Commonwealth PhD Scholarships for high income countries
Commonwealth PhD Scholarships are for candidates from high-income Commonwealth countries, for full-time doctoral study at a UK university.
The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK (CSC) provides these scholarships jointly with UK universities to support world-class research. The CSC operates within the framework of the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP) and offers a vivid demonstration of the UK’s enduring commitment to the Commonwealth. By attracting individuals with outstanding talent and identifiable potential from all backgrounds and supporting them to become leaders and innovators on returning to their home countries, the CSC’s work combines sustainable development with the UK national interest and provides opportunities for international partnerships and collaboration.
These scholarships are intended to support scholars who could not afford to study in the UK without additional financial support. Applicants from traditionally marginalised or under-represented groups, and those who have overcome significant disadvantage or other barriers in their educational journey so far will be given priority when making selections.
Purpose: Funded by the UK Department for Education (DfE), Commonwealth PhD Scholarships for high-income countries support research that will have impact in a field relating to sustainable development. They also enhance individual teaching and research capacity leading to increased institutional capacity in academic and other sectors in Commonwealth countries and will contribute to UK higher education and research by attracting high-calibre international candidates and encouraging links and collaboration.
Intended beneficiaries: Commonwealth PhD scholarships are for high-quality graduates who have the potential to undertake world-class research of a developmental nature and to become influential leaders, teachers, or researchers in their home countries.
These scholarships are offered under the six CSC Development themes.
How to apply
Applications for Commonwealth PhD scholarships (for high income-countries) for the 2023/24 academic year are now closed.
Applicants can expect to be notified of the outcome of their applications by December 2023.
Applications must include supporting documentation to be eligible.
Note that applicants are required to collect references and supporting statements, on institution letterhead or an email clearly showing the sender’s details, from referees and proposed supervisors in the UK and then upload them in PDF format to the application system with their other supporting documentation.
The references and supporting statements must be uploaded to the application system by the deadline for applications and we are unable to accept references and supporting statements any other way or after this date.
Applicants must upload the following documents with the application:
- Proof that they are a citizen or have refugee status in an eligible Commonwealth country: a copy of a valid passport (or national ID card) showing a photograph, date of birth, and country of citizenship.
- Full transcripts detailing all higher education qualifications, including to-date transcripts for any courses currently being studied, with certified translations if not in English. Where any transcripts are missing or do not include all pages, the application will be considered ineligible.
- References from at least two individuals, in PDF format, signed and on institutional letterhead or an email clearly showing the sender’s details.
- A supporting statement, in PDF format, signed and on institutional letterhead or an email clearly showing the sender’s details, from a proposed supervisor in the UK from at least one of the institutions named on the application form.
- An unconditional offer, or an offer conditional only on finance, for the 2023 UK academic year for all institutions named on the application form.
Applications will be considered ineligible if any of the required documentation is not included by the closing date.
The CSC will not accept supporting documentation submitted outside the online application system.
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 applicant.
- 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.
Please note that the CSC does not charge candidates to apply for any of its scholarships or fellowships through its online application system.
When completing supporting statements, proposed supervisors should be asked to confirm that they are, in principle, prepared to have the applicant working with them and that they have the facilities to undertake the research. They should also be asked how the applicant’s Plan of Study fits with the expertise of their department and to indicate how much of the candidate’s Plan of Study, if any, they wrote. Any additional comments they make will be appreciated by the Commission.
Advice for applicants
Applicants can find general information about applying for a Commonwealth Scholarship on our advice for applicants page.
Choosing the university/course
Because of the timing that these Scholarships are being offered we would expect the majority of candidates to have already secured an offer of admission but candidates may find the following resources useful, bearing in mind that candidates will need to provide an offer from all institutions listed in their application form along with their application:
- Study UK – British Council website, with guidance for international students and a course and institution search.
- Steps to Postgraduate Study – a guide to asking the right questions about taught postgraduate study in the UK.
- Postgrad.com – information for postgraduate students, with a course search
- Prospects – information on postgraduate study in the UK.
- Research Excellent Framework 2021 results – results of a system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.
- UCAS Postgraduate – guidance on how to find and apply for a postgraduate course.
- Discover Uni – the official website for comparing UK higher education course data.
- UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs) – advice for international students on choosing a course of study.
The CSC is not responsible for the content of external sites.
To be considered for these scholarships, candidates must:
- Be a citizen of or have been granted refugee status by an eligible Commonwealth country.
- Show evidence that they are currently permanently resident in an eligible Commonwealth country. Candidates must have been living in an eligible Commonwealth country for a period of two years prior to the date they submit their application, which must be clear within the application.
- Not be registered for or have started a PhD, or an MPhil leading to a PhD at a UK University prior to the start of the Scholarship and be available to start the Scholarship and academic studies in the UK in January/February 2024 (exact date to be agreed by the CSC). The Scholarship will not be offered to anyone who has already started their PhD in the UK prior to January 2024.
- Hold a first degree of at least upper second-class (2:1) honours standard, or a lower second-class degree and a relevant postgraduate qualification (usually a Master’s degree) by the time they apply for the Scholarship, with evidence of the degree to be submitted within the application.
- Not have commenced or be currently registered for a PhD, or an MPhil leading to a PhD, in their home country or elsewhere.
- Hold an unconditional offer or a conditional offer conditional only on finance for the 2023 UK academic year from all of the UK universities listed on their application, to be submitted as part of the application.
- Provide references from at least 2 individuals, in PDF format, signed and on institution letterhead or an email clearly showing the sender’s details.
- Provide a supporting statement from a proposed supervisor from at least one of the UK universities listed in the application, in PDF format, signed and on institution letterhead or an email clearly showing the sender’s details.
Provisional selection for a scholarship is subject to the agreement of the university for which candidates are selected as part funding for the scholarship is provided by that university.
When applying for this scholarship candidates should ensure that they have contacted their chosen university/universities to confirm they are able to secure admission between January-February 2024; please be aware that some universities may not offer January-February admission for some courses.
For further information on the support available to candidates with a disability, see the CSC disability support statement.
The CSC is committed proactively to safeguard and promote the welfare of our beneficiaries, and to protect its staff, Commissioners, beneficiaries and all those with whom the CSC comes into contact. The CSC requires staff, members of the Commission, applicants for and recipients of CSC awards and suppliers to act consistently with its requirements for safeguarding. Applicants should note the CSC Safeguarding Policy which sets out the obligation for staff, members of the Commission, applicants for and recipients of CSC awards and suppliers to act consistently with its requirements for safeguarding. Any safeguarding concerns should be reported to the Commission at: email@example.com
Antigua and Barbuda
British Virgin Islands
St Kitts and Nevis
Trinidad and Tobago
Turks and Caicos Islands
Completing the application form
In the application form, applicants are asked to:
- List all undergraduate and postgraduate university qualifications obtained.
- List up to 10 publications and prizes.
- Provide details of employment history and explain how each job is relevant to the programme to be undertaken in the UK.
- Provide a statement on the relevance of previous work experience to the proposed Scholarship.
- List names and positions of three referees who are qualified to comment on both capacity to benefit from the proposed Scholarship in the UK and the candidate’s ability to deliver development impact afterwards. One of the referees must be a current employer (if applicable).
- Provide an Impact Potential statement.
Commonwealth Scholarships in the United Kingdom for high income countries receive funding from the UK Government and from the host university. An important selection criterion is the potential contribution that a candidate will make to world class research and scholarship as a result of the receipt of a Commonwealth Scholarship. In addition to attracting candidates of the highest academic quality, the UK Government is keen to support applicants whose research will (a) help sustain international recognition of the UK higher education system, (b) who seek to become leaders in their chosen profession and (c) whose work is for the benefit of wider society. Applicants must provide a statement explaining how their proposed research relates to these objectives.
Applicants are advised to describe in the statement how the proposed research will develop knowledge, networks, international links or strategic relationships in the field of study. The statement should say how the applicant will apply their new skills and qualifications on return to their country and clearly describe the relevance of their plan of study to their career development. The statement should describe the outcomes that they envisage will come from the research and argue their potential to expand the knowledge-based economy into successful public service outcomes, growth or social well-being. Applicants should also suggest how the impact of the potential benefits of their work might be assessed. To demonstrate their motivation and ability to assume a leadership role, applicants may draw upon past work or voluntary experience as well as other non-academic achievements.
This section will be given a specific grade in assessing the application. Applicants are advised to make use of, but not exceed, the limit of 500 words.
Applicants are also asked to:
- Confirm what their award objectives are and how each of them will be met by the Scholarship programme.
- Confirm what their career plans are for the 5 years following the Scholarship.
- Confirm their long-term career plans.
- Provide a detailed Plan of Study.
- Provide a personal statement to summarise the ways in which their personal background has encouraged them to want to make an impact in their home country. They should indicate areas in which they have already contributed, such as having overcome any personal or community barriers to their chosen career.
- Summarise the ways in which they have engaged in voluntary activities and the opportunities they have had to demonstrate leadership.
Selection process and criteria
Applications will be considered according to the following selection criteria:
- Academic merit.
- Quality of research proposal
- Impact potential.
For further details, see the Commonwealth PhD Scholarships for high income countries selection criteria.
Tenure and placement
Scholarships are tenable at any approved UK university or higher education institution with which the CSC has a part-funding agreement for a specific programme of research for 36 months of full-time study only. For the full list, see here: https://cscuk.fcdo.gov.uk/uk-universities/
Scholarships are to obtain one degree; funding will not be extended to enable candidates to complete a qualification in addition to or higher than that for which the selection was made.
Scholarships are made in respect of full-time study only and no other course of study may be undertaken at the same time.
Candidates must make clear in the application which qualification they are applying for. This will enable the CSC to consider the application in the correct category. Applications which do not make this clear may be considered ineligible.
Candidates are advised to list three universities and supervisors that they think are the most appropriate for their study, in order of preference, and to explain their reasons. This is important because the CSC will not change the university or supervisor (or the order of preference) of a provisionally selected candidate after the point of selection, unless exceptional information becomes available that could not have been foreseen at the time of application.
The CSC will make the final decision on institution of study, and reserves the right to overrule any preferences indicated by the candidate. The CSC will consider the suitability of the course and its value for money when deciding on any overrule.
Provisional selection for a scholarship is subject to the agreement of the university for which candidates are selected as part funding for the scholarship is provided by that university.
Each scholarship provides:
- Approved airfare from the candidate’s home country to the UK and return at the end of the award (the CSC will not reimburse the cost of fares for dependants, nor the cost of journeys made before the award is confirmed).
- Approved tuition fees: full fees are covered by agreement between the CSC and the UK university, and scholars are not liable to pay for any part of the tuition fee.
- Stipend (living allowance) at the rate of £1,347 per month, or £1,652 per month for those at universities in the London metropolitan area (rates quoted at current levels).
- Warm clothing allowance, where applicable.
- Study travel grant towards the cost of study-related travel within the UK or overseas.
- Provision towards the cost of fieldwork undertaken overseas (the cost of one economy class return airfare to the fieldwork location), where approved.
- Paid mid-term visit (airfare) to the scholar’s home country, unless they have claimed or intend to claim spouse and/or child allowances during their scholarship or have received a return airfare to their home country for fieldwork.
- Family allowances, as follows (rates quoted at current levels):
- If a scholar is accompanied by their spouse but no children: spouse allowance of £290 per month for a maximum period of nine months, if they and their spouse are living together at the same address in the UK (unless the spouse is also in receipt of a scholarship; other conditions also apply).
- If a scholar is accompanied by their spouse and children: spouse allowance of £290 per month and child allowance of £290 per month for the first child, and £143 per month for the second and third child under the age of 16, if their spouse and children are living with them at the same address in the UK (unless their spouse is also in receipt of a scholarship; other conditions also apply).
- If a scholar is accompanied by their children but no spouse: child allowance of £576.61 per month for the first child, and £143 per month for the second and third child under the age of 16, if their children are living with them at the same address in the UK.
If a scholar shares that they have a disability, a full assessment of their needs and eligibility for additional financial support will be offered by the CSC.
The CSC’s family allowances are intended to be only a contribution towards the cost of maintaining a scholar’s family in the UK. The true costs are likely to be considerably higher, and scholars must be able to supplement these allowances to support any family members who accompany them to the UK. For more information, see the current Handbook for Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows, available on the CSC website under Handbook, Policies and Forms.
Please note that the conditions outlined in the Handbook are subject to change.
A Commonwealth Scholarship covers fees, approved fares, and personal maintenance. Other scholarships, awards, or bursaries that cover the same costs may not be held concurrently.
For the CSC to administer the application effectively and efficiently after submission, it will be necessary to create a record in the candidate’s name. If they apply for an award to the CSC, their details will be kept on file. Basic anonymised demographic data for all applicants will be kept for analytical research. The CSC is committed to protecting personal information and to being transparent about the information we are collecting about applicants and what we do with it. To find out more, see our privacy notice.
If an application is successful, the CSC will notify the candidate that they have been provisionally selected (selected for an award subject to the CSC agreeing terms of admission to the university).
The CSC does not require any candidates to take an IELTS (English language) test.
The CSC will not be able to offer a scholarship if it would contravene the terms and conditions of another scholarship previously held.
When terms of admission to the university have been agreed, the CSC will provide a Notification of Award (formal offer of a scholarship).
When all conditions of the Notification of Award have been met, the CSC will provide a formal Confirmation of Award.
Candidates will be required to submit a Health and Disability Form before the Confirmation of Award can be issued.
Candidates will be required to sign an undertaking to return to their home country as soon as possible after the end of the award.
Candidates are expected to start the award on the date stated in the Notification of Award.
If a scholar requires a Student visa to come to the UK to study, they must meet all relevant immigration requirements set by UK Visas and Immigration. They should check the GOV.UK website for updated information.
All UK immigration regulations are set by UK Visas and Immigration and are subject to change. The CSC has no control over these regulations.
Scholars will be selected for an award based on the plan of study outlined on the application form, which is not expected to change significantly during the award. Any such changes must be agreed by the CSC.
Scholars are expected to reside in the UK throughout the award, and to seek approval from the CSC in advance of any overseas travel.
Scholars must not undertake paid employment during the award without approval from the CSC in advance.
Collaboration is a feature of doctoral research. The CSC expects that participants in collaborative projects will develop a collaborative agreement to clarify the contributions and rights of each partner. The CSC will not get involved in negotiating an exploitation agreement but will need to be assured that an arrangement acceptable to all parties exists. Arrangements should be made to identify, protect, and value any arising intellectual property and to secure a suitable return to the institution and the investigators through exploitation. The CSC considers the intellectual property ownership to lie initially with the student; however, many universities have their own locally applicable policy. In many cases, it is in the best interest of a student for ownership to be vested with the university, which will have greater negotiating powers and will be likely to be able to seek the best returns in any exploitation agreement. Award holders are expected to notify the CSC when CSC-funded intellectual property is exploited.
The CSC will consider a request to extend a scholar’s leave to remain in the UK after their award only if they wish to move from Master’s to PhD study. Strict conditions will apply.
The CSC cannot provide a letter of support or permission for scholars to remain in or return to the UK after the award to enable them to work or undertake postdoctoral study.
The following are not eligible to apply for a Commonwealth Scholarship or Fellowship; an employee, a former employee, or relative of an employee of the Government of the United Kingdom; or a staff member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities or the British Council; or a Commonwealth Scholarship Commissioner, former Commonwealth Scholarship Commissioner or a relative of a Commonwealth Scholarship Commissioner. Former employees of the organisations listed above are eligible to apply three years after ceasing their employment with them.
In line with the UK Bribery Act 2010, any applicant convicted of bribery will be banned from reapplying for a Commonwealth Scholarship or Fellowship for a period of up to five years.
Applicants are expected to adhere to the CSC’s Code of Conduct for award holders. An award may be terminated at any time for reasons of unsatisfactory conduct, progress, or attendance, or if registration is suspended or terminated by the university for any reason.
The CSC is committed to administering and managing its scholarships and fellowships in a fair and transparent manner. For more information, see the CSC anti-fraud policy and procedure at and the FCDO guidance on reporting fraud.
All conditions of award are subject to UK local law and practices and are subject to change by the CSC.
For more information, see the current Handbook for Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows. Please note that the conditions outlined in the Handbook are subject to change.