Monthly Updates

June 2021 Update Dear Scholars, Friends and Supporters –
Summertime ‘greens’
It’s the summer, and the sound of tennis rackets and cricket bats abound. I know that Pakistan is experiencing an uncomfortable heatwave as I write, and we sympathise. The UK for its part is also enjoying sunny days–but it is at such pleasant temperatures–even so most welcome after such an unusually wet May. As students depart for their summer breaks all over the world, they are leaving a sea of green foliage that has been bursting out everywhere in our College gardens–encouraged first by the rain and now the sun. It is good that the naturalistic
look is ever more popular in college gardens. Even so, there is plenty of tidying and shearing to be done. Meanwhile, our Noon Trust Board has met and awarded new scholarships for the next academic year, at both Oxford and Cambridge–we are currently awaiting confirmation from the scholars. Of course, we expect next year to be much more normalised, but there will be residual impacts from Covid, and the talk is of ‘hybrid teaching’, with much in-person teaching and study but still some Zoom events. We have missed linking up with our Noon Scholars this year and indeed missed meeting up as a group of involved Trustees. We will need to catch up on social mixing next year!
With All Good Wishes
Dr Paul Flather
Chair, VNEF
Fellow, Mansfield College, Oxford


May 2021 Update Dear Scholars, Friends and Supporters –
With the lockdown in the UK generally easing over this month of May and as the hugely successful vaccine roll-out continues here, more and more students have now returned to Oxford and Cambridge. Activity is picking up, sports grounds are busier, more people are out and about, city centre shopping is–of course–picking up, but the usual hubbub around the university is missing. Next month, pubs, clubs, and restaurants are scheduled to be back
to normal–so even as we continue to worry about developments in South Asia, look out for a burst of summer parties and June balls! We have to recognise that it’s been such a tough year for our Noon Scholars–and the famed Oxbridge Experience, which is what our founder Vicky Noon so valued and wanted to offer to young Pakistanis, will have been limited. Still, our Noon Scholars are reporting busy times, especially within university societies, and their tutors are full of praise for high marks despite everything. The Trust is looking forward to selecting next year’s Scholars and is beginning to sift feedback from its major Alumni Survey. We can celebrate almost a 40 percent return–but that still means 120 more Scholars to locate, and the board will be discussing its plans for a reunion next year–30 years after its foundation. If you have not yet responded please find our survey here – and do share it with any other Noon Scholar you may be in touch with.
With All Good Wishes
Dr Paul Flather
Chair, VNEF
Fellow, Mansfield College, Oxford


April 2021 Update Dear Scholars, Friends and Supporters –
“In Pakistan, there is a lack of collaboration between industries and universities, which I believe is essential. I would like to improve collaboration in that area.” So said Dr Taimoor Ali, former Noon Scholar (2016, Engineering Science, Wolfson) at our 25 th Anniversary memorial event celebrated in Oxford in 2019 with trustees, supporters, friends and past Noon Scholars. This is one of the underlying drivers for the work of the Noon Foundation – and a very personal aim of Vicky Noon, our founder. It has been heartening, therefore, to learn that
two-thirds of those responding to our Survey (please take it here or share it with other Noon scholars if you have returned it already) returned to Pakistan upon completion of their Oxbridge studies. Another of our scholars at that event, Awais Bajwa (2006, Electrical Engineering, Lady Margaret Hall) took up this theme: “Taking the ethos of the foundation, I tried to play my part in the development and certainly the economic development of people like myself in Pakistan …through my founding of one of the first venture capital firms in Pakistan, among other projects…” The VNEF is about connecting Pakistani and the UK – providing unique opportunities to brilliant young Pakistani scholars but also wanting them to go back. It was interesting that another of the speakers, Omar Kidwai (2018, Natural Sciences, Christ’s) added: “One thing that I found amazing from my first year was that there was a greater link with and exposure to things happening in Pakistan than I expected.” We know many of those who returned did not stay in Pakistan. We very much hope more alumni will return to Pakistan, but for those of you who have, please share with us what you have achieved on your return.
With All Good Wishes
Dr Paul Flather
Chair, VNEF
Fellow, Mansfield College, Oxford


March 2021 Update Dear Scholars, Friends and Supporters –
With both Oxford and Cambridge picking up steam again as the Third UK Lockdown gently winds down, we plan to go back to work on our plans to create a Noon Scholars Alumni Association. Feedback from our current Survey of alumni (please find it here if you have filled it in yet!) reveals a very strong, almost universal, interest in a possible ‘mentoring’ scheme. This could be achieved via a common noticeboard linking those seeking mentors with former Noon Scholars willing to take on the role. We could also explore a sort of ‘buddy-up’ system. The trustees will discuss these and other ideas further at their forthcoming annual in June – when we will also select our 2021-22 scholars. We will also want to find ways in which former Noon scholars can be invited to “give back”, in whatever ways possible, but especially to maintain our work and support for future young scholars. The trustees have felt increasingly challenged in recent years in the face of ever-increasing overseas student fees, the 2008-9 recession, and now the Covid-19th pandemic which has hit the Trust’s endowment income. We are simply not able to support as many young scholars as we used in past decades. If you have thoughts or ideas on these and other themes linked to the VNEF, let me know before our June meeting so it can form part of those discussions.
With All Good Wishes
Dr Paul Flather
Chair, VNEF
Fellow, Mansfield College, Oxford


February 2021 Update Dear Scholars, Friends and Supporters –
Oxford and Cambridge have seen snow and floods in recent weeks, but now the snowdrops are peeping out, and with the UK’s vaccination programme going forward apace, the Universities are looking forward to the Spring with renewed optimism. It will be a while before life gets back to ‘normal’ and maybe, as commentators the world over suggests, life post-Covid will never be the same. Mostly, at present, it is Lab-based and practical students who are back in colleges, also some of those from abroad or those with limited home working facilities. Most work is being delivered online and Tutors have been doing sterling work to maintain academic work via Teams and Zoom and other platforms. There has been a big emphasis on afeguarding and on promoting mental health, with many sessions offered on welfare, hardship, wellbeing, yoga, exercise, and nutrition. Students are to be allowed back from Spring, and It will be a blessing and relief when more direct face-to-face contact – a hallmark of the world-famous Oxbridge Tutorial system – is allowed. The intellectual and personal growth that comes from
tutorials was one key feature that was so admired by our founder Lady ‘Vicky’ Noon, as she told me over tea one afternoon when she invited (and persuaded me) to join her board of trustees. She could see at first hand how much returning Pakistanis who had benefited from the Oxbridge College and Tutorial system benefitted and it became her ‘dream’ and mission to give this special opportunity to more bright Pakistani students. This led to the foundation of the VNEF. Tutorials so beloved of tutors and students are of course expensive and time-intensive. Recently during a major education panel, Professor Louise Richardson, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, was asked if the tutorial system would survive in the new Zoom age. Her answer was strong and to the point: “Of course”! As always, please do remember to fill out our survey if you have not already.
With All Good Wishes
Dr Paul Flather
Chair, VNEF
Fellow, Mansfield College, Oxford


January 2021 Update Dear Scholars, Friends and Supporters –
The New Year is a traditional time for fresh beginnings. But with Britain in lockdown again, facing down a resurgent variant of the challenging Covid-19 virus, it bodes another disrupted term for our current Noon Scholars at Oxford and Cambridge. Both universities will again be doing their utmost to ensure learning continues as strongly as ever. Here Colleges that can form their own lockdown bubbles, come into their own. Lockdown, though, does remind one just what is so special about Oxbridge and what attracted our founder, Lady Vicky Noon, to focus on the two universities when setting up her scholarship legacy. Of course, she knew so many successful Pakistani leaders in different fields who were Oxbridge graduates. But, as I know from my conversations with her, it was also knowledge of the so-called famous
“Oxbridge experience” which includes the face-to-face tutorial system, the mass of social, sports, debating, drama and activist clubs and societies, the daily interactions with a global array of young scholars drawn from more than 140 countries, not to mention that special inclusiveness of Collegiate life. With the vaccines now being rolled out, we can, though, look forward to normal service resumed. Meanwhile, we continue to track down our past Noon Scholars – and we need your help: please see if you know any of those with an asterisk in the lists here. As always, please remember to fill out our 2020 survey if you have not already.
With All Good Wishes
Dr Paul Flather
Chair, VNEF
Fellow, Mansfield College, Oxford


December 2020 Update Dear Scholars, Friends and Supporters –
Our LinkedIn Foundation page continues to flourish. A huge thankyou to all those who have responded and sent messages, contact information, and comments via that. We are going to feature news about individual Noon Scholars on the site and also, from time to time,on the website. If you feel you have a relevant piece of such news, we can certainly explore this with you. Our survey outreach work continues and we thank all those who are helping us with this. We love to hear about the ways your Noon award may have inspired you. Dr Muhammad Yaqoob (2001, St Peter’s College, DPhil Synthetic Organic Chemistry), who has held a post at Reading University, writes of a wonderful initiative: “When I was at Oxford I tried to start a collaboration with scholars from Karachi University, and with my DPhil supervisor we started a collaboration through the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and were able to help 7 scholars come over to work for one year in a chemistry lab.” Congratulations to Muhammad – and also thanks to him for helping us over recent months to greatly improve our website. Let me wish good wishes for a better (and happier) New Year!
As always, please do remember to fill out our survey if you have not already.
With All Good Wishes,
Dr Paul Flather
Chair, VNEF
Fellow, Mansfield College, Oxford


November 2020 Update Dear Scholars, Friends and Supporters –
Next summer, we hope to unveil plans for our new network association of Noon Foundation alumni – we need to come up with a catchy name for the association – and we would like as many past scholars as wish it to become members. Then in 2022, we plan also our first reunion get-together, probably in Lahore. So, please do respond to our outreach emails, and do help put us in touch with any fellow Noon scholars. You should be able to spot those who have not yet replied as those marked with an asterisk on our VNEF website scholar pages: if you know or recognise any, please do alert us with further details. We have now sent out messages to more than 90 per cent of you – including our newest scholars from this year, Batool Asadi at Oxford and Umer Ahmed at Cambridge. Yet, more than half have not replied – and of course many of our email contracts will be long out of date. this is probably because we have used an out-of-date contact and some may not wish to be in touch, but there are others who would join our network, if only we could reach them. Here is another example of what we have received: Dr Gala Farooq (2010, Natural Science, Homerton) shows how perspectives can be altered: “One of the key things that I learned through the Noon Foundation was to eliminate any self-limiting impositions I have placed upon myself and to reimagine what I wanted and any possibility that I wanted to achieve in my life.” Again, if you as a scholar do not want to be contacted by us or join our plans, just let us know and we can remove you from this particular exercise. But note what Gala, who has gone to great further success, adds: “The Noon Foundation has provided me with one of the best support and mentorship experiences in my life”. As always, please do remember to fill out our survey if you have not already. With All Good Wishes, Dr Paul Flather
Chair, VNEF Fellow, Mansfield College, Oxford


October 2020 Update Dear Scholars, Friends and Supporters – As I write this, students are returning to Oxford and Cambridge for the start of the new academic year, but it is, alas, to rather different college settings. The special all-round experience that Vicky Noon and the Trustees want to offer to the brightest among Pakistani scholars is one of sharing the full social, cultural, sporting, aspects of living in lively Oxbridge colleges, along with the academic and intellectual stimulus from fellow students and the dons. Covid-19 is currently on the increase in the UK, so despite ‘normalisation’ efforts, lectures will be online (for many this might even be a bonus?) and tutorials will be ‘blended’ maybe live maybe online, Still, much will be on offer and life should slowly return normal over the year. Meanwhile, we are actively continuing our survey of all past scholars, and we invite you to please be in touch if you have not already – numbers are creeping up. We are keen to hear how the award may have helped you, as it did Awais Bajwa (2006-2009, Lady Margaret Hall, Electrical Engineering) said: “I think the foundation is very close to my heart, not only because it helped get me to where I wanted to be and figure out things in life, but with my background, I have related and taken the ethos of the organisation together with myself both in my personal and professional life”. Come and join our emerging alumni network – and keep in touch with news trust via the website. With All Good Wishes Dr Paul Flather Chair, VNEF Fellow, Mansfield College, Oxford


September 2020 Update We are pleased to report that we have now reached just over one fifth of all past Noon Scholars as part of our outreach programme, leading up to our planned VNEF Alumni reunion which had set to mark 25 years after our first scholarship award, back  in 1994. However, now , with Covid, this is now deferred  to 2022 – and we will then be marking the 30th anniversary of the legal foundation of our trust ! We  are interested to note that almost half of those who have responded to our Survey have been back to Pakistan, and the vast majority including those abroad do plan to return to Pakistan to work and contribute – which of course was very much part of our founder, Vicky Noon’s original vision for the trust. We would love to hear from more past Noon Scholars, to find out their plans and to hook them up to our planned new alumni society so we can all help each other. More about that in the future.  So, please do help us to reach other scholars – you might know them and urge them to write to us as we do not have all the up-to-date emails and we are hitting stumbling blocks. Of course, we understand not everyone will want to be in touch. But we feel sure there are many more that would.  Meanwhile, we hope you are coping with all the new strains and stresses. 


August 2020 Update We are delighted to report that the Foundation will be supporting one new Noon Scholar at Oxford University and one new student at the University of Cambridge. We will also be supporting six continuing Noon Scholars studying at the two universities.  We are especially pleased because these awards are being made despite the fact that our trust – of course in line with all funds the world over – suffered a hugely significantly dip in our fund’s annual income due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The awards were made by the full  Board of Trustees as usual, even though this time trustees scattered across the world were meeting online – via Zoom. We now hope that all current Noon Scholars will be able to report for the start of term in October. Meanwhile, as ever we are busy reaching out to all past Noon Scholars to find out what has transpired since you graduated – and to connect you to other VNEF scholars. We would love to hear from you – and to hear your news !  


July 2020 update Our Noon Foundation web pages continue to undergo a revamps and I am very pleased that we are developing new new features, including a lively news section. Please have a look – and do send us possible news about university life in Pakistan. We would also like to hear from you if you have any news or items to share about our founder, Lady Vicky Noon, as we wish to build up more images and background about her.  We are also progressing with our survey to reach all our past Noon scholars to join a planned VNEF Noon Scholars association and to plan for our 2022 reunion – please do respond to our emails, or get in touch via this website and our FaceBook page. You can also enjoy our wonderful filmed reports of our highly successful 25th Anniversary Dinner at St Peter’s College, Oxford, last year – including talks from seven current and former Noon scholars talking about their experiences.