Commonwealth Scholarships FAQs

Commonwealth Scholarships Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the answers to questions most frequently received by the CSC. Please read through these questions before contacting us. If you cannot find the answer to your query below, you can email directly through the Contact Us form.

How do my referees/supervisors submit their references/supporting statements?

Applicants must ensure their references and supporting statements from their supervisor (for PhD only) are uploaded on the application portal before submitting their application to the CSC. Applications without the necessary amount of references/supervisor statements are considered incomplete and will be rejected by the CSC. The CSC cannot accept any documents via email or post.

I do not currently have an offer letter from a UK university. Can I apply?

If you are applying for the following programmes a university admission/offer letter is not required at the application stage of the scholarship application process and is not an eligibility requirement for the CSC.

Commonwealth Master’s Scholarship
Commonwealth PhD Scholarship
Commonwealth Shared Master’s Scholarship
Commonwealth Split-site PhD Scholarship
Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarship

 However, if you are applying through a nominating agency you should check the eligibility requirements of your nominating agency, they may include additional eligibility criteria which you must meet. You are strongly advised to seek admission to your proposed UK university at the time of, or as soon as possible after submitting your CSC application.

If you are applying for a PhD Scholarship (for high-income countries) you may be required to submit an offer letter at time of application. Please see the programme page for more information.

I have an offer letter for the current academic year. Can I apply?

Applicants can only apply for a Commonwealth Scholarship for the following academic year of study.

Universities may agree to defer your offer whilst you apply for a Commonwealth Scholarship to fund your studies. This is at the individual University’s discretion, applicants should contact the University directly for further information.

My agency deadline is before the CSC deadline.

For application to the Master’s and PhD Scholarship programmes, you may find that the deadlines and criteria advertised by your nominating agency are different to those advertised by the CSC. You must meet both the nominating agency criteria/deadline and the CSC criteria/deadline to be eligible to apply for these awards.

My home university will not issue transcripts to me.

You cannot apply for the scholarship if you cannot obtain and submit transcripts yourself via the application system within the deadline. We do not correspond directly with your university or accept any documents via email or post.

What do I need to include with my university transcripts?

You must include full transcripts for all university-level qualifications you hold. If you have a Master’s degree, we will need transcripts for both your Master’s degree and undergraduate degree.

Transcripts must include pages covering marks from all years of study, not just the final year.

Do I require an IELTS certificate?

It is not necessary to have IELTS or any other English language certificate to apply for a CSC scholarship. However, UK universities require candidates from some countries to demonstrate their proficiency in English language by taking the IELTS or another English language certificate. It is your responsibility to check the requirements directly with the university.

I have not finished my undergraduate degree yet. Can I apply? (before the deadline for a scholarship starting in the following September/October).

If you are currently studying for your first undergraduate degree, you can still apply. Please enter details of your current study including the projected completion date.

You must upload your degree transcripts to-date.

Your first undergraduate degree must be completed by the September of the year you wish to begin your studies. Please check the eligibility requirements in the ‘Candidate Eligibility’ tab for the programme you are applying for.

My country is not in the list of eligible countries.

Individual CSC scholarships are not open to every country. If your country is not listed on the eligible countries tab of the programme page, then you cannot apply for that programme.

You may be eligible for a different CSC programme, other scholarships offered by individual UK universities or other Scholarship programmes, for example the Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships.

Are the Commonwealth PhD Scholarships available in my country?

Currently the CSC offers scholarships for full-time doctoral study at a UK university through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office funded Commonwealth PhD Scholarships, and Department for Education funded PhD Scholarships (for high-income countries). You can search for the awards your country is eligible for on the Apply page.

If you are not eligible for either of these programmes, you may wish to consider applying directly to the CSC for a Commonwealth Split-site Scholarship (for low and middle income countries), applications typically open in October.

How are Commonwealth Scholars selected?

For Commonwealth PhD, Master’s and Split-site awards, candidates must complete an application on the CSC’s application system, as well as applying to the participating UK University (for split-site) or nominating agency (for Master’s and PhD).

The CSC reviews applications for eligibility and only applicants who have included all required supporting documentation can be considered. Applications are graded based on selection criteria and selections are made based on the outcome of grading.

For Shared and Distance Learning scholarships, participating universities will conduct their own recruitment process and select candidates for an award. The CSC considers those put forward and confirms with the university, who then inform candidates of the outcome of their application. For more information see the Shared scholarship award page.

The CSC is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion and works with our partners to ensure our programmes promote equity and inclusion, reward merit, and deliver widespread access, especially to those from disadvantaged backgrounds. In doing so we consider personal circumstances in all applications to ensure that, all other things being equal, candidates from disadvantaged or marginalised backgrounds are chosen.

What are the CSC’s selection criteria?

Commonwealth Scholarships are graded for academic merit and development impact. Master’s applications are also graded for quality of study plans, and PhDs for quality of the research proposal. For more information see the CSC’s selection criteria.

The CSC’s programmes are intended to support and encourage cutting-edge research, innovation, and knowledge exchange throughout the Commonwealth. To do so we aim to fund applications with potential to produce high-quality research for development and prioritise applications that demonstrate the potential to develop existing or new partnerships and international collaboration between the UK and other Commonwealth countries.

What does a Commonwealth Scholarship cover?

All Commonwealth Scholarships cover approved tuition fees. For study based in the UK, the CSC will cover the cost of airfare to/from your home country to the UK, visa costs and a living allowance.

Additional financial assistance varies between awards and personal situations. For more information see the individual award on our CSC programmes page.

Where can I find guidance for references?

Advice for references is provided on each programme page, and is repeated below for information. 

Candidates are required to collect references, on institution letterhead or an email clearly showing the sender’s details, from referees and then upload them to the application system in PDF format with their other supporting documentation.

The references must be uploaded to the application system by the deadline for applications and the CSC are unable to accept references any other way or after this date.

When completing the references, referees should be asked to comment as fully as possible on the applicant, keeping in mind the following points for inclusion, as appropriate:

  • How long, and in what capacity, the referee has known the candidate.
  • The referee’s views on the applicant’s suitability for the proposed Scholarship and the need for the particular subject of study in the UK.
  • Information on how, and to what extent, the applicant has shown ability in terms of:
    • capability to grasp concepts and reason analytically.
    • capacity for original thought.
    • motivation and perseverance in achieving objectives.
  • Assessment of the applicant’s particular strengths and weaknesses.
  • The applicant’s potential to impact development in their home country.

Any other general qualities which the referee considers would make the applicant a good recipient of a Scholarship.

Can I stay in the UK once my scholarship has ended? Can I apply for the Graduate route visa and stay in the UK at the end of my course?

Commonwealth Scholarships aim to equip awardees with the knowledge and skills to contribute to the development of their home country. Commonwealth Scholarships are awarded for the completion of one course of study only. When accepting a scholarship, all scholars commit to return to their home country after the end of their scholarship.

Scholars must leave the UK within one month of the end of their scholarship tenure or one month after the end of their programme, whichever is earlier. Fellows must leave the UK within one week of the end of their programme. Failure to do so, may mean airfare and excess baggage entitlements are withdrawn. Scholars and Fellows cannot remain in the UK to attend graduation ceremonies that take place after this point and the CSC does not support Scholars or Fellows remaining in the UK under the Graduate Immigration Route.

The only exception to this rule is if you are a Master’s Scholar and have received an offer to undertake a PhD at a UK institution with full funding to cover tuition fees and maintenance, please see the CSC Policy on Requests to Enter or Remain in the UK for Further Study. The CSC will not be able to provide a letter of support for visa applications in other circumstances.

Can I bring family with me to the UK. Will the changes to the immigration rules affecting dependants have an impact on me?

Scholars may bring dependants with them to the UK, subject to the immigration rules. However, please note that living costs in the UK are very high and scholars will need to ensure that they have the financial means to support any dependents. 

The changes regarding Student Dependant Visas announced in July 2023 will not affect international students who are in receipt of a Government Scholarship, as long they will be studying full time on a programme which is longer than 6 months.

Is additional support available for my family members?

Scholars may be eligible to receive an allowance for additional support based on their family circumstances.

Family allowances are intended to be a contribution towards the cost of maintaining a family in the UK.  Living costs in the UK are particularly high, especially for accommodation and childcare costs. Some universities have family housing provision, but places may be limited, so it is best to enquire as early as possible if you are interested in this. 

If you do wish to bring family members with you then please make sure that they will meet the visa requirements and ensure that you have the financial means to support them in the UK. The family allowance can be used to meet some of the financial requirements of Student Dependant Visas.

I have a disability, is additional support available?

The CSC is committed to supporting talented individuals who have the potential to make change and encourages applications from a diverse range of candidates. We have a policy of equal opportunity and non‐discrimination and we are committed to supporting disabled scholars to excel. We respect your privacy and any information provided by you or on your behalf will be treated in the strictest confidence.

For more information on the support available for Disabled applicants and Scholars please see the Disability Support Statement.

What is classed as a disability by the CSC?

In the UK, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.

Under the Equality Act (2010), the following conditions and study needs are recognised as disabilities:

  • A specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or ADHD
  • A learning disability (such as Down’s syndrome)
  • A social/communication impairment such as an autism spectrum condition, including Asperger’s syndrome
  • A long-standing illness or health condition such as cancer, HIV, diabetes, chronic heart disease, or epilepsy
  • A mental health condition, such as depression, schizophrenia or anxiety disorder
  • Physical impairment or mobility issues, such as using a wheelchair or crutches or difficulty using arms
  • Being deaf or hard of hearing
  • Being blind or having a serious visual impairment uncorrected by glasses

I am a refugee, am I eligible for a Commonwealth Scholarship?

Yes, refugees are eligible to apply for a Commonwealth Scholarship if they have been granted refugee status by an eligible Commonwealth country and are permanent resident in an eligible Commonwealth country. 

The CSC also works with the Windle Trust to offer an additional nomination route specifically for refugees in Kenya and Uganda. To find out more visit our NGO and Charitable Body Nominators page.

When will I receive feedback/results?

Applicants will be notified about the outcome of their applications via email at different times depending on the scholarship they applied for, as well as other factors. We thank you for your patience as we take care to consider each application ahead of making our final decisions.

The application deadline has passed, when can I apply again?

If a scholarship or fellowship is not currently open for applications on our website, please wait until the website is updated, as all relevant information will be made available then.   

Please see the individual programme pages for general information on the intended opening date for individual awards.

Is work experience mandatory to apply for a Commonwealth Scholarship?

Employment experience is not a requirement to apply for Commonwealth scholarships.

I already completed a Commonwealth Master’s award, can I apply for a PhD Scholarship?

Applying for a second Commonwealth award is subject to nominating agency policy, please check with your nominating agency.

Are there any restrictions on what I can study?

All Commonwealth Scholarships are offered under six development themes. There is no restriction of subject of study, providing these relate to the development themes and applicants are asked to attribute their study and possible impact to one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The CSC does not fund MBAs or any research Master’s programmes.

There are also restrictions on funding from the UK Government on support for the fossil fuel energy sector overseas, for more information please see the UK Government policy.

How do I include details of the universities I am proposing to study at?

Applicants to the Master’s and PhD scholarships can select up to 3 institutions in their application. The order in which these are added to your application should be your order of preference with the first institution listed being your first preference. This order cannot be changed and the Commission makes selections based on the institutions indicated.