The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission’s (CSC) Evaluation team held back-to-back focus group discussions with Alumni Fellows on award and a group of supervisors on 12 November 2013. The Evaluation team viewed this as a valuable opportunity to not only attain in-depth information regarding the Fellowship scheme itself, but also as a way of verifying specific outcomes of Fellows’ first PhD award and the perceived added value of studying in the UK.

Specific objectives of both focus groups were:

  • To collect qualitative evidence regarding impact of both the Commission’s PhD and Fellowship awards;
  • To determine whether the current three month structure of the Fellowship was reasonable;
  • To foster working relationships between the Evaluation team, the Fellows and supervisors, with the added aim of identifying potential case studies for future work.
  • To feed into information the Commission’s strategy and advising on how this Scheme might be carried forward.

The focus group with the Fellows was broken up into five areas: the first investigated their initial PhD Commonwealth Award; the second their Academic Fellowship; followed by their experiences during the Fellowship and their aspirations post Fellowship; lastly their views regarding CSC Evaluation. Many interesting themes arose, particularly supporting the notion that the experience of spending time in the UK does add value to both PhD studies and to professional development, and that tangible outcomes from the awards are produced.

The focus group with the supervisors was structured similarly to that of the Fellows and yielded comparable results to the Fellows’ session, but also provided an interesting perspective into supervisors’ experiences. Interestingly, supervisors remarked on the benefit to the UK that Academic Fellowships, and indeed scholarships, impart. It was noted that Fellowships serve to enhance cultural diversity in the workplace and promote international collaboration, which are invaluable assets to the UK.

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