From education to employment

UK Finalists for 2022 Global Student Prize


Award, now in its second year, recognizes extraordinary achievements of young change-makers from around the world

Four students studying in the United Kingdom have been included in the top 50 shortlist for the Global Student Prize 2022, an annual $100,000 award to be given to one exceptional student that has made a real impact on learning, the lives of their peers and on society beyond.

Wadi Ben-Hirki a 25-year-old student at the University of Sussex; Dev Aditya, a 30-year-old student at Brunel University London; Sarah Carr, a 19-year-old student at the University of Cambridge and Dimitris Boufidis, a 22-year-old student at the University of Sheffield, were selected from almost 7,000 nominations and applications from 150 countries.

The Varkey Foundation partnered with to launch the annual Global Student Prize last year, a sister award to its $1 million Global Teacher Prize, to create a powerful new platform that shines a light on the efforts of extraordinary students everywhere who, together, are reshaping our world for the better. The prize is open to all students who are at least 16 years old and enrolled in an academic institution or training and skills program. Part-time students as well as students enrolled in online courses are also eligible for the prize.

Wadi Ben-Hirki is an MA student in International Education and Development at the University of Sussex. Growing up in an unstable region affected by insurgency and terrorism in Northern Nigeria, Wadi overcame these challenges, as well as physical and mental health problems, to excel academically, becoming a well-known public speaker and consultant, and lead a non-profit organisation, the Wadi Ben-Hirki Foundation, that has positively impacted the lives of thousands of people around the world. It currently has more than 180 volunteers and ambassadors from over 25 countries around the world, working to reignite the hopes of women and children by promoting access to quality education, equality and justice, empowerment, equity and sustainable partnerships for welfare.

Dev Aditya is studying for a Ph.D. in AI and Computer Science at Brunel University London. An award-winning innovator, change maker and entrepreneur, Dev is co-founder of Otermans Institute, a specialised education research and development firm in London that focuses on providing essential skills training to students in South Asia to significantly improve their employability. Completely self-taught in AI, Dev also created an AI solution, OIAI, to provide Otermans Institute’s training to the world. OIAI is a humanlike AI-driven teacher that can be accessed by anyone with a smart device and internet. His dream is to see every single person on earth have access to a universal AI teacher that can support their learning and help them learn in a personalised one-to-one manner.

After a year out on social change projects, and due to resume her formal studies as a University of Cambridge Psychological and Behavioural Science student this October, Sarah Carr is involved in a number of efforts that empower young people to create change to both the education system and the environment. Her work on the Varkey Foundation’s Class of Covid project has provided students with a platform to express their opinions about the education system, and ideas that she has helped to gather and analyse have been presented to influential figures and policymakers. If she wins the Global Student Prize, Sarah would like to work alongside experts and peers to develop an objective, evidenced based curriculum that teaches people about the impact of the food system on climate, and how to develop the cooking skills needed to follow a diet that promotes the health of people and the planet.

Dimitris Boufidis studies Bioengineering at the University of Sheffield and is ranked #1 in his cohort. From chairing the Students’ Union’s highest decision-making body, leading the digital acceleration of the UN Sustainable Development Goals for Scouts of Greece, or co-founding award-winning initiatives that help his peers, Dimitiris is a passionate advocator for STEM, an inspiring leader and creative innovator. He hopes to create a state-of-the-art open-access maker space in his home city of Thessaloniki in Greece.

Dan Rosensweig, CEO of Chegg, said:

“Since its launch last year, the Global Student Prize has given incredible students all over the world a chance to share their stories, connect with each other, and reach influencers in education and beyond. Now, more than ever, students like Wadi, Dev, Sarah and Dimitris deserve to have their stories told and have their voices heard. After all, we need to harness their dreams, their insights, and their creativity to tackle the daunting and urgent challenges facing our world.  

“Our finalists this year have made a huge impact in areas from the environment to equality and justice, from health and wellbeing to education and skills, from youth empowerment to ending poverty. I can’t wait to see how this year’s inspiring cohort of changemakers use this platform to make their voices louder, and their work lift up even more lives”

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said:

“I extend my warmest congratulations to Wadi, Dev, Sarah and Dimitris. Their stories are a testament to the crucial role that education plays in building a better tomorrow for us all. It is the key to solving humanity’s greatest challenges, from war and conflict to climate change to growing inequality. As time runs out to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, it is more important than ever to prioritize education so we can face the future with confidence.”

Applications and nominations for this year’s Global Student Prize opened on Thursday 27 January and closed on Sunday 1 May. Students are being assessed on their academic achievement, impact on their peers, how they make a difference in their community and beyond, how they overcome the odds to achieve, how they demonstrate creativity and innovation, and how they operate as global citizens.

Last year’s winner was Jeremiah Thoronka, a 21-year-old student from Sierra Leone, who launched a start-up called Optim Energy that transforms vibrations from vehicles and pedestrian footfall on roads into an electric current. With just two devices, the start-up provided free electricity to 150 households comprising around 1,500 citizens, as well as 15 schools where more than 9,000 students attend.

The top 10 finalists of the Global Student Prize are expected to be announced in August this year. The winner, who will be announced later in the year, will be chosen from the top 10 finalists by the Global Student Prize Academy, made up of prominent individuals.  

If students were nominated, the person nominating them was asked to write a brief description online explaining why. The student being nominated was then sent an email inviting them to apply for the prize. Applicants were able to apply in English, Mandarin, Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.

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