Jay Choudhari in front of McEwan Hall

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A chain of students paying back to society

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Jay Choudhari founded Dhyeya in India’s rural Chandrapur. This non-profit organisation is tackling education inequality, helping children from marginalised sections of society aspire to and access education.

Through its annual Student Awards, Edinburgh University Students’ Association celebrates the passionate members of our community who go above and beyond.

Awards honour the outstanding achievements, hard work, dedication, and leadership shown by our student body. They celebrate the passionate individuals and groups who dedicate their time to a cause, stand up for others, foster supportive student communities, overcome personal challenges, and much more.

No achievement is too big or too small to be celebrated. It’s sometimes the smallest acts of inclusion, creativity, and determination that make the biggest difference to others. In this series of profiles, we find out more about some of the individual winners and explore the extraordinary impact for which they have been recognised.

Jay Choudhari, 24, received the Outstanding Community Impact in Volunteering award as the founder of Dhyeya Educational Foundation in India’s rural Chandrapur.

Dhyeya is a non-profit organisation that works to open up access to education for children from marginalised sections of Indian society. The foundation focuses on guiding, training, and preparing students from the most challenging socioeconomic backgrounds, helping them gain access to a school education and to get into higher education.

“These students don’t have advantages such as money or economic capital, social connections, or even academic capital,” Jay explains. “Most of the students we teach are first-generation learners in their families so they have no one who can guide or advise them about their education, making it difficult for them to get into higher education.”

Jay is a postgraduate studying MSc Data, Inequality & Society at the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI). While living in the UK, he maintains links with Dhyeya, which he founded in 2019. As well as liaising extensively with the team of 12 volunteers who keep Dhyeya running, Jay continues to contribute, working remotely for the Foundation for around 10 hours a week.

Virtuous circle

Dhyeya works to raise aspirations and widen participation among disadvantaged sections of Indian society. It provides academic advice and guidance, personal development assistance, and English language and skills teaching.

Portrait of Jay Choudhari, founder of Dhyeya, looking up from his mobile phone in Potterrow Dome
Jay Choudhari, founder of Dhyeya.

“We help our students learn new and demanding skills, such as C programming and Java, and other job-related skills such as communication and personal development,” Jay says.

“While we teach these subjects to various students, we design the courses in such a way that we are not only teaching them skills but also the history of our community. A few students have gone on to secure well-paying jobs in India’s growing IT sector, and more have successfully applied to get into their dream universities both in India and abroad.”

More than 600 students have already benefited in this way. Even more remarkable, no money changes hands. Dhyeya uses a virtuous circle model that invites successful alumni back to take up the mantle of helping the next generation.

“The most important thing about our foundation is that every student after being successful comes back and teaches and guides the next batch, making it a chain of students paying back to society and working for a better tomorrow where education has no boundaries and limits,” Jay explains.

“We pay nothing to any of the teaching volunteers, or mentors who come and teach, and we do not take any form of fees from the students. Instead, we ask them all to come back in turn and pay back to the shared community!”


This model originates with Jay himself, who describes his background as lower caste and from an ex-Untouchable (Ati-Shudra/Dalit) community. The term ex-Untouchable refers to communities that were previously classified at the lowest level of India’s caste hierarchy.

Jay says he was the first in his family to graduate with a degree but enjoyed the support of his parents who inspired and encouraged him: “I was privileged enough to have a supportive family who made all of this possible.”

Jay Choudhari in Potterrow Dome
Jay Choudhari

Jay graduated from his first degree in computer science and engineering, then worked for a multinational corporation in New Delhi for almost a year before realising that wasn’t how he wanted his life to be. As work on Dhyeya gathered pace, Jay read more about educational inequality in India and what could be done to resolve it.

“I started searching for universities abroad,” Jay recalls. “What the University of Edinburgh is offering at EFI is completely in line with my interests and passion and fortunately, I secured the funding by the Indian State Government that made it possible to be here.

Receiving his award, Jay reflected on his own education journey: “I feel privileged to stand here and receive this award at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. I feel privileged to be born in a marginalised community in India that celebrates education. As I am the first generation of learners in my family, I feel proud and grateful that the University has recognised my work in India, and I dedicate the award to my community, as I don’t think I would have received it without their support.

“I hope, with this award, to encourage more students from marginalised communities to pursue higher education.”

Jay’s passion and focus are clear. His dissertation will focus on higher educational inequality in India, and he is currently looking for PhD opportunities in the field as the next step in his own journey. His achievements with Dhyeya to date, have clearly only been a beginning.

A group of individual and student society winners on stage with their awards at the Student Awards 2024.
Edinburgh University Students’ Association Student Awards 2024 winners
gold and black stars

Image credits: All Sam Sills/WhiteDog Photography; except Student Awards winners group shot – Edinburgh University Students’ Association.