes.

“The awards will provide long-term support to develop leadership within UK Muslim communities, fostering long-term integration and cohesion.”

The scholarships were launched by MP and St Anne’s advisory fellow Rosena AllinKhan, and Tom Ilube, who topped UK’s 100 most powerful people with African or Afro- Caribbean heritage.

Haroon Sheikh added: “We are pioneering this comprehensive support programme for Muslim youngsters who, traditionally, must contend with a whole host of barriers to higher education on top of the already stiff competition for all applicants.”

St Anne’s College principal Helen King QPM, said: “From our founding as the Society of Oxford Home-Students, in 1879, St Anne’s has always actively widened access to an Oxford education.

“This heritage became enshrined in our firm purpose to create a diverse and inclusive community and we want to be the destination of choice for the brightest and best students, including those from underrepresented groups.

“Being one of the founding colleges for such a dynamic package of practical benefits is another key tool in ensuring their continuing involvement here.”

According to the Oxford University Islamic Society, Muslims comprise 7% of the UK population, but only 0.5% of Oxford students. In COSARAF’s press release, the charity said: “Muslim communities are significantly over-represented in the UK’s most disadvantaged communities.

“46% (1.22 million) of the Muslim population lives in the 10% most deprived and 1.7% (46,000) in the 10% least deprived Local Authority Districts in England, based on the Index of Multiple Deprivation measure. Muslim women in the UK are more likely than all other women to be economically inactive, with 18% of Muslim women aged 16 to 74 recorded as “looking after home and family” compared with 6% in the overall population.”

For more details, visit cosaraf.org

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