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Famous people from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bngladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, and Bhutan who were educated in the world famous University of Oxford: their lives and the role of Oxford within them.

Stars of South Asia

from Oxford

In spotlighting the lives of South Asians who have come to Oxford University, this book provides an intriguing journey through both space and time. Its geographical focuses are the small English city of Oxford in the West and the vast area of South Asia in the East. There are many connections between the two: it is even claimed that the first Englishman to set foot on Indian soil was Father Thomas Stephens, who landed in Goa in 1579 and was educated at New College, Oxford. The span of this book does not extend that far back in time, since the first Indian students did not arrive in Oxford until 1871. This account in fact begins with the arrival of the first woman student from India in 1889 and ends in 2018 with the appearance of a female fresher from Pakistan.

That first young student travelled by boat from Bombay (now Mumbai) and, because the Suez Canal had already been opened, her journey would have taken roughly three weeks. Before the opening of the canal, the voyage could last for six months. Nowadays, a flight from London to Mumbai takes less than nine hours! We are all getting closer.

Twelve stars of South Asia were selected primarily for this account, and they come from the modern countries of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Deciding exactly who to include was very difficult, which is why the book also covers other deserving individuals in somewhat less detail. However, let’s start with the main star of the book, The University of Oxford.

Why Oxford University?

Oxford University has many claims to fame and has educated a long line of famous people from all over the world through the ages. However, Oxford is not as some claim the oldest university in Europe since it was preceded by Bologna in Italy and Paris in France. It began in the 12th century and though it was not the first then, it is the first now. Yes, according to the Times Higher Education Supplement, at the time of writing (2018) Oxford was the top university in the world, followed by Cambridge, then Caltech in the United States as third. Surely, this is a propitious start for a book about the stars of South Asia who studied there, stars selected from a firmament of achievements: politicians, lawyers, doctors, cricketers, writers, actors and royalty.

      The Times rating, based on a weighted sum of assessment categories including teaching, citations, international mix, and industry income, is generally accepted as a fair measure. Nevertheless, there will always be criticism of any scheme used to rank the world’s universities. Oxford, however, holds a number one ranking that is quite beyond reproach: it was the very first university in an English-speaking country! And, of course, it always will be. Interestingly, that is more important now than it was back then. The language of medieval universities in Europe was, of course, not English but Latin which was a prerequisite for entry, and the doors of the beautifully preserved 17th century Schools Quadrangle of Oxford University are still labelled in that language. Latin was the lingua franca then, but it has long since been elbowed out by English, the language for which Oxford is the generally recognised authority through its astounding publication: The Oxford English Dictionary.


82,000 words

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