ISLAMABAD: The steering committee for Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship met today with the SAPM Dr. Sania Nishtar in chair to stocktake the progress and approve the budget for the academic year 2020-21. In this regard, the committee approved a budget of Rs. 6.53 Billion for 67,000 need and merit based undergraduate scholarships nationwide. Members of the committee discussed that 111,685 undergraduate students (42,430 applications of girls) have applied for scholarships through online application portal which publicly closed for applications on Nov 30, 2020. The meeting also reviewed the field execution of the programme with 125 public sector universities. Dr. Nishtar emphasized to expedite the process for scholarship distribution and disbursements for the academic year 2020-21. The scrutiny of new applications is currently under-way and it is anticipated that final selection process will be completed by April 2021. Dr. Nishtar also urged BISP and Higher Education Commission (HEC) to execute timely communications campaign and funds disbursal in this phase. The committee was informed that HEC will re-open the portal for fifteen days in the second week of March 2021 to facilitate students from medical universities in the public sector. Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Nishtar emphasized, “As part of the Ehsaas policy, 50% of scholarship awardees should be girls and 2% differently abled.” Continuing she said, “Ensuring transparency, this academic programme should benefit on priority; deserving girls, differently-abled students and those from lagging areas who applied for scholarship.” The Rs. 24 billion Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship is a ground-breaking programme of the government that grants 50,000 scholarships per year to undergraduate students (50% girls) from the low-income families and areas over the period of four years. The geographical outreach of the programme spans across all four provinces, AJK and GB. The programme awards Ehsaas scholarships to low-income students enrolled in four and five-year undergraduate degree programmes. The Ehsaas scholarship covers tuition fee and a living stipend. For the year 2019-20, scholarships worth Rs. 4.827 billion were awarded to 50,762 undergraduate students across the country. The Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarships programme is being overseen by the Ehsaas Scholarships Steering Committee, co-chaired by Special Assistant to the PM on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation and Chairperson BISP, and Chairman HEC. The meeting concluded with the decision that the committee will formally work out the whistleblowing and grievance redressal mechanism for the programme.