Send Arun to Oxford! | Milaap
Send Arun to Oxford!
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    from Salem, Tamil Nadu

Note: 30 June was my personal deadline for submitting a financial declaration - a letter of consent confirming that I have a solid plan to pay my tuition fees. I have sent this in.
For now, I have informed my College that my parents will handle my tuition fees for the coming academic year. Once this campaign concludes, I will notify Oxford's admin, informing them that my primary source of funding has changed. (They officially allow this sort of change.)

Hello! My name is Arun, and I'm an aspiring linguist and theatre professional from the state of Tamil Nadu, India. I am delighted to tell you that I hold an offer to the MSc Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition programme at the University of Oxford!

Unfortunately, though, I cannot afford the full cost of my studies. My family simply does not have that much money. This is where I need your support. Would you be willing to help send me to Oxford?

Who am I?
I am a language enthusiast, theatre actor, musician and writer living on a small organic farm in the Eastern Ghats. My family has been working in the social sector for over thirty years now, and as a result, I grew up sensitised to the various forms of social injustice in my country. My schooling was at Rishi Valley School, an alternate school run by Krishnamurti Foundation India, and my undergraduate studies were at Ambedkar University Delhi. These experiences taught me to theorise on classism, casteism and gender discrimination - but they also made me determined to work on the ground and fight these forces.

This was why, following my graduation, I decided to explore the social sector. First, I proofread the Tamil-to-English translation of a book on vulture conservation. Next, as part of economist Jean Dreze’s collective ‘Hard Work No Pay,’ I collected data on public health in rural Madhya Pradesh. At the Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi, I co-authored a report on language technologies developed by the Indian government. Next, I produced educational content for TutorZen, an online learning space. Most recently, I worked with the recruitment team at Teach for India, roping in well-educated graduates and corporate employees to work as teachers in underfunded schools.

I understand that I have had a privileged life, compared to the majority of Indians. I come from a middle class, privileged caste background, had a holistic education, have had exposure to diverse cultures, and have an extremely supportive family. Rather than just wax eloquent about my privilege, though, I would like to put it to practical use by working in the social sector. 

However, I lack the monetary wealth required to pursue my long term goals. This is why I need your help!

What are my long-term goals?
Throughout my life, that my academic and professional achievements have been due in large part to my fluency in English. Access to English means not only access to Western culture, but also the ability to communicate with a diverse international audience and access a vast amount of cultural capital. This is why the highest-paying, most globalised jobs in the world favour speakers of English. No matter how skilled an engineer, doctor, lawyer, artist or microbiologist is, the quality of their job experience depends, to a great extent, on their command of the language.

While pursuing my undergraduate studies, I observed that marginalised communities in India, such as Dalits and adivasis, are systemically denied access to English. This makes it incredibly difficult for them to enter prestigious academic and professional spaces. I intend to help them change this.

My objective, in the long term, is to study applied linguistics and scientifically develop a language-teaching method to fit the Indian context. This will ensure that English is a tool of not only the wealthy, privileged and powerful, but also the millions of poor, Dalit, Bahujan, and adivasi people who cannot afford expensive private education in English. By making language education more efficient and available, we can help the most marginalised sections of Indian society take back the spaces that are rightfully theirs. They will then empower themselves to establish a far more egalitarian society than we have today.

While at Oxford, I hope to understand:
  • how the politics of caste and language intersect
  • the role of language in socioeconomic development.
Upon the end of my Masters programme, I would like to push for institutional changes in India’s education system. On the one hand, I plan to teach English, focusing on students from marginalised communities. On the other hand, I intend to work for changes in national curricula and in our language policy. English teachers, I feel, need to be trained in linguistics, so that they can support 'weaker' students with more scientifically backed teaching techniques.

It is high time we broaden the conversation on language politics.

Wait, what exactly is linguistics?
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Essentially, it tries to answer questions such as:
1. What do all human languages have in common, and how is each language unique?
2. What is the role of language in social life?
3. How does language bring together and/or divide different social groups?

It incorporates methods from both the natural sciences (biology, physics, computer science) as well as from the social sciences (history, sociology). 

The sub-field of linguistics that I am interested in is applied linguistics. Applied linguistics study social problems - such as learning difficulties, or readings of the law -  and them using the tools of a language scientist. I would like to use applied linguistics to address unequal access to English in India. I'd also like to understand why we generally consider Indian English inferior to other varieties of the language!

Why do I want to study abroad?
Unfortunately, awareness on linguistics is limited in India. This is partly because the Indian education system has not really highlighted the importance of studying and using the discipline. The few linguistics programmes that we have in India focus on computational linguistics, or on the history of language, but almost none look at the application of linguistics in education, law, journalism, forensics etc. Moreover, they suffer considerably from funding shortages.

The UK, on the other hand, has some of the world's best research institutions, and most of these have well-funded linguistics programmes. By studying in this country, I will have access to the latest technology, diverse perspectives from around the world, and some faculty with specialised interests. I am also sure to find plenty of material in the British Museum that outlines first contact between the British Empire and speakers of indigenous languages. This will be very useful in helping me understand the relationship between language and power.

The MSc Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition programme at Oxford University is extremely structured, has highly qualified teachers and scholars, and incorporates research from psychology, sociology, neurology and political science among other areas. Later in my career, as I try to broaden the conversation on language politics, the university’s reputation will add weight to my arguments.

Breakdown of costs
Here is a screenshot of the costs of studying at Oxford in the year 2021-22:
After tons of effort and planning, my family has found that they can just about support me with INR 15,00,000 – that is, around 15000 GBP. This will barely be enough to cover my living costs in the UK. Unfortunately, I have not been able to secure any funding for my tuition fees (25900 GBP).

I need to send in a financial declaration by 30 June - if I hope to get campus accommodation.

I applied for several external scholarships, but sadly, none of my applications were successful. Due to a misunderstanding with the admissions team at Oxford, I was not even considered for the university's internal scholarships.  (Their records incorrectly marked that I had missed a deadline.) My professors were highly supportive and encouraging but could not make an exception for my case. This was honestly a crushing experience, and I almost gave up studying abroad.

Why not take a loan?
I have the option of taking a private loan from family and friends, but this idea comes with a caveat. As an applied linguist in India, there is no way I can save 25+ lakh rupees in 3 years, so I’d have to work abroad just to repay my loan. In other words, I’d have to postpone my plans to work in the social sector - and instead enter the corporate world, which would be more lucrative in terms of salaries. That is something I'd really like to avoid, though.

I feel very uncomfortable with the idea of studying language inequality, and then working primarily for profit in a First World country. I understand that making money is important in the current system, but I'd like to balance that with my sense of social responsibility! This is why I feel a strong need to work in the developing world - but I won't be able to do this if my priority is loan repayment. This is why I am asking you for your support.

I have seen poorer students get sidelined during intellectual English debates in university spaces. I have seen capable graduates be forced into the informal sector just because they cannot handle English interviews. I have seen thoughtful, compassionate thinkers be mocked and dismissed for their broken English. I have seen people get stereotyped just because they speak with accents or incorporate words from their native languages. On the flip side, I know that I have enjoyed so many privileges just because I speak fluent English. This power imbalance must change. 

Yes, what I have seen has deeply frustrated me - but it has also made me determined to act. To speak. To do what I can to change a problem that is far older, and deeper rooted, than any of us. To share my social capital. 

This degree is just one step in a much longer journey, but it is an important step for me. If you resonate with my ideas, please try and contribute to my campaign! Any amount will go a long way towards supporting me. Please share this on as many platforms as you can - this is the best way to get my message across to more people.

In case you have any questions regarding my study plans, values and finances, please feel free to write to me at! I check my mail at least thrice a day, and will do my best to get back to you.

Thank you for reading, and please do stay safe:)

A/c type: Savings
Bank: Indian Bank
Account Number: 6281803242
IFSC Code: IDIB000K127

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