Higher education and international scholarships are boosting good governance and democratic principles in countries across the Commonwealth, according to a new report from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK published today. The report, launched at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Australia, shows that Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows are involved in activity leading to democratic governance, equality, and stability at grassroots, national, and international levels. The study, based on survey returns from over 2,000 former Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows, found that 47% reported an impact in at least one of four key areas relating to democracy: governance, international relations, social inequalities and human rights, and conflict resolution and humanitarian assistance. Alumni have influence across more than one area, and are not limited by their field of study or employment – 61% of respondents reporting an impact on democratic principles work in education, and over 50% studied diverse subjects such as science, technology and engineering, health, and agriculture. According to the author of the report, Sarah Hinz, Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships add value to democratic development activity throughout the Commonwealth. ‘Alumni have been able to gain skills and knowledge which they have taken back to their home countries and used to support activity in different areas relating to democracy, including constructive international relations, protection of human rights, and assistance in humanitarian crises.’ Professor Tim Unwin, Chair of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, said that the report ‘demonstrates the value of Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships, not only to individuals, but also to their wider communities and societies. Democracy lies at the heart of the Commonwealth, and it is encouraging to note that Commonwealth Scholarships – one of its most enduring programmes – is contributing to its key values’. ENDS Notes to editors

  1. The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the United Kingdom (CSC) is responsible for managing Britain’s contribution to the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP), established in 1959, and supports around 700 awards annually.
  2. UK Commonwealth Scholarships are funded by the Department for International Development (for developing Commonwealth countries), and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Scottish Government (for developed Commonwealth countries), in conjunction with UK universities.
  3. The report Assessing impact in building and sustaining Commonwealth principles on democracy is available online. Hard copies are available on request, and the CSC is also able to provide specific case study material.
  4. The evaluation survey was conducted in July 2008. 2,226 alumni responded; this sample was broadly representative of the whole alumni group. Respondents were asked to provide factual data (such as career history, public offices held, awards and honours received) plus their views on how their scholarship or fellowship had benefited them and their society. Specifically, respondents were asked about their involvement in 12 key development and leadership priority areas, and asked to give details of specific roles, projects, and activities. Selected alumni were interviewed for the report in 2010-2011.
  5. The Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP) is an international programme under which member governments offer scholarships and fellowships to citizens of other Commonwealth countries. The Plan was established at the first Commonwealth education conference in 1959 and is reviewed by education ministers at their triennial meetings.
  6. For further information, please contact Natasha Lokhun, +44 (0)20 7380 6760