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New vistas for deprived students

New vistas for deprived students

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Urvashi Sarkar

The need to highlight positive stories of Dalits and adivasis and the desire to spread awareness about higher education abroad prompted the Insight Foundation to organise an interactive discussion on opportunities for Dalit and adivasi students here on Sunday.Discussions centred mainly on universities in the United States and the United Kingdom.

 Rama Devi, a first-generation educated person in her family who completed a Master’s degree in human rights from the University of London, said that her decision to study further was influenced by the subtle and direct discrimination she experienced as well as the inability of many Dalit women to articulate themselves in English causing Dalit men to represent them in most forums.

 Ms. Devi, an International Ford Fellow, said a major hurdle faced by students from marginalised communities was the language proficiency test. “A minimum of six months preparation is needed to crack the language tests,” she added.

Plenty of scholarships were available for Indian students and “surprisingly there is little competition for them”, Ms. Devi said, explaining this was because of lack of awareness of scholarships. Choosing the right university for study, contacting previous scholarship holders and creating a peer support group in the university was also important.

Outlining his experiences, Dr. David Vumlallian Zou, a Delhi University assistant professor, said his breakthrough came with admission to Jawaharlal Nehru University. Dr. Zou, who received a fully-funded scholarship to pursue a doctorate in Queen’s University, Belfast, stressed the importance of students getting their work published. He recalled how he had initially been discouraged from applying as many advised him “that he did not have the background to pursue academics”.

Speaking about the politics behind scholarships and universities, International Ford Fellow Abhay Xaxa, who pursued a Master’s degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Sussex, said: “Some universities in the UK are actual companies monitoring profit and loss. A major source of income for these universities is overseas students. While students belonging to European Union countries have to pay 3,000 pounds for MA courses, overseas studentshave to shell out 9,000 pounds.” Mr. Xaxa stressed that it was important for students to be aware of the respective agendas of organisations offering scholarships.