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Frequently Asked Questions

We encourage all applicants and selected fellows to thoroughly read through these frequently asked questions.

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About the Application

About the Fellowship

Living in Cambridge

Other Fellowship Information


About the Application

What are the differences between the Mittal Institute’s fellowships?

Babar Ali Fellowship: The Babar Ali Fellowship is a semester-long appointment that supports scholars who focus on areas of humanities and social sciences related to Pakistan.

Arvind Raghunathan and Sribala Subramanian South Asia Visiting Fellowship (formerly known as South Asian Studies Fellowship): The Raghunathan and Sribala South Asia Visiting Fellowship  is a yearlong appointment that supports recent postdoctoral scholars in the humanities and social sciences related to South Asia.

May I apply to multiple fellowships?

If your research fits with the criteria listed above for more than one fellowship, you may apply to multiple fellowships in a given year.

Which countries/regions are included in the Mittal Institute’s definition of South Asia?

The Mittal Institute considers candidates whose studies focus on India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives, Myanmar, Afghanistan, and/or the Tibetan Plateau for institution funding.

I have not undertaken my doctoral studies, but have completed a professional degree (e.g., MA, MBA, MFA, MPH, MPP, etc.). Am I eligible to apply for a Mittal Institute fellowship?

  • The Babar Ali Fellowship accepts exceptional candidates who do not hold an advanced degree.
  • The South Asia Visiting Fellowships are limited to those who have obtained their PhD.

I received my PhD more than 5 years ago. Which fellowships may I apply to?

The South Asia Visiting Fellowship is meant for recent post-doctoral scholars. You may be eligible for the Babar Ali fellowship if you work is related to Pakistan. You may calculate this by subtracting 5 years from the fellowship appointment start date (i.e. Scholars applying for a fellowship that begins July 1, 2016, must have obtained their PhD after July 1, 2011; scholars applying for a fellowship that begins January 1, 2017, must have obtained their PhD after January 1, 2012).

By when do I need to receive my PhD to be consider for the South Asia Visiting Fellowship?

You must receive your degree by June 30, preceding the fellowship start. (i.e. if the fellowship your applying for begins July 1, 2016, you must have received your degree by June 30, 2016).

What are some examples of fields of study in the humanities and social sciences that would be a good fit for the South Asia Fellowship?

Applicants from any area of the humanities or social sciences are encouraged to apply, provided that their studies are focused on South Asia. Examples of fields of study in the humanities and social sciences include philosophy, religion, language, literature, history, cultural studies, the visual arts, economics, linguistics, anthropology, political science, sociology, and human geography, among others.

I’d like to apply for the Babar Ali Fellowship and I hold a degree that is not from Pakistan. Will I still be considered?

While priority is given to applicants who have been educated in Pakistan primarily, we will consider applicants who have degrees from US institutions as well.

I would like to apply for the South Asia Visiting Fellowship and my PhD is from an institution in the US/UK. Will I still be considered?

While we welcome your application, please note that scholars who have primarily been educated at institutions in South Asia will be prioritized.

I’ve held a fellowship at Harvard, have been a visiting researcher, am a graduate of Harvard, or have been at Harvard in any other capacity for a significant amount of time in the past. Will I be considered for the fellowship?

While we welcome your application, please note that scholars who have not had past opportunities to access Harvard’s resources will be prioritized.

What should the plan of research and writing for the applications include?

A strong research proposal is a key component of the application. The proposal should, in a few pages, explain your research plans, including your research approach and methodology. A clear research proposal allows a reviewer to understand what you wish to do, how you will do it, and why it is intellectually valuable. 

Research Proposals should elaborate on how the applicant’s work is different from the ongoing work at any of the Harvard Institutions or elsewhere.

Keep in mind that applications will be read by a multidisciplinary review committee who may not necessarily be in your discipline. Care should be taken to define technical words and clearly outline proposed methodology.

For helpful general advice on writing a research proposal, please visit:

What should the writing sample be?

Typically applicants submit a chapter of their dissertation or thesis. You may submit any academic paper, news article, or policy brief or memo that you feel is a good measurement of your ability to write professionally, clearly, and succinctly.

Will emailed or mailed applications be accepted?

As of July 2014, the Mittal Institute’s application has gone paper free. Please submit all your application materials via the online application.

To whom should the letters of reference be addressed to?
They can be addressed to ‘Members of the Selection Committee.’

Can my recommenders send their letters directly to the Mittal Institute?

Please arrange for your letters to be mailed or emailed directly to the Mittal Institute and to arrive by the deadline date. Letters should be sent to or mailed to Harvard University, Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, Attention: Mittal Institute Fellowship, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge MA 02138.

Who should my recommendation letters come from?

At least one of the letters should come from an academic source who is familiar with your scholarly work. Professional references are also acceptable.

What should the letters include?

The letters should highlight your past academic research accomplishments to show that you are a good fit for the fellowship, and should speak to how the fellowship will help you pursue your future professional work.

Should I contact Harvard faculty directly to discuss my research plan and/or teaching interests?

No. The grant review committee will review your application in consideration of the needs of Harvard’s academic departments, and will match your research interests and plan accordingly at the time of review.

How should I identify a Harvard faculty member that I would like to engage with should I be awarded the fellowship?

As part of your research plan, you should identify any particular individuals you hope to seek out during your residence. You might utilize to identify faculty working in your area. The expectation of faculty who are asked to mentor individual fellows is that the faculty member will meet with the fellow a few times during the fellow’s time on campus, and serve as a faculty chair for a Mittal Institute seminar presented by the fellow.

When will I receive notification if my application was accepted?

We strive to notify applicants of decisions within 2 – 3 months of the application deadline.

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About the Fellowship

What is expected of a Mittal Institute fellow? 

The Mittal Institute’s fellowships are an opportunity for scholars to utilize Harvard’s resources to contribute to self-driven independent research.  Fellows will have the opportunity to engage with faculty from across Harvard’s schools by attending office hours, setting up appointments, attending seminars and workshops, and auditing courses. Fellows are asked to participate in the intellectual life of the Mittal Institute by attending the Mittal Institute’s on campus seminars and events, delivering a seminar as part of The Mittal Institute’s seminar series, and serving as a discussant at the Mittal Institute event if the opportunity arises. Fellows are also encouraged to engage with other departments and centers throughout Harvard, as well as local peer institutions such as Tufts, Boston University, and MIT.

What is the time frame for each fellowship? Am I expected to be on campus the entire time?

The Babar Ali Fellowship is for the duration of one semester and the South Asia Visiting Fellowship is for the duration of one academic year.

You do not need to be on campus for the entire duration of the appointment, but are expected to be on campus when classes are in session (late August – early December for fall term and late January – early May for spring term). Upon accepting the fellowship, fellows and The Mittal Institute can determine arrival and departure dates. It is imperative that you let The Mittal Institute staff know of your arrival date in advance so that we might advise you and prepare for your arrival.  Please see the Harvard academic calendar here. Please also see the question below about arriving on campus before the fellowship starts.

Will I have access to Harvard’s libraries if I receive a fellowship?

Yes, you will have both access and borrowing privileges to all of Harvard’s libraries.

Are any additional funds available for research-related travel, participation in academic conferences, etc.?

No. Unfortunately, The Mittal Institute cannot offer any additional funds for travel or conferences. With reasonable exceptions for brief trips, our fellows are expected to remain in residence during the term of their appointment while classes are in session. 

Are there opportunities for fellows to take classes at Harvard? Is tuition for such classes included in the fellowship?

Fellows are not formally enrolled as students and thus cannot register for classes through the Registrar’s Office. However, fellows may (and frequently do) audit classes with permission from the instructor. You may explore the course catalog here. Fellows are responsible for contacting faculty to request permission to audit a course.

Will I have office space at the Mittal Institute?

You will be given a shared office, with access to a printer.

What are some expected outcomes of the fellowship?

Each fellow is expected to write a 4 to 5 page paper covering what they accomplished during the fellowship, to be published on the Mittal Institute’s website. Each fellow is expected to give a seminar, with a faculty member serving as a chair, as well as serve as a discussant at the Mittal Institute seminar related to their field, should the opportunity arise.

Will I have a Harvard ID and Harvard email address?

Yes, with your appointment as a Mittal Institute fellow, you will have a Harvard ID which gives you access to Harvard’s libraries, Mittal Institute offices after hours, and online sites. You will also have a email address. Information about obtaining Harvard ID and email address is in the Fellows Guide.

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Living in Cambridge

How will I obtain a visa if I receive the fellowship?

You will be sponsored by the Harvard International Office. Before Harvard University can issue a visa sponsorship document, the minimum in financial resources that an individual must have available is $30,000 per year ($2,500 per month). An additional $5,000 per year ($417 per month) must be declared for each accompanying family member.

How are fellows paid, and how is this income taxed?

Fellows receive a stipend payment on the final Friday of each month for the duration of their residency. Payments can be received either by paper check or direct deposit (see instructions on setting up direct deposit – Harvard Key required). The fellowship stipend is considered taxable income; taxes are automatically withheld by Harvard University for postdoctoral fellows and foreign nationals. Fellows who are U.S. citizens will not automatically have taxes withheld. It is the fellow’s responsibility to set aside funds to pay taxes on the fellowship income earned during each calendar year. Whether or not you are taxed on your stipend will be dependent on your country of citizenship. Please see more about  tax treaties here:

Should I apply for Social Security? Do I have to pay taxes?

Please direct tax-related questions to the Harvard International Office:

Will the Mittal Institute pay for my airfare?

If the scholar is coming from South Asia, a round-trip, economy airfare for the scholar is included as part of the fellowship. This must be used at the beginning and end of the fellowship to bring and return a fellow from their place of residence. Eligible fellows will be reimbursed by the Mittal Institute.

Should I obtain health insurance?

Scholars in J status are required by the U.S. Department of State to have health insurance that meets certain standards. The Mittal Institute will cover health insurance for fellows, but not for dependents (children, spouses). It is also a Massachusetts law that all residents have health insurance. You may find more information about the Harvard University Student Health Plan for post-doctoral affiliates/fellows here:

Where will I live during my residency in Cambridge?

It is the fellow’s responsibility to find housing in the area. The Mittal Institute will provide you with a list of resources to find housing in the Fellow’s Guide. South Asia Studies fellows are eligible to live in Harvard University Housing. You will be able to use your appointment letter to apply for and browse Harvard Housing listings. Depending on the circumstance, spring term fellows may be able to live in Harvard Housing. It is important that you familiarize yourself with the intricacies of living in Harvard Housing by communicating with the Harvard Housing Office, reviewing the application process, and reading the Frequently Asked Questions.

Please familiarize yourself with the average rents in Cambridge, MA – a studio apartment might be around $1,700, a 1 bedroom around $1,800-$2,000. You should also be prepared to pay first and last months’ rent, as well as a security deposit and/or an agent fee upon signing the lease. Please be careful when utilizing online sites such as to arrange housing from abroad. You should never, under any circumstances, wire money at the request of any prospective landlord via Western Union, Money Gram or any other wire service. Please see information from the Cambridge Police Department on avoiding rental scams.

May I bring my family with me to Cambridge?

You may – but please note that it is Massachusetts law that everyone has health insurance. The Mittal Institute’s fellowship only covers health insurance for the scholar, and won’t be able to provide insurance for dependents. You may pay for this expense out of your pocket or stipend. Please note the question about visa sponsorship and minimum financial resources needed. Please see information from the Harvard International Office regarding family visas.

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Other Fellowship Information

Can I arrive in Cambridge before my fellowship starts?

It depends – If you are coming to the US on a visa your appointment letter will be used to determine your visa start date. Also, your access to Harvard email, library, and systems won’t be available until after your appointment date. Please also be aware that while the fall term appointment starts July 1, the University is very quiet in the summer until a few weeks before classes start at the end of August. We encourage fall term fellows and yearlong fellows to arrive in mid-August just before classes begin. Similarly, the spring term appointment begins January 1, the entire University is on holiday from December 24 – January 1, and winter session/January term (approximately January 2 – January 20) is very quiet with most faculty and students away from campus. Please see the Harvard academic calendar here. We encourage spring fellows to arrive in mid-January just before classes begin.

As a fellow, can I have access to the Mittal Institute letterhead?

Yes. Requests for use of Mittal Institute letterhead will be reviewed by the Mittal Institute Administration. You should make this request in writing to the Mittal Institute at

As a fellow, can I have Mittal Institute business cards?

No, per Mittal Institute and University policy, we aren’t able to supply business cards.

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