Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships – university bidding


Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships are for applicants from low and middle income Commonwealth countries and provide part-time distance learning Master’s study on selected courses offered by UK universities.

Funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships are for high-quality postgraduate students who wish to access training not available in their home countries, who wish or need to remain in their home country while they study, and who have the potential to enhance the development of their home countries with the knowledge and leadership skills they acquire.

The bidding process is for UK universities wishing to host Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholars to submit courses to the CSC for approval. Scholarship applications will open in February 2024 once these courses are confirmed.

How to bid

Bidding for 2024/25 awards is now closed. Please note that late bids cannot be accepted without prior agreement.

We expect to notify successful universities of their allocated awards in January 2024 and for candidate applications to open in early February, closing mid-March.

If you have any questions about Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships or the bidding process, please contact the CSC Secretariat at

For more information about the CSC, visit the CSC website.

Bidding requirements

UK universities are invited to apply for either 5, 10 or 15 Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships to be offered in the 2024/2025 academic year.

The CSC is not always able to offer the maximum number of scholarships for which a university bids and reserves the right to limit the number of Scholarships for programmes that are new to the scheme. It is normal practice for the CSC to offer a maximum of five awards to universities that are new to the scheme or have not taken part in the last three years.

These scholarships support distance learning Master’s degree courses offered in partnership with local providers in eligible countries, as well as courses delivered directly by UK universities. Universities may submit an application for a single course, or for a cluster programme containing multiple courses, as long as these courses are within the same department or share similar objectives.

Subjects of study must be developmental in nature and must be aligned with one of the six CSC Development Themes. As part of the application process, universities will be asked to provide a statement explaining the direct relevance of their course to the chosen theme, including a brief outline of how the course will benefit individuals and their home countries. The developmental value of the course will be assessed and allocations of awards will be made based on the strength of the statements provided. Generic course descriptions will not be considered.

When first accessing the bidding form you will be asked for a key code. If you have received an email from the CSC inviting you to apply for these scholarships, a key code will be contained within this correspondence. If you require a key code, please email from your institutional email account.

Applications will be considered according to the following selection criteria:

  • Quality of the course, the quality assurance record, and the track record for delivery of the course through distance learning. Applications are strengthened by copies of any independent/external reports of the programme undertaken in recent years.
  • Learning opportunities provided for students in developing countries, including whether the course considers appropriate use of technology, whether course providers can identify a target audience of potential applicants and recruit them successfully, and the factors likely to affect candidates’ successful completion of their studies.
  • Development impact of the course of study, including how the course content can be applied to the specified theme, FCDO priority areas, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the subsequent career patterns of course alumni.

If the university is working with a partner, the partner must be based in an eligible Commonwealth country.

Each bid must include a supporting statement from the university’s Vice-Chancellor or acting Vice-Chancellor. Any application which does not include a supporting statement or is incomplete will be deemed ineligible.

The CSC does not fund MBA programmes.

Type and duration of study

Awards are for full-time or part-time study of a taught course at postgraduate level delivered by distance learning. These scholarships do not support research degrees or undergraduate study.

Funding is available for up to five academic years from the start of an approved programme. Awards cannot be extended or renewed.

Recruitment and selection

Universities that are successful at the bidding stage will be notified which courses and how many scholarships have been approved by the CSC.

The CSC will issue a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to universities that will confirm the conditions of the scholarship as well as the responsibilities of the CSC and of the university; this is renewed on an annual basis. Placement cannot go ahead until the CSC receives the signed MOU. For universities which participated the previous year, the existing MoU can be used.

All candidates must apply via CSC’s online application form and universities must use the CSC’s application form to nominate candidates. Candidates are to apply for a place on the university course separately through the university’s own admissions application process.

The list of eligible courses for 2024/2025 Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships will be published on the CSC website in January 2024.

Applications for 2024/2025 Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships are scheduled to open in early February 2024 and close in mid-March. Exact opening and closing dates will be given nearer the time along with the full timetable for the subsequent nominations process.

It is the responsibility of universities to conduct their own recruitment of candidates as they see fit in an open and transparent manner and with reference to the CSC Anti-Fraud Policy and Procedure.

The CSC aims to identify talented individuals who have the potential to make change. We are committed to a policy of equal opportunity and non-discrimination and encourage applications from a diverse range of candidates. For further information on the support available to candidates with a disability, see the CSC Disability Support Statement. The CSC asks universities to continue carrying out the recruitment process in a way which ensures an equal gender balance.

Candidate eligibility

The university is responsible for ensuring its candidates meet the CSC’s eligibility criteria.

To apply for these scholarships, candidates must:

  • Be a citizen of or have been granted refugee status by an eligible Commonwealth country, or be a British Protected Person
  • Be permanently resident in an eligible Commonwealth country
  • By October 2024, hold a first degree of at least upper second class (2:1) – a lower qualification and sufficient relevant experience may be considered
  • Provide at least one reference

Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships may not be held concurrently for more than one course.

If selected for a scholarship, candidates must be and remain resident in an eligible Commonwealth country and must not undertake study towards any other qualification for the duration of their award.

These eligibility criteria are current as of September 2023 and are subject to minor changes.

Eligible Commonwealth countries

(Please see list of eligible countries below as stated in the DAC list published in January 2022)

The Gambia
Papua New Guinea
Saint Helena
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Sierra Leone
Solomon Islands
South Africa
Sri Lanka

The CSC is keen to ensure a good geographical spread of these awards and encourages recruitment from countries under-represented in UK higher education.

Financial commitment and branding

Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships are financed by the CSC for a maximum of five years and are expected to commence at the start of the academic year.

The CSC has a funding cap of £18,000 per Scholarship. Universities may contribute funding from an approved source if the full cost of the award is more than £18,000.

The Scholarship must cover all elements of the award, including:

  • Course tuition fees
  • Grant to contribute to study-related costs
  • Partnership development costs
  • Any UK residential programme(s)

Where a university intends to run a UK residential programme as part of the course, the university is expected to provide at least the following level of support:

  • Return travel from the Scholar’s home country to the UK location
  • Cost of UK visa
  • Maintenance stipend of £1,347 per month (£1,652 for Scholars in London), to be paid for the full duration of the UK residential. These amounts are set by the UK government for all students on government-funded scholarships and increase annually.

Any contribution towards costs over the CSC’s £18,000 cap must come from the university’s own funds or from an organisation whose missions and aims are in line with those of the CSC. The source of this additional funding must be clearly identified in the application.

Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholars must not be asked to contribute to any compulsory costs except in the instance of resits or retakes. Any application requiring a Distance Learning Scholar to fund or partially fund their studies will be deemed ineligible.

All promotional and award material must recognise that Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships are awarded by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK (CSC).

Disability support

The university is responsible for managing the welfare of Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholars while they are on award, including supporting disabled scholars and funding any reasonable adjustments that may be required for academic study.


If you are based at a UK university and have any questions about Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships or the bidding process, please contact the CSC Secretariat at

General enquiries about applying for Commonwealth Scholarships or Fellowships sent to this email address will not be answered; please use the contact us form instead.