Kusuma Excellence Fellowships

Many bright students from disadvantaged backgrounds are unable to realise their academic or professional potential as a result of economic and social disadvantage. To address this problem, the Kusuma Excellence Fellowship (KEF) programme provides high-achieving students from low- income families in Hardoi in Uttar Pradesh and Sambalpur in Odisha with a financial stipend, mentoring and career counselling. The Trust funded the London School of Economics (LSE) to assess the impact of the KEF programme on a sample of fellows and unsuccessful applicants over a 5-year period. Findings from the first year of the evaluation identify emerging trends in student performance, attitudes to education and time spent on academic studies.

Findings indicate that, compared with unsuccessful applicants, fellows:
• spend less time per week on non-academic work e.g. household chores, involvement in agricultural or other work
• are more likely to use private tuition
• achieve similar scores in Grade 11 exams
• expect a higher return from higher education in
terms of anticipated income

In future years, the evaluation will explore student performance in Class 12 exams, career choices and income on entry to the labour market.

The Trust has funded nearly 900 fellows in Sambalpur and Hardoi. From October 2016, an additional 200 high performing students from disadvantaged backgrounds will be selected for the Fellowship programme.
Excellence Fellow pursues his ambition

Shashank Bhardwaj is a Kusuma Excellence Fellow studying Class 12 Science at Sanatan Dharm Inter College in Hardoi. Shashank successfully applied for the Kusuma Excellence Fellowship programme as a way to fund his education beyond secondary school. Shashank is the eldest sibling and felt that he should financially help his parents by bearing the cost of higher education on his own. He realised that there was the opportunity to do this after reading about the Kusuma Excellence Fellowship in a local newspaper. He decided to apply and his determination paid off when he was selected for the Fellowship in 2015-2016.

Since obtaining the Fellowship, Shashank’s confidence has gone from strength to strength. He has won awards in school competitions including top prizes in essay writing and general knowledge competitions, and has also participated in more extra curricular activities including sports and singing competitions. Shashank acknowledged that this newly found confidence is because of his Fellowship and the belief that his mentors and teachers have instilled in him.