Tuesday 29 September 2020


  • The UK's international organisation for educational and cultural opportunities announces the first-ever UAE winners of its prestigious IELTS Prize
  • 10 talented university students from across UAE have received a share of GBP 30,000 prize fund helping them to realise their study ambitions
  • Despite massive disruption to higher education, students from UAE will use the prize winnings to fund study in fields including medicine, law and engineering.

The British Council, co-owners of IELTS, the global English Language proficiency test, have awarded ten students in the UAE prize money worth £3000 (AED 14,500) to help with their university fees. 

They are the first-ever winners of the prestigious IELTS prize in the UAE, which was set up to help students fulfil their aspirations to study at any university; at home or abroad, that accepts IELTS as part of its admission criteria. To be selected, each applicant had to not only excel at their IELTS test, but also submit a 500-word essay on why they wanted to win. 

Despite massive disruption to higher education due to Covid-19, all the winners will use the prize winnings to fund study in fields including medicine, law and engineering.

One winner of the prize is Laila Alkhouli, a graduate of the College of Medicine at the University of Sharjah. The 25-year-old will use the prize to help fund her time on the Pediatric residency program at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical University in Abu Dhabi.

She said: “My dream is to continue my studies in my favorite field of medicine which is pediatrics medicine. I applied for higher studies in medicine in different training hospitals in the UAE and in the UK.

“I believe the IELTS prize will put me one step closer to my dream by making it possible for me to continue my post-graduate studies and not  have to worry about the financial side -it’s definitely given me the motivation to keep pushing towards the goals I want to accomplish.

Fellow winner Ilya Prokopenko has started with online classes for his first semester in Engineering with McMaster University, Canada. He will travel once borders reopen.

Speaking about the prize, the 17-year-old said: “The day I received the email from the British Council I couldn’t believe it was real! I was extremely surprised and delighted to have been chosen as one of the few British Council IELTS Prize winners. Since I was seven, I knew that I wanted to be an engineer as I wanted to bring a change to this world that would help other people. My dream was to study Electrical Engineering in Canada, and the IELTS Prize has put me closer to achieving my dream.”

Meanwhile, 24-year-old Ameera Abdirazak Ahmed will study a Masters in Bio Medical Engineering at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi.

She said: “The IELTS prize will not only aid me financially, but also motivate me to follow my dream of becoming an innovator and researcher.

“I believe that doing my master’s in biomedical engineering can equip me with the knowledge and skills to improved modern healthcare. I believe that while doing my master’s degree, I want to contribute to inventing highly sophisticated medical equipment that will improve patients’ quality of life as well as doing research work related to the use of artificial intelligence to solve medical problems. I am grateful that I am receiving this prize which will help me start this path.”

The IELTS prize has previously been awarded in other parts of the world, but this is the first time it has been open to recipients anywhere in the Middle East. The UAE was chosen by the British Council as it is one of the largest markets for students wishing to study in the United Kingdom, North America and Australia. IELTS, the world's most popular high-stakes English proficiency test, has been a crucial part of students' entry requirements. 

Speaking about the prize, Deep Adhikari, Director – Exams, Gulf South at the British Council UAE, said: "The IELTS Prize recognises those high performing students that demonstrate the academic excellence and commitment to excel during higher education. More importantly, they show the determination to take what they learnt during their time abroad or at home and use it to benefit their communities when they graduate. It is our privilege to help these talented individuals in the UAE make their mark in a world that is rapidly changing. Higher education is one way they can prepare themselves to thrive in the future."

The IELTS test has never been more accessible, with all British Council testing centres now open in venues conveniently located across the UAE. 

 For more information about how to take the test and to access free resources and learning materials visit www.britishcouncil.ae. 

Notes to Editor

The full list of winners are:

Ameera Ahmed

Laila Al Khouli

Maha Mekni

Maserah Irfan

Ilya Prokopenko

Kristina Shingalova

Riva Batra

Nadine Mukhtar

Suzanne Vaz

Khadeeja Farhana

For further information please contact: 

Claire McAuley, Senior Communication Manager, Gulf Cluster - T +44 (0) 28 9019 2224 | M +44 (0) 7856524504 Claire.McAuley@britishcouncil.org


About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 75 million people directly and 758 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government.