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26th September 2018

Scholarships give Exeter students chance to shine

Each year, thanks to the generosity of alumni and friends of the College, Exeter awards a range of scholarships to graduate students. For many, studying at Oxford would not be possible without this support.

Neerja Gurnani is reading for a Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL), and was awarded the Dr Mrs Ambriti Salve Scholarship. She got in touch to tell us how much the support means to her: ‘To say that receiving this scholarship enhanced my BCL experience would be an understatement, and it would be far more accurate to term it as an enabler, which left me free to focus on the actual Oxford experience, rather than the financial pressures of living in the UK.’

Neerja has found studying at Oxford ‘intellectually challenging, yet supportive’ and is quick to highlight how tutorials ‘challenge [you] to unearth your own opinions,’ pushing students to ‘go beyond the reading and develop original arguments on complex legal issues.’ She says: ‘It was a heady feeling to be taught and have my work evaluated by some of the best legal minds in the world, and that right of audience, to simply be able to interact and debate with world-class lawyers and judges, cannot be matched by any academic experience back home.’

While Neerja doesn’t yet know what path her career will take, she says ‘pursuing human rights at Oxford inspired me to not only take up pro bono work for various litigations taking place for civil liberties across the world, but also study certain areas of law in detail. Consequently, I applied for – and got accepted into – an MPhil (Law) at Oxford, which will enable me to focus on privacy laws vis-à-vis national biometric databases in various countries, with an emphasis on India’s Aadhar scheme, which is impacting millions of Indians and is a topic close to my heart.’

Britt Hanson, a DPhil candidate in Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, was awarded the Mary Frances Cairncross scholarship, ‘without which,’ she says, ‘I would not be able to undertake my DPhil at the University of Oxford. It has not only allowed me to pursue my passion but also to network with people who will undoubtedly shape my career and future in a positive manner.’

Britt’s research revolves around developing permanent therapeutic strategies for fatal, hereditary neuromuscular diseases to which there are currently no effective treatments or cures available. She says: ‘Neuromuscular disorders are highly debilitating, and often fatal, incurable diseases which affect an estimated 160 people per 100,000 population worldwide. As genetic screening techniques have vastly improved over the past decade, the molecular mechanisms for targeted treatment of specific types of these disorders are becoming increasingly known. The specific diseases on which I will focus are Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).’

As well as her research, Britt enjoys going to Rector’s Seminars and the varied social side of life at Exeter, including playing for the College hockey team, going to yoga classes at Exeter House, and attending welfare teas. She hopes next year to be closely involved with the MCR committee. She says: ‘This is the first time that I am studying outside of my home country and thus far it has been the most wonderful experience, made especially enjoyable by the Exeter College community.’

Giulia Paoletti is reading for a DPhil in Medieval and Modern Languages. She says: ‘I was awarded the Frangiscatos Scholarship and am sincerely thankful for receiving this support all the way to the end of my DPhil, which would not have been possible without such support.’

Giulia is producing an edition of the unpublished texts of Andronikos Palaiologos, the nephew of the Byzantine emperor Michael VIII, along with a commentary. Outside of her DPhil research she has been taking beginner lessons in Modern Greek and attending classes in Byzantine epigraphy, Greek palaeography, and Byzantine Greek reading classes.

Giulia says: ‘I am very happy to be part of Exeter College’s community. I had the great opportunity to live in College accommodation last year and I had the best time with everyone there, getting to know people from all over the world.

‘It is a real privilege to have been chosen for this scholarship and I am very grateful for the help it gives the Byzantine studies community by helping its scholars.’

You can read more about the experiences of Neerja, Britt and Giulia in the student testimonials section of the College website. If you are interested in supporting the range of scholarships that Exeter offers please email Development and Alumni Relations at or call 01865279619.

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