- Online netizens spotted a detail on Taylor’s University’s website that makes social influencers eligible to receive a full scholarship.
- This has angered a large number of people, with many unhappy at the prospect of individuals receiving an easy entry into higher education through the merit of popularity.
- However after clarification from Taylor’s, it appears that they’re trying to find individuals with positive social impact, not just social “influencers”.
The past few days have seen online communities from in and around the Klang Valley (more specifically those from Subang Jaya and Bandar Sunway) come animated over a certain private tertiary institution’s decision to make scholarships available to social influencers.
For those still wondering, the institution in question is Taylor’s University, who are known to offer a wide selection of pre-university, undergraduate, and post-graduate offerings.
It all started when vigilant netizens spotted a criterion on Taylor’s University’s website that made “social influencers” eligible for a full scholarship under their Talent Scholarship programme. This placed social influencers in the same category as individuals who were applying for the scholarship as sports and creative talents.
While some were curious as to what defined a social influencer, photos emerged showing the official application form required social influencer applicants to provide links to their online profiles.
This clarified that the term “social influencer” in this case was referring to the “social media influencers” commonly seen on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, whom many view to be successful due to good looks, riches, or having interesting personalities.
As news of this made its way through various student groups, it was clear that many were miffed at the prospect of any individual receiving an easy pass into tertiary education through being popular and influential.
On the Taylor’s University Confessions page on Facebook, a discussion was started about the topic, with an Instagram Story repost used to spark conversation.
It began with the sentiment that Taylor’s was making it unfairly easy for influencers to get a discounted education while others who were not as influential were not as lucky.
The attached picture in the post was a repost of an Instagram Story from user @camillialim that said the whole situation was unfair for students who put in hours of studying and training, and for parents who had to sacrifice much to afford their children the chance at higher education.
The comments that followed were full of mixed views, with some echoing the sentiment that providing scholarships to influencers was unfair due to the fact that they were deriving a benefit by virtue of their popularity instead of ability or academic aptitude, while the hard work done by regular individuals were lessened in the process.
Then there were some who pointed out the scheme as a ploy by Taylor’s to get free publicity, claiming that an influx of social influencers into Taylor’s would ultimately result in a larger student intake.
However, there were some who took an opposing view, and pointed out that being a social influencer also involved hard work and creativity.
On Instagram, actress and YouTube personality Marianne Tan gave her two cents, posting a series of stories that pointed out the lower necessary qualifications needed to attain an “influencer” scholarship at Taylor’s in comparison to one achieved through academic merit.
She ultimately voiced her thoughts that while she didn’t have a problem with social influencers receiving scholarships, she was concerned about the potential side effects that could arise from such a scenario.
Even Jin Lim of JinnyboyTV had something to say about the issue.
These days to get a scholarship u don’t need to study hard anymore apparently, just be a social media influencer……sigh
— Jin Lim (@Jinnyboy) March 21, 2018
He ultimately also echoed the sentiment that such support should be kept a priority for those who put in the necessary effort and hard work.
Pls give aid to those who deserves it or works hard for it. And those who’d be a perfect role model, not a marketing gimmick pic.twitter.com/svO95hKA7S
— Jin Lim (@Jinnyboy) March 22, 2018
Level The Field
We reached out to Taylor’s University for clarification on the situation, and how exactly one could qualify for a scholarship under the “social influencer” banner.
In an email response, they mentioned that the term “social influencer” refered to an individual “who champions social objectives and who has the power to influence others to follow or join them in their course”, a far cry from the “social media influencer” label that has been plagued with notoriety over recent months due to incidences such as this.
They pointed us to an individual named Daniel Devan who was the only person who qualified for a scholarship under the social influencer category. They listed his success in helping start a social initiative called Where Holistic Experiences Empower (Project WHEE) in 2013.
“We would like to have more students who are passionate about helping others or improve life of a community like Daniel in our university.”
– Taylor’s University
Following through, they also firmly stated the need for applicants to have strong academic results in addition to their social efforts.
Lastly, as a possible acknowledgement of the dissatisfaction shown by the online community, they also mentioned that they would be altering the term “social influencer” to become “social advocate” instead.
While Taylor’s has come out to clarify that it was not “social media influencers” who were the target recipients of the scholarship, it’s not clear if their stance right now is the same as the one they had at the beginning, or if this is a quick about-face to avoid even more outrage from the public.
The earlier backlash at Taylor’s stemmed from a concern that hard-work and quantifiable talent had taken a backseat to celebrity and outward likeability.
Higher education can be extremely costly. However, as it ends out, this story has a happy ending, and hopefully this publicity means that more worthy individuals—who have actually been working towards social impact even when in their youth—will have a chance at a scholarship to cover their education fees.
Feature Image Credit: Taylor’s University