COMMONWEALTH PHD SCHOLARSHIPS
Commonwealth PhD Scholarships are for applicants 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 applicants 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 2024/25 academic year are now open. The deadline for submitting an application is 17:00 hours BST (16:00 GMT) on 17 October 2023. The scholarships are for study in the UK beginning in September/October 2024.
Applications to the CSC must be made using the CSC’s online application system.
The CSC is unable to accept any applications or documentation not submitted via the online application system.
Applicants 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.
As well as applying to the CSC, applicants must apply to a nominating agency.
There are three types of nominating agency for PhD 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
Nominating agencies put forward scholarship candidates to the CSC for consideration. The CSC does not accept direct applications for these scholarships.
Each nominating agency oversees its own selection process and may have additional eligibility criteria. Applicants 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 dates for applications.
Agencies will nominate scholarship candidates to the CSC by December 2023.
Applicants can expect to hear the outcome by July 2024. We will contact all applicants by email and they should ensure all folders of their email accounts are monitored, including junk mail and spam folders. A scholarship offer may be withdrawn if a scholarship candidate is emailed but does not respond within a specified time.
Applications must include supporting documentation to be eligible.
Please 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.
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; and 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 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 applicant’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 a university/course
Applicants may find the following resources useful when researching their 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
- 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.
Applicants can also discover how Commonwealth Alumni are making an impact and leading change across critical development issues by visiting our development impact stories page.
To apply for this scholarship, applicants 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 2024.
- By September 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)*.
- Not be registered for a PhD, or an MPhil leading to a PhD, at a UK university or in their home country before September/October 2024.
- Be unable to afford to study in the UK without this scholarship.
- Have provided all supporting documentation in the required format.
*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 applicants 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 (CDPF) nominator. For more information, please contact CDPF directly using the details on our NGOs and charitable body nominators page.
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 applicants. For further information on the support available to scholars who share that they have a disability, see the CSC disability support statement.
There is no age limit for CSC applications. Applicants are advised to confirm with their employers any age restrictions on leave entitlement they may have in place.
Please note that only applicants 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, 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 the experience gained supports and is relevant to the programme to be undertaken in the UK.
- List names and positions of three referees who are qualified to comment on both their capacity to benefit from the proposed Scholarship in the UK and their ability to deliver development impact afterwards. One of the referees must be a current employer (if applicable) and at least two references must be included with the application.
- Provide a Development Impact statement in four parts.
In the first part applicants should explain how the proposed scholarship relates to:
- Development issues at the global, national, and local level
- Development issues connected to the chosen CSC development theme and the wider sector
The second part should explain how they intend to apply their new skills once the Scholarship ends.
The third part should outline what they expect will change in development terms following the Scholarship, including:
- The outcomes that they aim to achieve
- The timeframe for their implementation
- Who the beneficiaries will be
In the fourth part applicants should write about how the impact of their work could be best measured and evidenced.
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. Applicants may wish to highlight any areas where they have already made significant contributions, including overcoming personal or community barriers in accessing higher education or within their field.
- 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
- Potential impact on the development of the candidate’s come country
For further details, see the Commonwealth Scholarships selection criteria.
Applicants should note the criteria carefully and link their answers in the application form to each point listed.
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: 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.
The CSC does not provide new direct financial or promotional support for the fossil fuel energy sector overseas, defined as the extraction, production, transportation, refining and marketing of crude oil, natural gas or thermal coal, as well as any fossil-fuel fired power plants.
Applicants 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.
Applicants 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.
Applicants may propose to study at one university for a four-year PhD, but this must be based in a recognised Doctoral Training Centre. They 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, applicants 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.
Applicants must take the necessary steps to apply for admission to their preferred universities in advance of their scholarship application. Many courses have strict admission deadlines and candidates should check admission requirements carefully when applying. If an applicant is selected for a scholarship and has not applied and been accepted for a course, it may not be possible to proceed with the scholarship.
Applicants must provide a supporting statement for a named supervisor from at least one of the UK universities to which they are applying. Details of what the supporting statement should include are outlined in the supporting documentation section. Applicants are strongly advised to provide a supporting statement from a supervisor at the first choice university. If not, the CSC reserves the right to select for placement at another university for which a statement is provided.
Each scholarship provides:
- Approved airfare from the Scholar’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.
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 applicant’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.
Applicant’s personal information will be used to conduct necessary due diligence checks to CSC’s satisfaction, before CSC proceeds with any type of formal agreement or contractual relationship. In most cases, the due diligence checks will be straightforward, however further information may be requested, so we ask for full co-operation to speed up the process.
If an applicant does not agree to personal data being used for the purpose of conducting due diligence, unfortunately CSC will not be able to proceed further with the application process.
If an application is successful, the CSC will notify the applicant that they have been provisionally selected (selected for an award subject to the CSC agreeing terms of admission to the university) at which point they will be a provisional scholarship candidate.
The CSC does not require any applicants 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 candidate 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.
Candidates 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.
Throughout their award, Scholars are expected to reside in the UK, and must 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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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. Please note that the conditions outlined in the Handbook are subject to change.