20 Schemes and scholarships for Indian students

Across elementary, secondary, and higher education, there are educational schemes that aim to provide every individual with equal learning opportunities.

20 Schemes and scholarships for Indian students

The COVID-19 pandemic has derailed education the world over. As the situation stabilises, we will hopefully see schools and colleges reopening. As things slowly go back to the way they were, Indian students can leverage many schemes and scholarships to get their best shot at quality education.

India’s National Policy on Education initiated a wide range of programmes with the aim to ensure equal educational opportunities to every student irrespective of their gender, caste, creed, religion, physical ability, socioeconomic status, or financial background. Divided into three main sections, the schemes cater to students at the elementary level, secondary level, and for higher education going all the way up to PhD and postdoctoral courses.

These courses allow people from all backgrounds to pursue an ambitious academic career, better their lives (and that of their family), and play an integral role in the country’s growth. Let’s take a look at 20 such schemes that are available for students in India.

Elementary education

With the goal of promoting universal elementary education, increasing access, retaining students, and improving learning among young children, the following schemes have been implemented. 

1. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

A key programme from the government, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan works towards achieving Universalisation of Elementary Education (UEE). The goal is to ensure all children in the age group of 6-14 get basic education. This is in line with the 86th Amendment to the Constitution that made free education a Fundamental Right of every child in India. The programme does this by opening new government-funded (central and state) schools where there are none, as well as boosting the infrastructure of existing schools. It also provides life skills with a focus on education for girls and children with special needs.

2. Midday Meal Scheme

The goal of the Midday Meal Scheme is to address two main challenges faced by kids from underprivileged sections of society – hunger and lack of educational opportunities. By providing a nutritious, well-balanced meal every day, the scheme encourages students to attend school regularly and concentrate on learning. It enhances enrolment, boosts attendance, and improves the health of students in government schools, government-aided schools, special training centres, and alternative education centres. Originally started for elementary students, the scheme was extended to middle school students in 2008-09. 

3. Mahila Samakhya

This scheme aims to provide women the education opportunities they deserve and strives for equality. Started as a pilot project in 1989 in Karnataka, Gujarat, and Uttar Pradesh, it is today available in many other states as well. The concept of Mahila Samakhya is based on women’s collectives or sanghas (groups). These village-level sanghas work towards breaking barriers and providing access to education and development for women. These women hope to create a better present for themselves and a better future for their daughters by imparting awareness regarding women’s health, violence against women, rights and entitlements, livelihoods, and basic literacy. 

4. Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas (SPQEM)

The goal of this scheme is to improve the quality of education for Muslim children studying in madrasas and to help them gain the standards of education in formal subjects, in line with the national education system. This is done by providing financial assistance to such institutions, helping them modernise, and increasing awareness about the importance of education in the Muslim community. SPQEM encourages madrasas to teach diverse subjects such as Maths, Science, Social Studies, English, and Hindi. It also trains teachers in these subjects to improve their skills.

Secondary education

Secondary education plays a key role as it prepares students for higher education. To motivate students to continue their studies and to allow them access to quality education that is also affordable, the following schemes are available.

5. Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan

This scheme hopes to make secondary education universal in India. It works towards increasing access to secondary schools by ensuring that one is within a reasonable distance of every home. It also aims to improve the quality of schools by standardising their curricula, removing socioeconomic and gender barriers, providing education opportunities to children with disabilities, and developing educated talent that can boost the growth of the country. The central government funds this scheme and provides support via state governments. 

6. National Scheme of Incentives to Girls for Secondary Education

This scheme was launched to encourage girls to enrol in class 9 and continue education till the age of 18. Many girls belonging to the SC/ST communities discontinue their education, and this scheme hopes to discourage them from dropping out. This incentive is extended to girls belonging to the aforementioned communities and all students of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas who have passed class 8. On enrolling for class 9, Each girl gets a sum of Rs 3000 in the form of a fixed deposit. They can withdraw this amount, along with the interest earned, after passing the class 10 examination.

7. Scholarship schemes for minority students

Pre-matric and post-matric scholarship schemes for minorities are aimed at encouraging underprivileged students from minority communities to pursue education. The former is meant for students in classes 1-10, wherein they need to score a minimum of 50% in their previous examination to leverage this scheme, and their annual family income should be under Rs 1 lakh. The latter is for students from similar backgrounds who wish to continue higher studies (class 11 to PhD). They need to secure 50% or above in their previous examination and have an annual family income of less than Rs 2 lakh. 

8. National scholarships

This includes a host of scholarships provided by the state and central governments to help students continue their education and improve their quality of life. Details are available on a dedicated website and these scholarships are open to all. These include scholarships for top class education for students with disabilities, top class education for SC students, Prime Minister’s Scholarship Scheme, and higher education scholarships such as PG Indira Gandhi Scholarship for Single Girl Child and PG Scholarship for University Rank Holders.

9. National Merit-cum-Means Scholarship Scheme

This scheme is again for minority community students who wish to pursue a professional or technical course. The scholarship is available for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Provided by the Ministry of Minority Affairs, the scheme requires students to score a minimum of 50% in their previous final examination. Also, their annual family income has to be less than Rs 2.5 lakh.

10. Scheme for construction and running of Girls’ Hostel for students of secondary and higher secondary schools

The goal of this scheme is to build hotels for girl students so as to provide them with an opportunity to further their studies. Often, girls drop out from school due to distance from their homes, financial burden, and other societal factors. The rationale is that giving them a place to stay will help retain them in schools. Under the scheme, 100-bedded hostels are being set up in 3500 educationally backward blocks of the country. This facility is available for girls aged 14-18 who study in classes 9-12. The target group is young girls from SC, ST, OBC, BPL families, and those from minority communities. They will form 50% of the quota in each hostel. This scheme is now a part of Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan.

Higher education

Higher education is not just the right of a privileged few. The central and state governments are working together to make higher education accessible to all. The following schemes are meant to enable the grooming of future doctors, researchers, scientists, technologists, etc.

11. National Apprentice Promotion Scheme

The aim of this scheme is to increase skilled manpower in the country from 2.3 lakh (2016) to 50 lakh (2020) by providing training through apprenticeships. Under it, the government pays 25% of the stipend per month per apprentice. This is subject to a maximum of Rs 1500. The scheme also provides Rs 7500 to each fresh apprentice for basic training. 

12. Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities

There are multiple scholarships offered under this scheme. Each is aimed at aiding the differently abled to gain education and better their lives. The pre-matric scholarship provides financial assistance to study in class 9 and 10, while the post-matric scholarship helps to study from class 11 up to postgraduation. Scholarships are also offered for top class education (in premier institutions such as IIT and IIM), fellowship programmes for pursuing MPhil/PhD courses, a National Overseas Scholarship to pursue Masters and PhD studies abroad, and free coaching for students to help them appear in competitive examinations, government jobs, and technical and professional courses. 

13. Scholarship Schemes for ST Students by Ministry of Tribal Affairs

There are four scholarships awarded to Scheduled Tribe (ST) students by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. The goal is to provide financial assistance to such students so they can pursue both basic and higher education. These include pre-matric scholarships to study in classes 9 and 10, post-matric scholarships to study from class 11 up to postgraduation, scholarships to pursue regular and full-time professional courses at the graduate and postgraduate level, as well as MPhil/PhD level, and a National Overseas Scholarship to pursue higher studies at the Masters, PhD, or postdoctoral level.

14. Junior Research Fellowships for biomedical sciences

Provided by the Indian Council of Medical Research, these are awarded in the field of Life Sciences such as Microbiology, Physiology, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Human Biology, Biotechnology, Biochemistry, and Environmental Sciences; as well as Social Sciences such as Psychology, Sociology, Home Science, Social Work, Public Health, etc. The Fellowship provides Rs 31,000 per month, with the duration limited to two years. It also grants an annual contingency amount of Rs 20,000. Students are required to have an MSc, MA or equivalent degree to be eligible. General and OBC candidates need a minimum of 55% marks, whereas SC, ST, physically handicapped, and visually handicapped candidates need a minimum of 50% to qualify.

15. Postdoctoral Research Fellowship

This is another programme from the Indian Council of Medical Research. Its goal is to retain Social Science scholars and encourage research in disciplines such as Economics, Commerce, Sociology, Social Work, Social Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Socio-Sanskrit Studies, Socio-Philosophical Studies, Social Linguistics, Gender Studies, Health Studies, Political Science, International Studies, Public Administration, Diaspora Studies, National Security, Strategic Studies, and more. To qualify for this grant, a candidate must possess a PhD degree in any of the Social Sciences and not be more than 45 years of age. These studies are expected to be helpful in advancing the said disciplines, generate field work based on data, and contribute to policy-making.

16. DST's Scholarship Scheme for Women Scientists and Technologists

Launched by the Department of Science and Technology, this scheme is designed to give women opportunities to pursue research in basic or applied science/engineering. There are three scholarships under the aegis of DST: WOS-A, WOS-B, WOS-C. Scholars who wish to apply should hold a MSc in Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Chemical Sciences, or allied areas. Those with a Bachelors or Masters degree in Medicine, Engineering, Pharmacy, Veterinary Science, or a PhD in any of these fields can also apply. The monthly scholarship amount varies between Rs 25,000 and Rs 55,000 depending on the type of scheme and qualifications of the candidate.

17. TWAS-DBT Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme

The World Academy of Sciences and The Department of Biotechnology together provide a Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme to scientists from developing countries who wish to pursue postdoctoral research in biotechnology. This is available to scholars who have recently earned their PhD and wish to further their work in the fields such as Agricultural Sciences, Structural, Cell, and Molecular Biology, Biological Systems and Organisms, Medical and Health Sciences, Neurosciences, Chemical Sciences, Physical Sciences, etc. The fellowship gives them the opportunity to work alongside renowned scientists and gain valuable experience and insights.

18. Sports Authority of India promotional schemes

The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has numerous schemes designed to promote the culture of sports in the country. It is formulating a series of reforms in the sports sector to build a holistic approach towards sports and physical education. It has different initiatives for sub-junior, junior, and senior level athletes. For sub-junior level trainees, there are schemes such as National Sports Talent Contest Scheme and Army Boys Sports Company Scheme; for junior level trainees there’s SAI Training Centre Scheme and Extension Centres of STC/SAG; for seniors there’s the Centre of Excellence Scheme. These schemes involve tapping and nurturing sporting talent, imparting skilled coaching, building sportspersons who can represent India on the global stage, and driving overall sporting excellence.

19. All India Council for Technical Education Scholarships

All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) offers myriad scholarships to students who wish to pursue a technical degree. These include Saksham Scholarship, Pragati Scholarship, AICTE PG scholarship, Prime Minister’s Special Scholarship Scheme for J&K, and National Doctoral Fellowship. The Saksham scholarship is for students with disabilities, the Pragati scholarship aims at helping girl students, AICTE PG is for students who have obtained qualifying marks in GATE/GPAT exams, PM’s scholarship is for students who are domiciled in Jammu & Kashmir, and the National Doctoral Fellowship is for research scholars who have taken admission in an AICTE-recognised research institute.

20. Scholarships from Jawaharlal Nehru University

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) offers a multitude of scholarships too. These include Merit-cum-Means for meritorious students whose family income is under Rs 2.5 lakh; Ford Foundation Scholarship for students of the MA programme; Prof Ramesha Rao Scholarship and Travel Grant for students securing the highest grade in Cancer Biology; Tendulkar Scholarship to students from the School of Social Sciences; Prof. Nurul Hasan Scholarship for students of disciplines such as MA, MSc, and MCA; Jawahar Bhawan Trust Scholarship for meritorious students of MA, MSc, and MCA; Prof. MJK Thavaraj MCM Merit Scholarship for MA (Eco) first year students of the School of Social Sciences, DS Gardi Sanskrit Scholarship for MA students of Sanskrit Studies, and Prof. Gouri Shankar Singhal Scholarship for MSc students on the basis of merit and need. There is also a special provision for students from marginalised sections of society under the ‘Earn as you Learn’ scheme.  


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