Rewards beyond dreams – From Pakistan to BSG

Quratulain Fatima in her Pakistan Air Force uniform

Quratulain Fatima in her Pakistan Air Force uniform

With almost five days left until my arrival at the City of dreamy spires – Oxford – I am currently finalising my preparations, or to be precise my luggage contents. As I perch my laptop on my lap and sit back writing this blog, I now look back to my journey to the Master of Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government (BSG). A marvellous journey for a woman who belongs to one of the least developed areas of Rural Sindh in Pakistan. A country marred unfortunately by war on terror and governance issues. Being lucky enough to serve as one of the first women in the Pakistan Air Force and then as a Public Administrator in rural and urban areas of Pakistan, I find myself at the forefront of tackling the challenges of governance in Pakistan.

As a policy implementer progressing towards the policy advising stage in my career, BSG has now become a real opportunity for me to enhance my public policy and administrative skills. Being a civil servant I have opted for this programme due to its potential for making immediate impact on the lives of millions through contributing to better economic opportunities, enhanced living standards and above all a sustainable governance pattern for future generations. I can see the research-based public policies in the realm of governance as the basis for sustainable development. Apart from providing me with a huge capacity building and career growth, this course will have a far-reaching impact on my capabilities in terms of teaching about government effectiveness, rule of law, resource management, transparency and accountability.

To be honest, I wasn’t confident about applying to the prestigious MPP programme at the University of Oxford. Our first and only woman Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is an alumna of Oxford. I and many others know it as a place for the highest intellect and zenith of educational excellence with very strict admission criteria. I actually filled in the form while almost bed-ridden with Bell’s palsy and wasn’t even hopeful that I would get a call from them. Though I knew that I did fulfil their basic criteria , my grades were awesome (I fell in love with my grades all over again), my IELTS was good and my essay described me and my passion for public policy (nothing extravagant, just honest intentions).

Well, one fine day I was asked to appear for a Skype interview in front of a BSG interview panel. I must confess, I was scared to be good enough for this top notch public policy School. Oh, but how wonderful were my two interviewers and how encouraging they were of my aspirations and my love for local economic development focused at women empowerment.

I was selected. But I was overjoyed and worried at the same time, as I didn’t have funds to fulfil my dreams. Both Oxford University and BSG came to help there. I was able to secure a generous Louis Dreyfus-Weidenfeld Scholarship, augmented by BSG funding that finances my MPP. The rest, including visa and accommodation arrangements, followed swiftly with the help of my college St Anne’s.

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