Young India Fellowship

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Young India Fellowship

The Young India Fellowship (YIF), is a one-year residential multi-disciplinary post graduate programme which provides Liberal arts education with a focus on experiential learning. Indians under the age of 29 with an undergraduate or a postgraduate degree in any subject are eligible to apply for the fellowship. The YIF was launched in 2011 by the International Foundation for Research and Education (IFRE)- a not-for-profit (Section 25) company, in collaboration with University of Pennsylvania's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (Penn). YIF graduation certificates are co-signed by the YIF and Penn Engineering Deans. YIF's academic partners now also include Carleton College, Sciences Po, King's College, London, University of Michigan, University of California, Berkeley and Trinity College, Dublin.

The Young India Fellowship aims to develop change agents for India through a multi-disciplinary programme.[1] It aims to improve the standard of higher education in India and allow for a more expansive and engaging learning module than is currently available in the country. Fellows take classes in subject areas ranging from anthropology to ethics, life sciences to climate change, art appreciation to entrepreneurship and are provided mentors from a pool of corporate, civil and academic leaders in the country.

Each year the number of available seats has been increased in order to accommodate the growing pool of applicants. For its academic year 2015-2016, commencing in July, the Young India Fellowship has increased its seats to 200.

YIF is the precursor to the newly established Ashoka University, located in the Rajiv Gandhi Education City near Delhi, India. Ashoka University is a philanthropic initiative founded by eminent scholars and visionaries to provide a liberal education on par with the best universities around the world. It offers a liberal education, nurturing core 21st century skills of critical thinking, communication and leadership, also promoting interdisciplinary education and advanced research in the humanities, social sciences, and the natural and applied sciences. Starting from 2014, YIF became the flagship programme of the Ashoka University and offers a Post-Graduate Diploma in Liberal Studies & Leadership to the Fellows after graduation. Fellows also have the option to convert this diploma into a research-based master's degree called a Master in Liberal Studies.


The seeds of the Young India Fellowship germinated in a simple conversation between friends. Sanjeev Bhikchandani, Founder, and Ashish Dhawan, Co-founder of ChrysCapital Investment Advisors, were thinking about starting a Liberal Arts school, while Vineet Gupta, Managing Director at Jamboree Education and Rakesh Jaggi, VP at Reservoir Production Group, Schlumberger were considering setting up a technology institute. They conferred with Pramath R. Sinha, Founding Dean of Indian School of Business (ISB), who mooted the idea of bringing the two concepts together to create a multidisciplinary university. The conclusion they reached was that though many technology and business institutes focused on producing professionals had cropped up over the years, liberal and general education had largely been neglected in the country.
Over time the circle of friends who believed in the idea grew to include Ashok Belani, CTO Schlumberger; Arjun Bhagat, Chairman of Calibrated Group; Vinati Kastia, Partner AZB & Partners; Ashish Gupta, COO at Evalueserve; Sunish Sharma, former Managing Director, General Atlantic; Saurabh Srivastava, Angel Investor, Venture Capitalist and Entrepreneur and N.V. “Tiger” Tyagarajan, President and CEO, Genpact.[2]


The Young India Fellowship seeks to groom young women and men who can lead India through the 21st century. By offering exposure to a diverse set of skill and perspective-building liberal arts courses along with hands-on learning through a range of Experiential Learning Module (ELM) projects, the programme aims to help the fellows realize their leadership and entrepreneurial potential. The YIF has been specially conceived and designed to tap into the excessive talent pool in India and enable highly motivated individuals across the country to become socially conscious leaders for the future. Young India Fellowship is the flagship programme of the Ashoka University and one that best showcases the philosophy and intent in creating a new benchmark in higher education in India. The one-year programme of Young India Fellowship has been designed on the following key principles:

  • To provide a holistic learning experience which will open minds and broaden perspectives.
  • To nurture leadership creativity, collaboration, empathy and adaptability.
  • To train in essential skills needed for research, problem solving, communication & management which will help transform ideas into action.
  • To provide inspiring teachers to excite and challenge their students to be the best they can be.
  • To spark new ideas and create opportunities for personal and professional growth for the participants under the guidance of donors, mentors and their network of friends and colleagues.


Term Structure[edit]

The programme is structured around 8 semesters of roughly 5 weeks each. Each semester will have three Perspective Building Courses structured around different subject areas and one or two skill development courses. Each of these courses offers 20 hours of lecture time spread over 5 weeks – this implies 4 hours of lecture time for each course in any given week. Every term will have workshops focused on soft-skills training (written and verbal communication, team-work, leadership). Each of these workshops will have 2 - 3 hour session every week. The project work under the Experiential Learning Module will continue across all semesters and will be managed by students outside their regular classroom hours.


Leading undergraduate programmes in India seem to focus too early on professional or specialized courses that tend to stifle the inclination of talented young minds to explore different perspectives and avenues. YIF is designed to rekindle the desire to learn and explore. In addition to academic instruction, Fellows are coached in life skills through well designed leadership workshops, writing and communications classes coupled with training in critical thinking and problem solving skills. By working on Experiential Learning Modules (ELM), they practice these perspectives and skills on live projects from a variety of sectors and learn to solve real problems on the ground. Integrating perspectives, skills and experience makes for a holistic learning experience at YIF.

Financial Support[edit]

YIF offers its Fellows full or partial scholarships and is financially supported by a network of well-known corporate leaders, institutions and philanthropists. The Fellowship is committed to covering, in full or in part, the following:
• Tuition fees and all material including text books towards all academic instruction
• Boarding and fully furnished lodging

Curriculum and Faculty[edit]

The YIF curriculum is a rich mix of courses that build perspective as well as develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These courses are taught by some of the most inspiring faculty from around the world.

Some of the courses and their instructors are as follows:[9][10]

Course Instructor
Sociological Reasoning Andre Beteille, Professor Emeritus, Sociology, Delhi School of Economics
Reason and the Making of Modern India Rudrangshu Mukherjee, Historian, Author & Opinion Editor, The Telegraph
Political Economy of India's Development Mihir Shah, Member, Planning Commission of India
Governing the Metropolis Sciences Po
Economics A.K. Shiva Kumar, Development Economist and Visiting Professor, Harvard University and the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad
BRICS Christophe Jaffrelot & Patrick Le Gales, Sciences Po, Paris

Guest Speakers[edit]

Lectures by academics, global achievers and role models complement the academic courses at YIF. Since the launch of the programme more than 130 individuals have addressed the Young India Fellows.

Some guests include: Madeleine K. Albright, Former US Secretary of State; Kaushik Basu, Chief Economist, World Bank; Norman Atkins, Co-founder & CEO, Teacher U; Raghuram Rajan, Governor, RBI; Nandan Nilekani, Chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India; Prannoy Roy, Co-Chairperson, Co-founder and Mentor, NDTV; Robert Swan, OBE, Polar Explorer; Arjun Appadurai, Social-Cultural Anthropologist, New York University; Eduardo D. Glandt, Professor and Dean, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Pennsylvania; Ramachandra Guha, Historian, Writer & Columnist.[11]

Experiential Learning Module[edit]

To complement coursework with real work experience, the Experiential Learning Module (ELM) is an 8-month-long part-time engagement with an organisation on live projects. Each project is taken up by a team of 3-4 Fellows and involves working closely with top management of the organisations with direct impact potential. Besides providing real work experience, the module is aimed to equip the students with the basic skills of building and working in diverse teams and to structure and solve critical business problems. Some of the ELM projects that the Fellows have undertaken are with Harley-Davidson India, British High Commission, Council for Energy, Environment & Water, HarVa, IDEA Cellular, Media for Change, Natural Justice and PRATHAM.


Young India Fellows have the unique privilege of being mentored by eminent leaders, academicians and practitioners from India and abroad. Mentors are committed to counsel Fellows on their professional aspirations and personal development goals.

Some of the mentors include: NR Narayana Murthy, Chairman, Infosys; Deepak Parekh, Chairman, HDFC; Keki Dadiseth, Former Chairman, HUL; Pramod Bhasin, Founder, Genpact; Sanjeev Bikhchandani, Founder, and Adil Zainulbhai, Chairman, McKinsey India.


The founding class of 2012 consisted of 58 Fellows, the second batch, class of 2013, comprised 97 Fellows and the class of 2014 was made up of 100 young men and women. The intake for the next academic session of 2015-2016 has been increased to 200. The Fellows reflect India's geographical and cultural diversity and are trained in a diverse set of disciplines and fields, be in engineering, design, filmmaking, agriculture, law, journalism, literature, economics, medicine or music.[12]

Beyond YIF[edit]

Some Young India Fellows have been offered admission to and are studying at some of the world’s universities such as Harvard University, Yale University, Oxford University, LSE, Sciences Po, Central European University, Geneva Institute, Berlage Center for Advanced Studies in Architecture and Urban Design, Columbia University and the University of Chicago. Many have been placed at some of the top local and multi-national corporate houses in India such as Amex, Cipla, Dua Consulting, GAIL, Genpact, Godrej, Hidesign, Pidilite and TCS. Some have decided to contribute in the not-for-profit, development and sustainability sectors such as the World Bank, WWF, Amnesty International, National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM), UN Sustainable Solutions Development Network, Samaj Pragati Sahayog and Pradan. Fellows have been granted the Fulbright Scholarship, Commonwealth Scholarships and a position as a Prime Minister's Rural Development Fellow. One Young India Fellow has returned after a year in Singapore to establish his own startup developing a low-cost tablet computer for use in Indian schools, while another has moved to Afghanistan to work for an NGO empowering local women.

Notable Student Engagements[edit]

  • Tushar Chugh, Jatin Sharma and Rolly Seth, fellows from the founding batch of the fellowship, developed a haptic belt that senses obstructions and helps the visually impaired walk freely as part of their ELM project. The belt, called viSparsh [loose combination of vision and sparsh(touch)], can assist people with visual impairment in their daily activities. The fellows developed this low-cost distance sensor in collaboration with the School of Engineering & Applied Science -University of Pennsylvania. It has an infrared optic sensor that projects thousands of dots in a three to 12 feet distance to determine obstacles present. Based on the proximity and relative direction of the obstacles to the wearer, a series of vibrators on the belt alert the wearer of their presence and provides a 160 degree view of the environment. It is lightweight, low-cost (~Rs 5,000), easy to use, non-conspicuous and hands and ear-free. The belt will be wearable, affordable and practical for a visually impaired person.[13][14] Team viSparsh won several accolades for their invention including Accenture Innovation Jockeys-2012, Economics Times: Power of Ideas-2012 and Outstanding Experience Learning Award-2012. Their innovation was featured as one of the 12 most innovative technologies by Wall Street Journal’s Asian Innovation Awards 2012.
  • Jatin Sharma, Tushar Chugh and Rolly Seth participated at Health2.0 India Conference 2011 and hacked Kinect sensor to developed a fall detection device, Stasis, for elderly people which led them to win Health 2.0 India Code-a-thon, INR 50,000 and official entry to represent India at Health2.0 World Cup, San Francisco.
  • Jatin Sharma, Tushar Chugh and Rolly Seth represented India at Health 2.0 Developers World Cup 2012, San Francisco. They developed ‘Kavach’, a wearable health monitoring platform, to bag second prize competing against national winners from the rest of the world.
  • Quidich, an aerial drone videography startup developed as an ELM by Rahat Kulshreshtha and Gaurav Mehta during the 2013-14 YIF batch, was featured in Huffington Post and named by Discovery India as one of "India's Best Jobs" in 2017[15]
  • Gaurav Mehta a Young India Fellow, 2014 won an action filled Race 2 of the Volkswagen Polo R Cup, his first ever race in a competitive series.[16]
  • Prabhat Kumar a Young India Fellow won the second edition of the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge, 2013-2014.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "YIF". 
  2. ^ a b "From Pathbreakers to Pathmakers". EduTech. 2011-12-19. 
  3. ^ "New Kid on the Private Varsity Block". The New Indian Express. 
  4. ^ "Young India Fellowship Admissions Head Gets Rousing Welcome At Southern Institutes". i-Newswire. 2011-12-05. young men and women with deep interest in extra-curriculars and passion for something outside of their academic pursuits 
  5. ^ "Are you leader material?". Hindustan Times. 2011-11-09. India’s brightest young people, those who wanted to make a difference and discover their true potential 
  6. ^ Chatterjee, Chandreyee (2011-04-06). "Dream fellowship for those with dreams". Calcutta, India: The Telegraph. 
  7. ^ "The Young India Fellowship". Hindustan Times. 2011-03-15. 
  8. ^ "We want students who are willing to take risks". Rediff. 2011-03-15. 
  9. ^ "Courses under YIF". 
  10. ^ "Faculty at YIF". 
  11. ^ "Guest Speakers at YIF". 
  12. ^ "Connecting the Dots". The Hindu. 
  13. ^ "A device that helps visually impaired walk freely". CNN-IBN. 2012-01-27. 
  14. ^ "Technology can assist various communities across the world". The Times of India. 2012-01-28. 
  15. ^ "Discovery Channel India". Retrieved 2017-10-02. 
  16. ^ "Volkswagen Polo R Cup". Pune Mirror. 
  17. ^ "YIF in the news". 

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