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Rhodes Scholar Profile: Abdulla Al Hashmi

Abdulla Al Hashmi hopes to expand and improve the education system within the UAE by investigating the intersection between education and economics.

Dec 7, 2019

Having been selected as one of the 2020 United Arab Emirates Rhodes Scholars, Abdulla Al Hashmi, Class of 2020, is set to be on track for the next two years of postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford. An Emirati student double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, Al Hashmi was a recipient of the acclaimed international award alongside Munib Mesinovic, Class of 2022 and majoring in Electrical Engineering, making them the successors to a long legacy of the Rhodes scholars NYU Abu Dhabi has produced over the past seven years. Granted the scholarship amongst a total of eight shortlisted applicants, six of which were from NYUAD, Al Hashmi plans to continue his studies with a Masters of Philosophy in Economics in order to realize his dreams of improving education in the UAE.
Al Hashmi hopes to expand and improve the education system within the UAE by investigating the intersection between education and economics. His interest in these two fields, he explained, arose from his personal difficulties applying to universities due to the lack of resources he was provided with as a high school student.
“A transitioning country such as the UAE is not the top one when it comes to education,” he said. “The PISA results — which are standard OECD exams taken every three years — came out yesterday and showed that the UAE still has a lot of ground to cover.”
Al Hashmi also expressed criticism for educational measures, stating that while standardized testing systems were not the most accurate measure of capability, it was still in some ways a measure of a country’s educational proficiency.
“It isn’t the most perfect test for education levels, but it does show that when it comes to these standardized tests, we are not doing the best. I want to be able to improve education and the quality of teachers, as well as improving syllabi,” he said.
Al Hashmi also expressed his intentions to focus on tertiary education. A large amount of people in the UAE are looking into early Childhood Education, he claimed, with studies showing that the most important investment for students are at the younger ages. Yet, he explained that his passion extends in the opposite direction and his work is rooted in the belief that higher education and institutions are also equally essential for an individual’s growth.
Regarding the selection process for the scholarship, Al Hashmi shared his experiences and thought process for the application itself. Consisting of a personal statement, five recommendation letters, a three-page extended CV and interview with eight committee members, he emphasized that the key qualification was well-roundedness.
“In the application, I talked about my choice of major, my determination of the goal that I want to improve education, and how Oxford could help me,” Al Hashmi explained. “It was a simple three-step process: who I am, how ‘who I am’ defines me, and where I want to go.”
As advice for future applicants, Al Hashmi emphasised the importance of experimentation and pointed toward NYUAD’s significant arsenal of resources in education and extracurricular activities as a great jumping off point for exploring students. Speaking from his personal experience of juggling Philosophy with Economics, he stressed the importance of venturing into uncharted waters and learning widely.
“For whoever doesn’t know who they are or where they want to be, I want to say experiment — with an exclamation mark,” Al Hashmi said. “It’s always experimentation that makes us get to know ourselves better and thus is absolutely essential for students. I think NYUAD as a university was the perfect place because it forces you to do just that and get to know yourself better.”
After the Rhodes Scholarship, Al Hashmi plans to pursue further education by applying to the MPhil program. A vigorous math-based program, it is one that Al Hashmi favors over the Masters of Science in Economic Development due to the opportunities the MPhil will offer in strengthening his background in quantitative Economics.
“I’m leaning towards the MPhil in Economics because it’s a really good balance with what I’ve done in my undergraduate education,” he explained. “At NYUAD, they prepared you to gain breadth but not specialize as much, and given that I’ve had to double major, I haven’t had much time to delve deep. Hopefully, I can shift the paradigm and augment my growth and development in a way that I can go and achieve my goal of improving education in the UAE.”
On his hopes and aspirations for the future, Al Hashmi stated that he would have pursued a postgraduate education even without the Rhodes scholarship.
“I’ve taken this period of time in my life for breadth and broadening my horizon: watching and reading everything, and talking to people from all around the world,” he said. “When I go to Oxford, I just want to focus on being a robust and legitimate economist, while at the same time expanding my horizons.”
“How can you forget any of it?” Al Hashmi replied when asked about his time at NYUAD. “I might forget how to calculate the coordinates of something I learned in multivariable calculus, but I don’t know if I’ll ever forget D2, the tandoori pizza, library café, my friends and the people that I see every day; they’ve become part of my life.”
Chris Shim is Deputy News Editor. Email him at
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