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Scholarships create a better future for all

Matt Mahmoudi on the academic and financial support that, he says, has changed his life forever

  • Interview
    Justine Bashford
  • Photography
    Megan Taylor
- 2 minute read
Matt Mahmoudi

At the end of the first year of my doctoral studies, I almost walked away. I simply could not afford to be at Cambridge. However, the Jo Cox Studentship changed my life, making it possible for me to continue my studies.

My parents were refugees from Iran. As a child in Denmark, I watched them struggle to navigate life as immigrants in a country built around its native population. The Iranian diaspora and other displaced people would come together to share knowledge about housing and study opportunities. This informal network was vital at a time when little official help was available to new migrants – and came to be a key focus of my research.

Education was important to my family and I aspired to go to university in the UK because of its open attitude to learning. While completing my undergraduate studies in London, I met Dr Ella McPherson, who encouraged me to come to Cambridge to undertake my Master’s in development studies, and to work with her on The Whistle, a digital human rights reporting project she had founded.

In 2017, I began a PhD, investigating the social, political and economic impact of digital tools used to help refugees find their way through migration and settle into their new homes. The opportunities available at Cambridge through the PhD programme are incredible. I have been able to collaborate with local authorities, technologists and activists as far afield as New York and Berlin. In addition to my involvement with The Whistle, I co-ordinate Amnesty International’s digital verification corps at Cambridge, and I’ve founded Declarations, a human rights podcast.

None of this would have been possible without my scholarship. Philanthropic investment in education and research hasn’t simply changed my life, but will, I believe, change the lives of those I seek to help. So I am delighted that Cambridge is actively raising money to educate and enable the potential of more under-represented students, and students who have faced other major hurdles getting here. Students like me.

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