Students Staff

21 March 2016

Essex graduates win Education UK Alumni Awards across the world

The Essex spirit has inspired four graduates to success around the world in the Education UK Alumni Awards 2016 organised by the British Council.

Essex is the only university in the UK to have won a staggering four awards this year thanks to the incredible work of its alumni community.

Dr Leticia Osorio from Brazil, Jianwei Zheng from China and Dr Abdullah Al Fraidan from Saudi Arabia all won the Social Impact Award at their country's award ceremony while Ankit Mehrotra won the Entrepreneurship Award at the awards for India.

The awards were organised to demonstrate the impact that a UK education can have upon individuals and their communities, while inspiring others to come to the UK to study. Ceremonies were held in 10 locations across the globe.

Human rights champion - Dr Leticia Osorio

Photo of Dr Leticia Osorio

Dr Leticia Osorio

Human rights lawyer Dr Leticia Osorio won the social impact category at the Awards in Brazil.

Dr Osorio, who now works as Human Rights Programme Officer at The Ford Foundation in Rio De Janeiro, completed a PhD in International Human Rights Law at the University of Essex between 2007 and 2011. During her time she was also a Co-ordinator and Director of the Essex Human Rights Clinic.

She believes her experience at Essex has been a huge help in her work and career.

“Studying at Essex provided me with substantial knowledge of international human rights law, in theory and practice and gave me considerable leverage to move forward in my professional career," she said.

Now she is putting all that knowledge to good use in Brazil where she supports marginalised communities to achieve protection of their fundamental rights particularly in relation to the potentially negative social impacts of large urban development projects and mega sporting events, such as the World Cup and the Olympics.

“Everything I learnt in the UK helped me achieve my job with the Ford Foundation in Brazil," she said. "Through this job I support grassroots communities to fight the negative social impacts of large urban development projects and mega sporting events.”

Teaching pioneer - Jianwei Zheng

Jianwei Zheng

Jianwei Zheng leads a class

Teacher Jianwei Zheng is the first totally blind student from southwest China to complete the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and then go on to complete a Masters in the UK. He won the social impact category at the awards night in China and was selected from hundreds of graduates who had been nominated for the award.

Now back in his home city of Chongqing after completing his Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Essex, Jianwei is working as a private English tutor. He is also sharing his experiences as part of his efforts to change perceptions of disabled people within Chinese society and to inspire others with disabilities to achieve their goals. His new ambition is to establish a new kind of school in China which will be totally inclusive.

Jianwei said his experience at Essex in 2013-14 provided him “with an opportunity to learn the possibility of realizing my dream”.

Transforming lives through online learning - Dr Abdullah Al Fraidan

Dr Abdullah Al Fraidan

Dr Abdullah Al Fraidan

Another winner of the social impact category is linguist Dr Abdullah Al Fraidan who was recognised at the ceremony in Saudi Arabia for his exceptional contribution to online learning and his commitment to creating positive social change and improving the lives of others.

After completing his Masters and PhD focused on applied linguistics, language testing and programme evaluation at Essex, Dr Al Fraidan has gone on to take on key roles developing e-learning at King Faisal University. He now oversees BA online courses for more than 144,000 students, which are managing to reach the most isolated and remote communities in Saudi Arabia.

Dr Al Fraidan said his time at Essex allowed him to “fully realize my passion”. The multicultural environment developed his confidence and helped him learn how to work with others: “Collaboration was a virtue planted in my heart and mind which grew until I felt that I needed to help as many as I can.”

Changing the way India eats out - Ankit Mehrotra

Ankit Mehrotra shows off the Dineout website

Ankit Mehrotra shows off the Dineout website

Groundbreaking businessman Ankit Mehrotra won the entrepreneurial category at the Awards in India after helping to transform the restaurant industry in his home country. The BEng Computers and Telecommunications Engineering graduate is the co-founder of, India’s first and largest table reservation platform which now serves eight cities and 2,500-plus restaurants.

He said: “Coming to the UK to study gave me a global perspective. It opened my eyes to what was going on internationally and introduced me to differing viewpoints from a cultural as well as a personal perspective. The environment encouraged me to apply my mind to problem solving, and to think on my feet and that has helped me as an entrepreneur. I also learnt how to hold my own in a tough situation and to negotiate which was very useful when I was raising funds for my start-up.”

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