Student protests trigger U-turn in India over scholarships

Fears that scrapping of non-National Eligibility Test grants could disadvantage poorer students

October 27, 2015
Indian flag

Protests in India have forced the country’s University Grants Commission (UGC) to back down from controversial plans to abolish a fellowship.

Student demonstrators were reported to have burned effigies of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, and the chairman of the Delhi-based UGC on 23 October in their protest against the discontinuation of the non-National Eligibility Test fellowship, which provides financial aid to researchers who have not passed India’s test for aspiring academics.

Further protests erupted in Hyderabad, Allahbad and Bihar.

But over the weekend the government appears to have backed down and assured students that the aid would continue.

According to the Indian Express, protesters – who want the value of the scholarship increased – believe that the abolition of the grant would hit disadvantaged students particularly badly, and without the funds would have to seek part-time employment to fund their research, lowering the quality of their work.

They also fear that the government planned to withdraw the subsidy to comply with an upcoming World Trade Organisation deal that would prevent preferential treatment to domestic companies. The grant would have counted as a subsidy to public institutions, and so had to be scrapped, they claim.

david.matthews@tesglobal.com

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