The significance of Fellowships in research and academics

November 25, 2023 02:33 pm | Updated 02:42 pm IST

Fellowships play a pivotal role by offering multiple benefits that contribute to the advancement of knowledge and the development of skilled professionals

Fellowships encompass a broader range of purposes, including research, professional development, and advanced study  | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockPhoto

In higher education, marks/grades alone don’t bring success. Along with learning the prescribed syllabus, students must enrich their biodata, which is the face a potential employer will look at. Even without seeing the person, an employer will be able to shortlist candidates. Thus, an average biodata should showcase extra skills and achievements acquired during the period of study. Students need to include details of publications, workshops and conferences attended and so on.

In this context, fellowships and scholarships have great value and help prove that the candidate is skilled and meritorious. Even though both provide financial support, the former primarily focus on helping students with educational expenses, whereas fellowships encompass a broader range of purposes, including research, professional development, and advanced study at various stages. However, often these terms are used synonymously.

Fellowships are typically merit-based and awarded to individuals who have demonstrated exceptional skills, expertise, or potential in their chosen area of study. They often come with various benefits, which may include financial stipends, tuition coverage, travel allowances, health insurance, access to specialised resources, and networking opportunities.

Fellowships can be provided by various organisations, including universities, government agencies, non-profit foundations, and private institutions and may cover a range of fields, including academia, research, arts, sciences, humanities, healthcare, public policy, and more. They are provided either for higher education (post-graduate, doctoral and post-doctoral studies), or for short-term training programmes or to attend conferences. In India, agencies like University Grants Commission (UGC), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Indian Council For Cultural Relations (ICCR) and others provide fellowships for research and are popular among students. Apart from this, there are many national and international fellowships that help students pursue doctoral and post doctoral programmes and also provide assistance to training programmes.


Fellowships play a pivotal role in research and academics, offering a range of benefits that contribute to the advancement of knowledge and the development of skilled professionals. Among the various benefits are:

Financial support: This can be crucial for students and researchers to cover tuition fees, living expenses, and research-related costs. This financial stability allows individuals to focus on their work.

Facilitates research opportunities: Fellowships provide opportunities to engage in focused, independent research or academic projects and to delve deep into the chosen field, contributing new knowledge and insights. This can lead to discoveries, solutions, and innovations that address pressing challenges and benefit communities at large.

Encourages interdisciplinary collaboration: Many fellowships promote interdisciplinary work by bringing together individuals from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise. This fosters a collaborative environment, enabling an exchange of ideas and approaches from different disciplines.

Important fellowships
Chevening Fellowships
Commonwealth Professional Fellowships
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Postdoctoral Fellowships
Lever Hulme International Fellowships
Prime Minister’s Fellowship Scheme for Doctoral Research
Innovation In Science Pursuit For Inspired Research (INSPIRE) Fellowship
Dr. D.S. Kothari Post-Doctoral Fellowships in Sciences, Medical Sciences & Engineering Sciences
Ramalingaswami Re-Entry Fellowship

Mentorship and guidance: Fellowships often come with mentorship components, connecting recipients with experienced researchers or faculty members. This provides guidance, advice, and a support system, as researchers navigate their academic and research journeys.

Networking opportunities: The facilitation of interactions with fellow recipients, faculty members, and experts in the field can lead to collaborations, future research partnerships, and access to a broader academic community.

Recognition: Being awarded a fellowship is a mark of recognition for a person’s academic achievements and potential. It can enhance one’s professional reputation and open doors to further opportunities.

Many fellowship programmes are committed to promoting diversity and inclusion by providing opportunities to individuals from underrepresented backgrounds. This helps to create a more inclusive and equitable research and academic community. Overall, fellowships play a crucial role in nurturing talent, driving research excellence, and advancing knowledge across various academic disciplines. They contribute significantly to the growth and progress of both individuals and the broader academic and research community.

The writer is a science communicator and an adjunct faculty at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru, email:

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