This week I have been proud to announce that is establishing the ‘Kartar Singh Sarabha Student Award’ – an annual prize of £3000 for a deserving university student. This award is part of our social responsibility policy at whereby we invest both our time and money into the community that we as a company serve. Since 2009, Sikh students in the UK have benefitted from our support in a variety of ways and this award is a key addition to the way in which we hope to promote Sikh Studies in higher education.

Students whom have undertaken our Sikh Studies course this year are eligible to apply for the award as will be the case in 2011/2012. Tasked with writing a 10,000 word dissertation on any aspect of Sikhi, the award will be given to the writer of the most engaging submission. Students who registered on the course last autumn were made aware of the optional dissertation early on and so have been undertaking classes with the award in mind – although we did not make precise details public until this week.

The prize, currently set at £3000 is intended to go towards paying the university tuition fees of a student and will be awarded before the start of the next academic year. Recent cuts by the UK Government have meant that university students could face up to £9000 tuition fees per year and so the announcement of this award is rather timely! But it has been part of our plans for some time as students who heard our introduction to the course will attest.

We hope that the award will go some way to promoting the academic study of Sikhi amongst young people and encourage greater research of the Sikh way of life at the higher education level. It is vitally important that young people have access to studying Sikh history, culture and ideology in a methodical way that mirrors the format of their studies at university. The prosperity and advancement of us as a people is instigated by the standard we demand of ourselves academically, which should come as no surprise to any Sikh because that is at the heart of what we are – students! Family, Gurdware, Gurmat camps and community classes all play a vital role in teaching young people about Sikhi, but in the field where it matters the most – academia – we as a community have failed thus far to engage and offer an objective Sikh syllabus that provides real substance. This is not a recent oversight. What we as a Sikh Diaspora largely failed to grasp in the late 20th century was the importance of reputable study and research into the Sikh way of life that has led our quam for centuries. I would argue that we have misplaced the honour bestowed on Bhai Gurdas Ji whose vaaran are the key to understanding the Guru Granth Sahib; the contributions to discourse that were given by Baba Deep Singh, Kavi Santokh Singh and Professor Sahib Singh; and the practical shape given to the teacher’s path by Sant Teja Singh and Sardar Kapur Singh… all scholars of the Sikh way of life, graduates from the universities of their day. Our Sikh Studies course is one small step on the path toward rectifying this situation and I hope the announcement of the Kartar Singh Sarabha Student Award will amplify that further.

We have named this prestigious award after Shaheed Kartar Singh Sarabha – the teenage hero respected by Punjabis and Sikhs everywhere for the vision he shared, the skills he had as a writer and speaker, and for his unflinching stand against oppression. The work we do at embodies that same spirit; in all of our shows and commentaries we try to inspire the audience – and particularly young people – to become better at contemplating issues, articulating their thoughts and showing courage. Executed at the tender age of 19 almost a hundred years ago, the one-time UC Berkeley student is long gone, but not forgotten and a worthy role model for students to emulate.

We look forward to announcing the inaugural recipient of this award in a few months time and encourage any students who wish to be considered for the award in the next academic year to enquire about the Sikh Studies course on behalf of their university Sikh society.