Chandigarh-based Divya Sharma has been selected as the first recipient of a scholarship at the University of Oxford named after Cornelia Sorabji, who was the first Indian woman at any British university and went on to become the first woman to practice law in colonial India.
The announcement was made on Thursday by the college where Sorabji came to study in 1889. Alice Prochaska, principal of Somerville College – whose alumni includes Indira Gandhi – said the scholarship was instituted to mark the 150 birth anniversary of Sorabji (1866-1954).
Sharma, who completed her law education at the National Law Institute University in Bhopal, will study for the one-year Bachelor of Civil Law at Oxford in the academic year beginning later this month.
“The scholarship currently meets half of the cost of studying and living during studies at Oxford, but we are moving towards providing a full scholarship. This adds to our college’s long links with India, institutionalised through the Oxford India Centre,” Prochaska said.
Another law scholarship for Indians at the college from this year is the Hemant Sahai Scholarship. The college is already home to a thriving postgraduate programme on sustainable development, partly funded by the Indian government.
One of the main contributors to the Sorabji scholarship is London-based historian Kusoom Vadgama, author of a book on pioneering lawyer. Oxford has set up a foundation in India where tax-exempt donations can be made to fund scholarships.
The college, Prochaska said, will hold a special celebration on November 17 to mark Sorabji’s 150th birth anniversary. One of her nephews, Richard Sorabji, a professor of philosophy with long-standing links with Oxford, will be among the speakers at the event.
Prochaska said the college and university receives a large number of applications from highly talented Indians every year, but funding remains a major issue. She said the university continues to lobby with the British government to have a “more rational” visa policy for Indian and other non-EU students.