Junior Research Fellow is a letter awarded by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to the candidates who qualify in the National Eligibility Test securing marks equal/higher than the set cut off for JRF in the particular subject in which the candidate has given UGC NET Exam. JRF letter is a bearer document that signifies you can avail of the scholarship while pursuing M.Phil./Ph.D. However, the candidate must note that qualifying UGC NET JRF does not bestow a fellowship upon the candidate.
If a candidate gives UGC NET JRF Exam in a particular subject, then there are 2 cut-offs declared by UGC. One of them is for clearing NET and the other one which is a bit higher than NET is for JRF. The score of JRF is valid only for 3 years whereas the score of NET is valid for the lifetime.
If a candidate enrols for M.Phil./Ph.D. in any Indian University/College after clearing JRF then the candidate gets a monthly scholarship for 5 years from UGC which is Rs. 31,000. This is good financial support for candidates who wish to pursue research work without taking up any job.
Whenever a candidate goes for the recruitment process of Assistant Professor or Lecturer as well as when he/she applies for M.Phil./Ph.D. in any Indian University/College, the candidate who has cleared the JRF is always given preference over the candidate who has only cleared NET.
There are a lot of institutes/colleges in India that do not even take entrance tests of candidates with a JRF. This means if a candidate has applied for M.Phil./Ph.D. he/she will be exempted from taking the entrance test if the candidate has JRF. For example, if we talk about IIMs and IITs, if a candidate has applied there for M.Phil./Ph.D. and he/she has JRF, then he/she will not have to give the entrance test and can directly sit for the interview. An important point to note here is that this system varies from Institute to Institute