Quadruplets graduate - a first for Oxford Brookes
Oxford Brookes University's first ever quadruplets have graduated, each with a different degree.
The four are Ayah, Abdelrahim, Osama and Ahmad Shaaban. Arriving from Dubai back in 2018 they have completed an extraordinary journey, along with their peers, to achieve their goals.
Following an initial meeting with Deputy Director of Global Recruitment, Mark O’Keeffe, they chose to study at Oxford Brookes. The decision was down to the University’s strong reputation, the safety of the city, and the breadth of degrees on offer. For Osama this meant pursuing a Law degree, while for Ayah it was Interior Architecture, Abdelrahim selected Accounting and Finance, and Ahmad studied Business and Management.
These very different degree courses allowed the siblings to follow their own pathways but also spend time together.
Developing as people
Their strong family bond also helped them adjust to life at university. “Given the fact that the four of us were together, I found it easy to adapt”, says Ahmad. For Ayah and Osama it was harder. “As a family-oriented person, my exposure to a new culture made me homesick”, recalls Osama. “But the inclusiveness of the university and support of staff and our peers definitely made the transition more swift.”
During her first year, Ayah had a particularly challenging time with illness, and was admitted to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital for a month in February 2019. “The amount of support and care I received from the School of Architecture, in particular from the Programme Lead, Jane Anderson - was phenomenal,” she says.
Looking back, how do they feel that being at Oxford Brookes shaped them? Becoming more independent was key, they agree. “Learning to manage your time, and organising your own shopping and cooking are all important in becoming more responsible”, says Ahmad.
Building professional skills
Alongside their newfound independence, each valued the strong professional skills they were developing - both inside and outside the classroom. Abdelrahim notes the future exemptions from ACCA exams as part of his Accounting and Finance degree. For Ayah it was about working on real-life projects which included designing a tree-house. Osama, who was top of his cohort of law students, feels that cutting- edge legal challenges like AI and medical law were helpful, as was taking part in a mooting competition (where law students practise cross-questioning in a mock-up court). “The atmosphere was intense, but my friend and I managed to win and qualify for the next stage. I’ll always remember ‘the judge’ (Senior Lecturer Andrew Kopkin) remarking: ‘We made history today with our first quadruplets to attend a court hearing’.”
For Ahmad, the comprehensive range of his Business and Management degree has left him feeling well-equipped. And beyond his studies, winning an Oxford Brookes Spark Award for his start-up idea was a high point. “Pitching and winning the award with my friend was amazing. It meant that we could grow our idea of creating a delivery app in Oxford.”
With the huge changes to ordinary life caused by Covid-19, the siblings flew home to Dubai in March 2020, where they completed their degrees. The shift to online learning was helped by the support of the teaching team. “As well as recording lectures and seminars, they utilised several tools like Jamboards and slides to make teaching more engaging”, explains Ahmad. Osama felt there were “..no compromises in the quality of the teaching. My teachers helped me tirelessly throughout office hours, seminars and Q&As.”
Abelrahim says that his academic advisor was a strong source of guidance, not only on his course but in applying for his master’s. And although the practical nature of Ayah’s course threw up some challenges, there were positives - including creating and delivering online presentations for design projects, which she found easier.
Plans for the future
Graduating from Oxford Brookes in 2021, they are now ready to move on to the next phase of their journeys.
Master’s degrees beckon for the three brothers: Osama aims to qualify as a solicitor in England after a master’s in Law and a Legal Practice Course, working in a London firm before returning to Dubai. Ahmad is focused on a master’s in Information Technology and AI, then working as a technology consultant in the UK. For Abdelrahim, it’s a master’s in Finance and becoming a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) then working in private equity.
After developing her skills in 3D architecture software, Ayah’s sights are set on a job with a top architecture firm: “I’d love to work with Zaha Hadid’s company - she's a very inspiring role model for me.”
The quadruplets clearly believe that Oxford Brookes has set them on track for their professional futures - and see Mark O’Keeffe as instrumental in their journey. Mark’s first meeting with the quads was in Dubai in 2018 at an event organised by University agents IDP. "We’d like to thank Mr Mark O'Keefe for his exceptional support over the last three years. Mr Mark’s geniality and kindness incentivised us to apply to Oxford Brookes in the first place."
Mark commented: “I’m absolutely delighted to see the success they have all had and to know that their experience at Brookes has been so positive.”
Their time at Oxford Brookes has provided them with some lasting memories, as Osama points out. “I fondly remember my casual conversations with my peers before going into the lecture hall, my rowing adventure with my siblings on the River Thames, and the Ramadan meals I got to enjoy with my siblings and friends. My experience was definitely joyous and memorable.”
There are almost 3,000 alumni from Oxford Brookes in UAE. Our UAE Alumni Chapter helps to keep alumni connected to the University, to each other, and to support future graduates.