COMMONWEALTH PHD SCHOLARSHIPS
Commonwealth PhD Scholarships are for candidates from least developed countries and fragile States, as classified by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), in the Commonwealth, for full-time doctoral study at a UK university.
The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK (CSC) provides the UK government scholarship scheme led by international development objectives. It 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.
Purpose: Funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), Commonwealth PhD scholarships contribute to the development needs of Commonwealth countries by supporting research that will have a developmental impact. They also enhance individual teaching and research capacity leading to increase 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, and are aimed at those who could not otherwise afford to study in the UK.
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 the 2023/34 academic year are now closed. The application information below is for reference only.
Applicants can expect to hear the outcome of their applications by June 2023.
Candidates must apply to one of the below nominating agencies as well as to the CSC. Nominating agencies will then put forward candidates to the CSC. The CSC does not accept direct applications for these scholarships.
- National nominating agencies – this is the main route of application
- Selected universities/university bodies – which can nominate their own academic staff
- Selected non-governmental organisations and charitable bodies
Each nominating agency oversees its own selection process and may have additional eligibility criteria. Candidates must check with the nominating agency for their specific advice and rules for applying, and their own eligibility criteria. Nominating agencies may set their own closing date for applications.
Candidates must complete an application using the CSC’s online application system, in addition to any other application required to be completed by the nominating agency. The CSC is unable to accept any applications that are not submitted via the online application system.
Agencies will nominate candidates to the CSC by December 2022.
Candidates are advised to complete and submit applications as early as possible, as the online application system will be very busy in the days leading up to the application deadline.
Applications must include supporting documentation to be eligible.
Note that candidates 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. This is a change from previous years when referees and supervisors would receive a separate email requesting their statements.
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.
Candidates must upload the following documents with the application:
- Proof that the applicant is a citizen or has 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
- References from at least two individuals on institutional letterhead
- Supporting statement on institutional letterhead from a proposed supervisor in the UK from at least one of the institutions named on the application form
If any of the required documentation is not provided by the closing date, the application will be considered ineligible.
Candidates can also upload any university admissions letter held for their chosen courses.
The CSC will not accept supporting documentation submitted by nominating agencies or outside the online application system.
Please note that the CSC does not charge candidates to apply for any of its scholarships or fellowships through its online application system, and it does not charge organisations to nominate candidates.
Choosing a university/course
You may find the following resources useful when researching your choices of institution and course of study in the UK:
- 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
- Unistats – 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 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
- Be available to start academic studies in the UK by the start of the UK academic year in September 2023
- By September 2023, hold a first degree of at least upper second class (2:1) honours standard, or a second class degree (2:2) and a relevant postgraduate qualification (usually a Master’s degree)*.
- NOT be registered for a PhD, or an MPhil leading to a PhD, at a UK university or in your home country before September/October 2023
- Be unable to afford to study in the UK without this scholarship
- Have provided all supporting documentation in the required format
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 recognises that disabled people have often faced and overcome challenges or barriers in their education journey which have prevented them achieving the academic requirement for a Commonwealth Scholarship. Disabled candidates who can demonstrate their potential to contribute to international development but who do not hold a 2:1 Undergraduate degree may be considered for a contextualised nomination through the Commonwealth Disabled People’s Forum nominator. For more information, please contact CDPF directly using the details on our NGOs and Charitable Body Nominators page.
The CSC is committed to administering and managing its scholarships and fellowships in a fair and transparent manner. For further information, see the CSC anti-fraud policy and the guidance on reporting fraud.
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’s 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note that only candidates from the eligible countries listed below can apply for Commonwealth PhD Scholarships (for least developed countries and fragile states, as classified by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), in 2023/24.
Completing the application form
In the application form, candidates 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 your referees must be a current employer (if applicable)
- Provide a Development Impact statement in 4 parts.
In the first part you should explain how your proposed Scholarship relates to:
a) development issues at the global, national, and local level
b) development issues connected to your chosen CSC development theme and the wider sector
In the second part you should explain how you intend to apply your new skills once your Scholarship ends.
In the third part you should outline what you expect will change in development terms following your Scholarship, including:
a) the outcomes that you aim to achieve
b) the timeframe for their implementation
c) who the beneficiaries will be
In the fourth part you should:
1. Write about how the impact of your work could be best measured
2. Confirm what your award objectives are and how each of them will be met by the Scholarship programme
3. Confirm what your career plans are for the 5 years following your Scholarship
4. Confirm your long-term career plans
5. Provide a personal statement to summarise the ways in which your personal background has encouraged you to want to make an impact in your home country. You should indicate areas in which you have already contributed, such as having overcome any personal or community barriers to your chosen career
6. Summarise the ways in which you have engaged in voluntary activities and the opportunities you have had to demonstrate leadership (up to 500 words)
7. Provide a scan of your passport or national identity card
Please see this document for an example of the questions asked within the online application system. Do not fill out the document linked here; it is for your information only. Applications can only be accepted through the online application system.
Applications will be considered according to the following selection criteria:
- Academic merit of the candidate
- Quality of the plan of study
- Potential impact on the development of the candidate’s home country
For further details, see the Commonwealth PhD Scholarships 2023 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.
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.
You must make clear in your application which qualification you are applying for. This will enable the CSC to consider your application in the correct category. Applications which do not make this clear may be considered ineligible.
You are advised to list three universities and supervisors that you think are the most appropriate for your study, in order of preference, and to explain your 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.
You may propose to study at one university for a four-year PhD, but this must be based in a recognised Doctoral Training Centre. You must research this option thoroughly and justify its added value compared with a three-year PhD. As the CSC will fund only a limited number of four-year PhDs, if you do choose this option, you are strongly advised to also propose at least one three-year PhD choice.
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.
You must take the necessary steps to apply for admission to your preferred universities in advance of your scholarship application. Many courses have strict admission deadlines, you should check admission requirements carefully when applying. If you are selected for a Scholarship and have not applied and been accepted for the course(s) for which you are selected it may not be possible to proceed with your Scholarship.
You must provide a supporting statement from a named supervisor from at least one of the UK universities to which you are applying. Applications without any supporting statements will be considered ineligible. You are strongly advised to provide a supporting statement from a supervisor at your first choice university. If you do not, the CSC reserves the right to select you for placement at another university for which you have provided a supporting statement.
Each scholarship provides:
- Approved airfare from your home country to the UK and return at the end of your award (the CSC will not reimburse the cost of fares for dependants, nor the cost of journeys made before your 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 £1,236 per month, or £1,516 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 your fieldwork location), where approved
- Paid mid-term visit (airfare) to your home country, unless you have claimed or intend to claim spouse and/or child allowances during your scholarship, or have received a return airfare to your home country for fieldwork
- Family allowances, as follows (rates quoted at current levels):
- If you are accompanied by your spouse but no children: spouse allowance of £266 per month for a maximum period of nine months, if you and your spouse are living together at the same address in the UK (unless your spouse is also in receipt of a scholarship; other conditions also apply)
- If you are accompanied by your spouse and children: spouse allowance of £266 per month and child allowance of £266 per month for the first child, and £131 per month for the second and third child under the age of 16, if your spouse and children are living with you at the same address in the UK (unless your spouse is also in receipt of a scholarship; other conditions also apply)
- If you are accompanied by your children but no spouse: child allowance of £529 per month for the first child, and £131 per month for the second and third child under the age of 16, if your children are living with you at the same address in the UK
If you share that you have a disability, a full assessment of your 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 your family in the UK. The true costs are likely to be considerably higher, and you must be able to supplement these allowances to support any family members who come to the UK with you.
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 your application effectively and efficiently after you have submitted, it will be necessary to create a record in your name. If you are nominated for an award to the CSC, your 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 your personal information and to being transparent about the information we are collecting about you and what we do with it. To find out more, see our privacy notice.
- If your application is successful, the CSC will notify you via email that you have been provisionally selected (selected for an award subject to the CSC agreeing your terms of admission to the university)
- The CSC does not require any candidates to take an IELTS (English language) test. You should note, however, that, as a further condition of your scholarship, you may be required by your university to provide evidence of a particular level of English language proficiency.
- The CSC will not be able to offer you a scholarship if it would contravene the terms and conditions of another scholarship that you have previously held.
- When terms of admission to the university have been agreed, the CSC will send you a Notification of Award (formal offer of a scholarship).
- When all conditions of the Notification of Award have been met, the CSC will send you a formal Confirmation of Award.
- You will be required to submit a Health and Disability Form before your Confirmation of Award can be issued.
- You will be required to sign an undertaking to return to your home country as soon as possible after the end of your award.
- You are expected to start your award on the date stated in your Notification of Award.
- If you require a Student visa to come to the UK to study, you must meet all relevant immigration requirements set by UK Visas and Immigration. You 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.
- You will be selected for an award based on the plan of study outlined on your application form, which is not expected to change significantly during your award. Any such changes must be agreed by the CSC.
- You are expected to reside in the UK throughout your award, and to seek approval from the CSC in advance for any overseas travel.
- You must not undertake paid employment during your award without approval from the CSC in advance.
- The CSC will consider a request to extend your leave to remain in the UK after your award only if you wish to move from Master’s to PhD study. Strict conditions will apply.
- The CSC cannot provide a letter of support or permission for you to remain in or return the UK after your award to enable you to work.
- You are not eligible to apply for a Commonwealth Scholarship or Fellowship if you; are 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 and the Disciplinary Policy and Procedure.
- 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 Handbook for Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows.
Please note that the conditions outlined in the Handbook at subject to change.
All enquiries about these scholarships should be directed to your nominating agency.
For general enquiries about applying for Commonwealth Scholarships or Fellowships; please use the Contact us form.