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Oxford partners with the Optiver Foundation to launch new international postgraduate scholarship programme for women in STEM


A new scholarship programme at Oxford will increase the number of women from low- and middle-income countries who take up offers to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at postgraduate level. The programme, which will provide support for 30 taught master’s students over a period of five years, has been made possible by a donation from the Optiver Foundation.

The first Optiver Foundation Scholars will begin their studies at Oxford in October 2023. Scholars will join the Departments of Statistics, Computer Science, Physics, Chemistry and Engineering Science, or the Mathematical Institute, and will receive full financial support for their course fees, as well as a stipend to cover living costs. The donation will also enable the provision of tailored induction activities, mentoring and on-course support for the scholars.

Thanks to the generosity of the Optiver Foundation, Oxford will also develop and pilot a new way of assessing the socio-economic background of international applicants. This will ensure that the funding provided through the new Optiver Foundation Scholarship Programme is finely targeted at eligible offer-holders who are most in need of financial support. Key findings from this pilot will be used to inform future scholarship programme development at the University.

Oxford is committed to nurturing the global researchers, academics and scientific leaders of the future. However, financial barriers are known to prevent some talented students from pursuing postgraduate study at the University, particularly those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. This situation is further compounded in STEM disciplines (excluding biomedical and life sciences), where, despite progress in recent years, additional barriers have resulted in lower participation of women on postgraduate courses – both internationally and at Oxford.

By targeting support at women from low- to middle-income countries, the Optiver Foundation Scholarship Programme will play an important role in increasing postgraduate diversity in STEM subjects at Oxford, as well as contributing to a more a diverse workforce in the longer term.

Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at Oxford, said: ‘We are delighted to be able to launch this fantastic new postgraduate scholarship programme and innovative pilot project at Oxford. The University is committed to increasing the diversity of its student body as well as the diversity of perspectives in STEM subjects, and the Optiver Foundation’s donation will enable us to further accelerate our progress in this area by ensuring we target support at those who need it the most. We are very grateful for their generosity.’

The Optiver Foundation is a non-profit organisation aimed at tackling some of the most pressing issues currently facing our planet and its inhabitants. It seeks to positively impact the environment and society by primarily supporting projects and initiatives in the fields of education, science and technology.

The foundation’s donation to Oxford was confirmed this week at a signing ceremony attended by Professor Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) and Rashid Shah, Managing Director of the Optiver Foundation.

Charles Lui, Chairman of the Optiver Foundation, said: ‘We are excited to partner with Oxford to support and empower women from disadvantaged backgrounds to access quality postgraduate STEM education. The new Optiver Foundation Scholarship programme will not only strengthen the diverse representation in STEM studies, and potentially the future workforce, but will also create a meaningful positive impact on those who need it the most. We’re pleased that our contribution will support those who share the same passions as us to continue pursuing their interests in STEM.’

More information about the Optiver Foundation Scholarships will be available once the annual application window for postgraduate study at Oxford opens in September.