As the search for the 2015 batch of the Rhodes scholars begins, Sanchayan Bhattacharjee talks to the earlier recipients on what it is like to be a Rhodes Scholar.
Every student dreams of studying at a foreign university. A couple of constraints which holds them back for at least a few years, is getting admission in a reputed college and the tuition fees. The prestigious Rhodes scholarship is one such step that takes care of both these problems.
Every year five Indian graduates under 25 years of age are selected for this scholarship, which enables them to study at the University of Oxford. In addition to the tuition fees, the scholarship also provides for a stipend. “During my two years of study, I did not have to spend anything myself and could even travel extensively in Europe”, says Meghana Narayan, a Rhodes scholar from 2000.
The recipients of this award may enrol for any postgraduate course of their choice from Oxford, usually for a period of two years. However, the scholarship maybe extended for a third year in certain cases. The five Indians selected every year are among 83 others who are selected from across the world. Past scholars include prominent names like Montek Singh Ahluwalia, policy maker, Girish Karnad, playwright and also world leaders like the former US president Bill Clinton and James Fullbright, US senator and founder of the Fullbright program.
Studying at Oxford is an enlightening experience, say the past scholars. “You get an opportunity to meet innovators from diverse cultures and ideas. It helps you to look at complexities differently and broadens your horizon,” says Rohan Paul, a 2008 scholar. Paul completed his doctorate in Engineering Science in the area of robotics. He is now involved in research and innovation work at IIT Delhi to help people with disabilities, especially visually impaired people.
Arghya Sengupta, another scholar also from the 2008 batch who studied law, now runs a legal policy think tank in Delhi. “The best part about the university is the emphasis on developing your own point of view and the cross fraternization of people across disciplines. There is no one right answer for most things,” he says.
The scholarship criteria mention that every Rhodes Scholar must have ‘literary’ and ‘scholastic’ qualities. According to the Rhodes Scholarships India secretary Virander S Chauhan, applicants with intellect, character, leadership, and commitment to service are considered. “Candidates should demonstrate a strong propensity to emerge as world leaders able and willing to fight the world`s fight.”
Nandan Kamath, a 2000 Rhodes Scholar and current member of the selection committee says, “Rhodes Scholars from India come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines and have gone on to successfully further their diverse projects and interests. The investment in their journeys is made with the hope that they will give back and serve their communities in whatever way they choose.”
Thus the statement of purpose, which every student must write as part of the application process becomes an important tool to shortlist candidates. It need not have flowery language. However, it needs to clearly articulate the applicant’s ideas, thought process and convictions beyond academics. There must also be a clear mention of what a student plans to achieve with the degree. The final selection is also based on a candidate’s performance in the interview rounds. “Receiving the award means you’ve been vetted by some brilliant minds ,” Narayan signs off.
Age: 19-25 years of age
Qualification: First class degree in Humanities, Sciences, Law, Engineering, Agriculture or Medicine from an Indian University
Dates: Application for the 2015 batch begins on 1 June and ends on 31 June
For more details: http://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk