On Thursday 21 July 2022, the CSC welcomed Commonwealth Scholars and guests to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office for the annual Farewell Event. For Scholars approaching the end of their time in the UK, this event marked an important moment to reflect on what they had achieved during their scholarship and look ahead to the impact they hoped to make on returning to their home countries. The Farewell Event also provided an opportunity for Scholars to expand their networks and showcase how their studies and research would enable them to make a difference across a range of development areas.

The CSC was honoured to receive a number of special guests at this year’s Farewell Event including representatives from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Commonwealth High Commissions, and the UK Parliament. The event was led by the Chair of the CSC, Professor Robin Mason, and featured guest talks by Jo Lomas, the UK’s Commonwealth Envoy, and Dr Joanna Newman, Chief Executive and Secretary General of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).

A setting fit for the occasion

Thanks to the generous support of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, this year’s event was hosted in Durbar Court, one of the spectacular Fine Rooms situated within the India Office in the main FCDO building in Whitehall. With its impressive marble pavement, three storeys of columns and arches, and light, open ceiling, the court served as the perfect backdrop for the valedictory speeches which kicked off the event.

Congratulating Scholars on their achievements

In the opening speech, Professor Robin Mason affirmed the significance of Scholars’ achievements. Professor Mason observed that having been selected from among hundreds of applicants, Commonwealth Scholars were chosen not only for their outstanding academic achievements but because they showed the potential to make an enduring difference to their countries and communities after their scholarship. As Professor Mason highlighted, this defining characteristic is what sets Commonwealth Scholars apart as individuals who will be the next generation of changemakers and leaders and support the ever-growing CSC community in delivering a fairer and better world for all. In closing, Professor Mason encouraged Scholars to learn from and help each other in their shared development goals by strengthening their networks and seizing opportunities for future collaboration during event reception.

Following this, Jo Lomas, the UK Envoy to the Commonwealth, gave an address on the importance of strong ties within the Commonwealth and how Scholars played a crucial part in realising the common interests of all member states. Reflecting on some of the recent highlights of her role as Commonwealth Envoy, including attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda, Jo asserted that the UK was committed to acting on the outcomes of CHOGM, which included improving responsiveness to conflicts, increasing resilience to crises such as Covid-19, and achieving the 2030 Agenda. Jo concluded by praising Scholars’ successes in their studies and research and emphasising her hope that their work would continue to deliver peace, prosperity, and a sustainable future for people across the Commonwealth.

The closing speech was given by Dr Joanna Newman who spoke about the invaluable contribution that universities and higher education made to driving the sustainable development agenda in the modern Commonwealth. Dr Newman expressed how Scholars were integral to sustaining and developing university research environments, both in the UK and in their home countries, as well as spearheading research to support sustainable development outcomes. Highlighting the success of ACU programmes such as the Partnership for Enhanced and Blended Learning (PEBL), Dr Newman observed how international collaboration was central to strengthening capacity and forming cooperative partnerships to address contemporary global challenges. Finally, Dr Newman urged Scholars to remain engaged through the CSC Alumni Network after their scholarship and draw on the strength of the CSC community to make a difference in the world.

Forging connections for the future

Following the farewell speeches, Scholars joined a drinks reception where they had the chance to network and discuss their work and experiences of studying in the UK with a host of distinguished guests. During the reception, Scholars had the chance to visit the CSC Alumni and Evaluation exhibition stands where they could find out about engagement activities after their scholarship and learn more about the work of Commonwealth Alumni in their home countries.

The reception also offered Scholars an opportunity to look back on their scholarship experience and discuss their ambitions for the future in the CSC video booth as well as sharing their #MyCommonwealthGoal pledges.

The CSC would like to thank the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office for kindly supporting this event. The CSC would also like to thank all the guests and Scholars who attended the event and contributed to its success.

Don’t forget to look out for all the photos from the event coming soon to the CSC Flickr channel.