Did you know? About 150-200 students every year are awarded government-funded scholarships to study abroad. Students on government scholarships studying abroad, take note: India wants a report card.
Why India wants a report card?
Following intelligence reports urging caution, the Central Government has begun an investigation into the work profiles and professional dealings of students who have gone abroad on govt scholarships to study in foreign institutes.
Recently, central agencies alerted union ministries that fund scholarships for Indian students at international universities about cases of scholarship awardees working on specific themes/areas or affiliating with organizations that may project India in a negative light on foreign platforms.
All such students’ post-education employment is now being scrutinized.
The Ministry of Tribal Affairs and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) are two of the organisations that provide international education scholarships to students from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds.
These projects are established so that they can receive a high-quality education at renowned foreign universities.
According to ministry sources, they will contact scholarship students to ‘follow up on their future plans’ in order to guarantee their ‘proper settlement.’
The follow-up is essential because scholarship conditions (particularly under the National Overseas Scholarship (NOS) scheme) involve awardees to return to India after completing the course for two years.
North Block officials confirmed that certain cases of students from Kashmir allegedly misusing scholarships at international universities have been flagged by the agencies.
Concerning the NOS, North Block officials stated that the new guidelines will now track any negative developments regarding candidates. As a result, India wants a report card for government-sponsored students studying abroad.
Based on the feedback received continuation of the award for the future will be decided.
Meanwhile, the amount these scholarship awardees have been growing over the years. In 2015-16, the number of scholarship awardees who traveled abroad for post-graduation and research was 19. That number reached 63 by 2019-20 and hit 123 in 2021-22.
What worries these agencies is the employment avenues associated with the social science area in foreign countries.
However, as of now, the data shows that most students availing scholarships have gone to study management, engineering, and pure science.
In 2020-21, 61 out of the 100 selected candidates opted for management and engineering courses, while 24 went for pure science and applied science. There were just 7 humanities/social science students.
The proportion of humanities students (except for 2017-18) has stayed under 23 over the years.
Incidentally, the NOS by the MSJE for low-income students belonging to the denotified nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes, scheduled castes, landless agricultural laborers, and traditional artisan’s category recently ran into controversy. Its latest guidelines now exclude courses/topics pertaining to Indian culture/heritage/history/social studies from the scheme.
The government claimed that the exclusion of Indian studies has been done due to its ample availability at Indian institutes, and that this is part of a streamlining process.
However, people have questioned on the grounds that this is a move to prevent scrutiny of issues like religious bigotry and the caste system.
It is agreed that a researcher can’t be barred from working anywhere they choose. However, if the awardee engages in work that shows India in a negative light on global forums, the government should not fund such scholarships.