“I had applied to join the University of Manchester’s PhD programme on reproductive science and got the unconditional offer letter for admission in June. In September, I received the provisional selection letter from the Centre for the National Overseas Scholarship (NOS), which would enable me to study abroad. But three months on, I’m still to receive the final award letter, with just a fortnight left before the January 1 deadline within which I have to forward it to the university”, says a young woman from Maharashtra.
Speaking to the Telegraph, the young woman has said that excessive rules and formalities might delay her process of obtaining a PhD in science from the British University. She informed the media that foreign universities and visa granting authorities insist on students to reveal their ability to pay the tuition fees and living expenses beforehand.
In India, the National Overseas Scholarship Scheme (NOS) provides financial assistance to the selected candidates for pursuing Master level courses and PhD abroad in the accredited Institutions/University by an authorized body of that country in any fields of study. This scheme is for Scheduled Castes, Denotified Tribes & Semi-Nomadic Tribes and Landless Agricultural Labourers and Traditional Artisans. A total of 100 slots are available in each Financial Year.
The scheme, under its maintenance allowance covers the poll fees, visa fees, medical insurance, air tickets, tuition fees and living costs. But the scholarship is habitually blighted by bureaucratic delays, students and Dalit activists say. An official in the social justice and empowerment ministry, which awards the scholarship, acknowledged that for the past three years, only about 60 of the 100 expected beneficiaries had been receiving the final award in time to secure admission overseas, reported The Telegraph.
She has already written to Prime Minister Modi and Social Justice Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot to speed up the final award. She told the Telegraph, “The government wants to increase women’s participation in science and technology, yet it’s creating hurdles before women like me who want to research a core field of science. She has already once deferred her admission, originally slated for September, and will not be allowed a further deferment. Her classes start from January 1, 2021 and she worries that her final award will not accrue to her on time.
An IIT Kharagpur alumnus who runs the non-profit Centre of Excellence of Garib Dalit Pidit and is helping the girl negotiate the bureaucratic hurdles, Amol Meshram revealed while speaking to the media that the entire process from verification of documents to providing the final award letter should ideally not take more than 15 days. But there is a constant delay in forwarding the documents of those selected for the provisional list to the missions.
A student from Odisha, who aspires to do his PhD on pesticides and their health impacts from the University of South Castle in Australia, told the Telegraph that he had applied for the NOS in 2019 and was provisionally selected. “But my date of admission arrived in May 2020 and I had still not received the final award letter. On my request, the university has postponed my admission till January 30. I got the final award this month,” he said.
But his misery does not end here, as Australian Universities are holding virtual classes and has sought another letter from the social justice ministry agreeing to pay his tuition fees for the period he participates in the lessons from India. “I wrote to the ministry 25 days ago but haven’t received any response,” he said.
NOS grants Rs 9.9 lakh as annual maintenance allowance for Indian students in the United Kingdom, despite some cities like London being more expensive than others. Amol Mesharam, while speaking to the Telegraph said, “You need to show the visa officer Rs. 1.3 lakh for each month of your course (at a London institution), for a minimum of nine months. This comes to approximately Rs 12 lakh.”
So, the applicants end up struggling to arrange Rs 2.1 lakh by themselves. This defeats the purpose of the scheme in place for students who hail from families with annual income less than Rs. 8,00,000 per annum.