Embarking on the Oxford MBA during the pandemic

3 minute read
J21 matriculation

What an extraordinary year 2020 has been.

The global pandemic has affected all of us. Being in the non-profit space, I am acutely aware that Covid-19 has also disproportionately affected people who are resource-scarce in many parts of the world. For instance, during the Circuit Breaker period in Singapore, children from low-income families were affected because classes were moved online due to school closures. Many children living in rental blocks struggled to gain access to Zoom classes because their families did not own a single laptop. For some, a laptop had to be shared among four to six children living in a one-room rental flat and coordination of the Zoom class schedules can be messy. 

To the privileged majority, we may have taken owning a laptop and other electronic devices concurrently for granted. However, to the disadvantaged families where survival is a daily battle, attending virtual classes becomes a luxury.

Therefore, the pandemic has accentuated the existing fault lines in our community – inequality, poverty, hunger, health and sanitation – and urges us to quicken the pace in tackling Sustainable Developments Goals. 

Many around me ask why I begin a prestigious Oxford Executive MBA programme during a pandemic where the full Oxford experience may be limited due to border closures and lockdown. Against the backdrop of global uncertainty and evolving social needs, it is a privilege for me to enrol at Saïd Business School where I have the opportunity to use the knowledge, skills and network acquired in the programme to serve the underprivileged.

On a lighter note, there are tangible and intangible perks to being a student on the programme. Besides forging friendships with a cohort of 74 accomplished course mates from diverse cultures and backgrounds through virtual team-building sessions, we were also rewarded with a welcome pack delivered during Christmas time. What a timely Christmas present!

The welcome pack consisted of Oxford’s collectables and academic dress or sub-fusc, as we fondly call it in Oxford. Sub-fusc (a Latin word for ‘dark brown’) is worn for important occasions such as the Matriculation ceremony, degree ceremony, end-of-year exams, and certain meals such as the formal hall.

The Matriculation ceremony is one of the most treasured Oxford traditions and a highly anticipated event for any incoming student. Typically, newly matriculated students will take pictures against the backdrop of iconic buildings such as the Radcliffe Camera. Come matriculation time, I wasn’t able to hide my excitement and gratitude that I was formally welcomed into Saïd Business School, despite the pandemic.

Part of the Oxford charm, the matriculation ceremony is usually held at the Convocation House where the proceedings are conducted in Latin.

'Insignissime Decane, praesentamus tibi hos nostros scholares ut admittantur huic scholae

Most distinguished Dean, I present to you these our scholars for admission to this School

‘Scitote vos, nostri scholares, admittamini huic scholae’

Know that you, our scholars, are admitted to this School

For obvious reasons, the Matriculation ceremony for my January 2021 cohort was held virtually, with plans that a physical welcome ceremony will be held when borders open. As of 17 January 2021, all 74 of us were formally welcomed into the University through the virtual Matriculation ceremony. The virtual ceremony was a brief but heart-warming celebration of the gathering of diverse individuals. Despite its virtual nature, the ceremony was no less significant for me. It signifies a rite of passage, a milestone, and an Oxford dream come true.

Dean Peter Tufano’s speech resonated strongly with me. He said that we are fortunate to have been part of the Oxford family during this pandemic, and it is our duty to serve the less fortunate. The Oxford Matriculation ceremony is therefore not just to honour a tradition but to remind us of our duties as global citizens – to make the world a better place than we found it.