Cornelia Sorabji, the first female law student at Oxford in 1889 continues to provide a pioneering link between India and the University of Oxford. Cornelia Sorabji was not only Somerville College’s first Indian student, but was also the first Indian woman to study at any British University.

On her return to her home country, Cornelia Sorabji became the first woman to practice law in India and worked on behalf of women living in purdah. Her lifetime’s work as a social reformer centred on support for the poor and for women at every level of society.

From its inception in 1879, Somerville College, founded as one of the first two institutions at the University of Oxford to admit women, had been dedicated to inclusion, explicitly welcoming students from all social backgrounds, any kind of cultural and religious beliefs, and all nationalities. Cornelia Sorabji actually came to Oxford with the help of a subscription raised by progressive British men and women including Madeleine Shaw Lefevre, the first Principal of Somerville.

The Faculty of Law and Somerville College are thus proud to celebrate Cornelia Sorabji and her achievements through the creation of scholarships for outstanding Indian graduate students in Law. The Cornelia Sorabji Law Programme is housed at the Oxford India Centre, and provides a thriving postgraduate and postdoctoral programme for talented Indian graduate students who seek to lead change on their return to India.

15 November 2016 marks the 150th anniversary of Cornelia Sorabji's birth.