‘Unnathi’ scholarships: Jump in SC/ST students taking up studies abroad

Overseas Development and Employment Promotion Consultants will arrange visa processing, air tickets and fee payments as the department will release the money directly to it.
Image used for representational purpose.
Image used for representational purpose.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The number of students from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities who pursued higher studies in foreign universities from the state was a mere 62 until 2021. In two years the number went up to 425, thanks to the new initiative taken by the SC/ST development department under the merit-cum-means ‘Unnathi scholarship for overseas studies’ for post-graduate studies and research. 

Now the department has decided to widen the scope of the initiative by bringing in Overseas Development and Employment Promotion Consultants (ODEPC), a government recruitment agency registered under the Ministry of External Affairs to help students find suitable foreign universities and courses, and secure visas, passport, travel, accommodation and even monitor their study.    

 “Earlier with few advertisements and fewer applicants, the overseas scholarship scheme did not succeed in attracting enough bright students from the SC/ST community, an official in the SC development department told TNIE

“One of the reasons was that the students from the deprived castes were not aware of the availability of the scholarship as no one told them about it. Secondly, the prospective students who apply for the scholarship will have to find out the best courses and universities. And they also have to manage the travel documents including visas and passports. Now with ODEPC on board, all these will change,” he said.

Now ODEPC will do the necessary research about the courses run by the universities in different countries and advise students in selecting better courses. The government has decided to give weightage to girls, young applicants and children of a single parent, and those with physical disabilities, in addition to academic merit. 

“ODEPC will screen applicants based on their language proficiency, academic eligibility, choice of country of study and university. It will prioritise each student’s skills and guide them to make a good choice for the right career. ODPEC will have the responsibility to assess the credibility of the international universities that students choose,” he said. 

ODEPC will arrange visa processing, air tickets and fee payments as the department will release the money directly to it. To avoid confusion while landing in a foreign land and locating their places of study, ODEPC will arrange a facility to make sure that the students are received at the airport and transported to their destination. It is the responsibility of ODEPC to boost the confidence of students and give advice related to the university or courses. It will also assist students who could not make it to the select list to prepare better for the next admission. 

Under the MOU, ODEPC will track each student during their first year and provide respective departments with insights into the student’s enrolment status and academics. If any objection is raised, it will also be reported to the department concerned.

Session on overseas studies

The SC/ST development department will sign an MOU with ODEPC soon. The SC/ST development department is organising a debate on overseas studies on August 3 in Ernakulam. Minister K Radhakrishnan will communicate with 100 students from Model Residential High Schools in the state.

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