Somerville College has this month entered a new scholarship agreement with India’s foremost legal family to create a pipeline of future leaders in law and public policy.  

The three new law and public policy scholarships symbolise the shared commitment of Somerville College and the Shroff family, driving force behind India’s largest full-service law firm, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, to facilitate a sustained process of “brain gain” for India. Conceived as a means of commemorating 40 years of legal practice by Managing Partner Cyril Shroff, the scholarships also speak to the strategic thought leadership and passion for social justice which defines Mr Shroff’s career.  

Somerville’s Principal Baroness Royal shakes hands with Mr Jai Shroff, Managing Partner of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas

Somerville College has a history of empowering Indian scholarship dating back to 1889, when our student Cornelia Sorabji became the first Indian woman to study at Oxford and, subsequently, the first woman to practise law in India. Today, Somerville College’s commitment to India is embodied by the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development (OICSD), a unique research centre whose current cohort of 21 fully-funded scholars are producing impact-based research tackling climate change, public health, civil rights, law and public policy.

From 2023, the new Cyril Shroff Scholars will spearhead the shared values of the Shroff family and Somerville College. The scholars – three in the first instance, but with ongoing discussions for the future – will be selected for their clear-sighted ambition to create change in India through law and public policy, with a particular lens on tackling the climate crisis.

I believe that life is divided into 3 parts – learning, earning and giving. With the institution of these scholarships at Somerville College, I have commenced my ‘giving journey’.

Mr Cyril Shroff

The agreement was sealed during a September visit to Mumbai by the Principal of Somerville College and members of the OICSD, including its Research Director, Dr Radhika Khosla. Joining Mr Shroff at an event called ‘Food for Thought’, Dr Khosla spoke compellingly to senior figures from the Indian business community about ESG and meeting climate goals.

Asked about the new scholarships, Somerville College’s Principal, Jan Royall said, “I’m proud to see these scholarships become a reality. They will not only change the lives of the students who receive them, but go some way towards honouring and repaying the historic contribution made by Indian scholarship to our foremost universities and businesses, creating a brain gain for India, rather than a brain drain.”

Speaking of the motivation behind the Cyril Shroff Scholarship, Mr Shroff added, “On my 40th professional anniversary – I have commenced my ‘giving journey’. I believe that life is divided into 3 parts – learning, earning and giving. Learning is lifelong, and in recognition of this, my giving journey commences with the scholarship instituted at Somerville College, University of Oxford. It is my ardent belief that law and public policy scholars at Oxford will be instrumental in tackling the intractable challenges facing India, particularly the existential challenges of climate change. I also hope that that this will be ‘brain gain’ for India.”

In concluding, Mr Shroff said, “Somerville College at the University of Oxford is a perfect partner for our giving journey – given their storied history of inclusion, their India connection and empowering Indian scholarship since the very first Indian woman to study and practice law. This blends perfectly with our own ethos of creating the finest lawyers for a just world.”

For more coverage of this story, please read the following accounts:

Outlook India: Indians To Write A New Chapter In Climate Discourse Globally

Bar and Bench: Cyril Shroff commemorates 40-year legal career with scholarships in law and public policy at University of Oxford

BW Legal World: Oxford India Centre For Sustainable Development, Cyril Shroff Institutes “Cyril Shroff Scholarships

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