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University Diversity Award for champion of refugee students

IBME DPhil student Thaís Roque has won the coveted University of Oxford Vice Chancellor’s Diversity Award (Student category) for her work championing and fundraising for refugee students in the University.
University Diversity Award for champion of refugee students

The award, part of the University’s commitment to promoting equality and diversity in the workplace, recognises Thaís’ tireless and dedicated campaigning for refugee students in Oxford.

Thaís launched the Oxford Students Refugee Campaign in 2016 in an attempt to turn the city into a safe haven for students fleeing conflict-torn societies. The campaign has since won pledges of more than £240,000 from almost half the student body to provide scholarships to people whose studies have been disrupted by war or persecution.

The Magdalen College student (pictured below receiving her award) says, “Through the generosity and commitment of University students and staff, we can offer at-risk scholars an opportunity to complete or continue their studies at a world-leading academic institution. We are very happy about the award scheme’s recognition of this work and aim now to make it more sustainable and embed it even more in the scholarship system of the University”. 

Thais Roque DiversityFittingly, she was presented with the award on the same day that the campaign team shortlisted the second cohort of refugee and displaced student scholars.

A DPhil student at Oxford’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME), Thaís is co-supervised by Michael Chappell, Associate Professor of Engineering Science at IBME and Professor Julia Schnabel of King’s College London. Her thesis looks at how mathematical tumour growth models can help to inform and support doctors treating cancer patients by predicting how individual tumours might respond to different therapy schemes.

She says, “Because my DPhil in Biomedical Engineering was made possible by the generous donation of alumni and Oxford University, I feel very strongly about giving back to its diverse, wide-reaching community”. She credits her ability to set up and successfully run the campaign to having developed innovative ways to solve and tackle problems during her Engineering degree.

The Refugee Campaign addresses the whole student journey, supporting the often missed elements of at-risk student need, such as application fees and flights to the UK. As founder and President of the campaign, Thaís has personally inspired and engaged staff, students and alumni to support students most at need, and has also mentored students at other institutions who aim to replicate the scheme – including at Cambridge University where they have now launched their own campaign.

The campaign team’s next step includes a major fundraising drive by the University's development office to ensure the fund is sustainable and will be available for at-risk students for years to come.

Further information

Campaign Facebook page

Huffington Post blog, 22 June 2017

Photo courtesy of Ian Wallman Photography