In the news

July 7, 2000

The mysterious disappearance of Sufiah Yusof, 15, Oxford University's youngest undergraduate since Ruth Lawrence, has prompted fresh calls for research into the impact of radically accelerated learning on gifted children.

Sufiah, a third-year mathematics student at St Hilda's, Oxford's only all-female college, was last seen by her father after sitting her final-year exam on June 21. Closed-circuit television footage taken 20 minutes after her family reported her missing is thought to show the "naive and innocent" student with an unrecognised man.

Sufiah's parents and tutors have not blamed academic pressures for her disappearance and have instead suggested that she has opted to "stretch her wings" after the academic year.

Although careful living and study arrangements were devised to ensure that stress could be kept at a minimum, fellow students have admitted that the five-year age gap did cause some problems when it came to socialising.

Sufiah secured her place at Oxford aged 12 after she added an A grade in A-level further mathematics to her A grade in maths. A devout Muslim and former under-12s tennis champion, she is also thought to have formed connections with the Socialist Workers' Party and Amnesty International while at Oxford.

Sufiah was schooled at home by her parents and is one of five children. Her brother, Iskander, 14, gained an A in A-level maths aged 10 and is now in the second year of a maths degree at Warwick University with his 17-year-old sister Aisha. Zuleika, six, is already familiar with the A-level maths syllabus.

Ruth Lawrence, perhaps Britain's best-known child prodigy, was also coached by her father and received her first-class degree in maths from Oxford aged 14.

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