Oxford University today announced the launch of a new scholarship to support Indian students studying law at the world-famous institution.
The scholarship at Somerville College has been set up in memory of Cornelia Sorabji, the first female law student at Somerville, the first Indian woman to study at any British university back in 1889, and also the first woman to practice law in India and Britain.
The scholarship will cover up to 50 per cent of the entire cost of the degree, which is usually around 36,000 pounds including tuition fees and lodging.
The college is celebrating her 150th birth anniversary this year with the first awardee of the Cornelia Sorabji Scholarship in Law, Divya Sharma from Chandigarh, taking up her Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) degree this week.
“Cornelia Sorabji was a woman of tremendous spirit and courage and someone who paved the way for many Indian students, including (former Prime Minister) Indira Gandhi at Somerville. India is a key part of our college and this scholarship will pave the way for more graduates to follow in their footsteps,” said Prof Alice Prochaska, principal of Somerville College.
The college is now campaigning for it to eventually become a fully-funded endowment to support bright Indian students who often win admission to Oxford University but are unable to bear the high costs associated with it.
To be successful, the applicant will be expected to demonstrate not only exceptional academic merit but also a commitment ultimately to return to India to put their skills and experience into practice.
While the scholarship is open to any high achieving Indian student, female students will be especially encouraged to carry on Sorabji’s ideals.
The finalist is chosen by the college from a list of Indians offered admission to the university and on the basis of a 500-word essay on how they plan to make use of the Oxford law degree in their professional life.
The initiative is backed by Dr Kusoom Vadgama, historian and editor of ‘An Indian Portia: Selected Writings of Cornelia Sorabji’.
The holder of the scholarship will belong to the Faculty of Law and the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development at Somerville College.
The Centre was established three years ago as a result of a grant of 3 million pounds from the Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development, matched by Somerville College and the University of Oxford.
It offers five permanently endowed scholarships for Indian graduate students and six students have already benefitted from those scholarships since they started in 2013.