“My Oxford experience was incredible”

Crystal Magotra has completed her post-graduation from the University of Oxford, UK where she studied Educational Research. Her research focused on how schools in J&K can foster creativity and innovation in classrooms. She will now be working with the university to promote entrepreneurship for minority groups globally. She is passionate about promoting access and inclusion in primary and higher education and working for the disadvantaged communities in Jammu and Kashmir. In a conversation with Daily Excelsior Correspondent, she reveals about her research work and future plans.
Excerpts :
Please tell us about your research work in J&K.
I belong to Jammu and have done my initial schooling from J&K. While travelling to remote parts of the region, I gained insight into the educational institutions in the area. So many students do not have basic access to educational infrastructure let alone any opportunities for higher education. Though the potential is immense, lack of exposure and resources poses a major challenge. I was very keen that during my time in Oxford, I work and research to bring the region and its educational challenges to the forefront. My thesis was in alignment with the New Education Policy (2020) which focuses on fostering creativity, innovation, critical thinking skills and problem solving in curriculums and to be able to understand how J&K’s schools are incorporating it within their curriculum really enriched my and my peer’s knowledge at Oxford. Through my dissertation, I was able to speak to a large number of teachers and students from some of the remotest areas in the region and found that there is a need to incorporate creativity and critical thinking skills in the schools in the context of a low-resource conflict setting.
This is the first of its kind of research in the domain of creativity in a conflict setting like J&K and will add to the existing literature which I hope will benefit the scholarly community around the world. As part of my ongoing work, I am currently visiting schools in the region to take sessions on the importance of creativity and how schools can foster it.
Can you tell us about your experience at Oxford?
My Oxford experience was incredible in terms of the learning, the world class faculty, global community of peers representing 164 countries and the educational infrastructure that I had access to. I thoroughly enjoyed my course as it was very research focused with practical modules on quantitative and qualitative data analysis. I also had to do a six-week internship at the end of the course with a research lab along with writing up a 20,000 words dissertation.
I was the only Indian student in my cohort to do this course. I was the youngest in my batch and was elected the course representative. All throughout the year I actively promoted the interests of the department to ensure that my batchmates get the best out of this degree. I started a weekly seminar series on education systems around the world where we did an hour-long presentation on comparing education systems of multiple countries. In the second term, I invited two eminent professionals of the Indian higher education to speak to my cohort. These initiatives were received very well from the department and they are going to continue doing this with the consequent cohorts. During my time at Oxford, I was also awarded a generous grant under the Innovation Award for my summer internship with an EdTech platform. My college also awarded me a research and travel grant to conduct my data collection in J&K.
Why did you choose to do this course at Oxford?
After completing my project at MICA, Ahmedabad where I was working as a Research Associate for Facebook, I was very interested in psychological and educational research. I received offers from Harvard University, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, London School of Economics, University College London and some other prestigious international universities. I also applied to a few Indian business schools and had admission offers from Indian School of Business (ISB), MICA, IIM Kozhikode etc. However, I was always inclined towards going to Oxford as my course is one of its kind in the world and is offered only by Oxford. Its admission process is very rigorous for which I had to submit two research papers along with other application materials which was then followed by an interview with two senior Oxford faculty members. Every year, the department selects only ten students from around the world for admission into this course and I am so grateful I got a place because it really changed my perspective. I was also awarded two scholarships to do this course.
What are your future plans?
Fortunately, I got multiple job offers even before completing my degree and was also selected to do a PhD at Oxford. However, I will be working with the University of Oxford within the IDEA programme which specifically addresses how institutional policies, practices and culture can be improved to better support under-represented groups develop their ideas, enhance skills, and access management and directorship roles, all in the context of innovation and entrepreneurship. I am also working as a Senior Researcher with Oxford Creators, a charity based in the UK focusing on supporting and mentoring 11-16-year-old kids who are excluded from the education system. However, after gaining work experience and skills, I intend to return to J&K and contribute towards the development of the education system in remote areas to help students from disadvantaged groups to increase access, inclusion and diversity.