Somerville College’s first three Indira Gandhi scholars have arrived from India to begin their academic year at the University of Oxford.

Sumanas Koulagi, Shriman Narayan Sai Raman and Shahana Munazir will be studying for Master’s Degrees as part of the Oxford-India partnership hosted by Somerville College.

“I chose Oxford because I can study under the top theoreticians and practitioners, which will raise my capacity to work in policy – as well as at grassroots level – to bring positive change in India,” said Sumanas Koulagi, who grew up in Melkote, a small town in southern India, and will be studying an MSc in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management.

The Oxford-India graduate scholarships have been enabled as a result of funding from the Government of India and from Somerville College and the University of Oxford. The Government of India has generously donated £3 million for scholarships for Indian graduate students and to fund fellowships in sustainable development. The University of Oxford and Somerville College are contributing a further £3 million for scholarships (through the University of Oxford Graduate Scholarship Matched Fund).

Scholarships are available only for candidates ordinarily resident in India or graduates of universities in India who have been accepted to study at the University of Oxford and can demonstrate exceptional academic ability.

The purpose of the scheme is for the candidates to contribute to the University’s research before returning to India as leaders in their own fields. The scholarship scheme gives students significant cross-disciplinary flexibility under the academic umbrella of sustainability.

“I am tremendously fortunate to be here,” said Shahana Munazir, who grew up in Patna, capital of Bihar Province in north India, and will be studying for an MSc in Contemporary India. “Oxford will equip me to go back and be of some assistance to my home country. I would like to complete my D. Phil at Oxford and then join the Indian Civil Service, so as to put my theoretical expertise into practice.”

The three students will be based at Somerville College, which will also be home to the Oxford-India Centre. The building is scheduled to be completed in 2017, the centenary of Indira Gandhi’s birth, and will house the Indira Gandhi Centre for Sustainable Development. Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1984, was prime minister of India and an alumna of Somerville College. She was also a campaigner for sustainable development long before it had become a major political issue.

“Somerville is distinguished by its beauty and by its warm and welcoming environment,” said Shriman Sai Raman, who was born in Chennai (formerly Madras), grew up in New Delhi and is studying for an MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management. “The intensive course programme, thriving sports, comfortable accommodation and all the food options make for a great life here, even if the weather can take a little getting used to! But the ‘city of dreaming spires’ only gets more enchanting.”

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