The CSC is proud to have supported over 3,000 exceptional scholars to undertake Commonwealth Scholarships by Distance Learning over the last two decades. Since the first awards were offered in 2002, Scholars from 41 countries across the Commonwealth have benefitted, completing a wide variety of developmentally-focused Masters’ degrees offered by 42 UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). In the run up to the twentieth anniversary of the programme, the CSC are preparing to undertake an in-depth programme evaluation, beginning with the publication of a short rapid analysis summary and infographic highlighting the unique attributes and impact of the programme. Rachel Day Programme Manager of the CSC’s Evaluation and Monitoring programme reflects on the initial findings of the summary analysis and explores the potential scope of the upcoming review.

One of three Masters’ Scholarships programmes offered by the CSC, the Distance Learning programme is unique in that it allows individuals to undertake their studies from home, over time, whilst continuing to work. Over 95% of current Distance Learning Scholars remain in some form of employment whilst on award, and evidence collected through on award surveys clearly demonstrate the benefits of this arrangement, for both Scholars and their employers. Not only do Scholars report extremely high levels of on award knowledge and skills acquisition, in areas ranging from research techniques to leadership skills, but they are also able to immediately apply these enhanced skill sets in the workplace. As the initial rapid analysis paper shows, 96% of Distance Learners use knowledge or skills they learned from their programme frequently during the award period, and 91% of working scholars reported that they regularly taught colleagues to do something that they learned on their course, contributing to the upskilling of their co-workers. With Distance Learning Scholars being employed across a range of sectors, most notably the NGO and public sectors, there is clear potential for both early and wide-ranging impact.

Another strength of the Commonwealth Scholarship Programme is its flexibility and range, with scholarships offered under broad development themes, rather than restrictive subject headings. Over the years, Distance Learners have completed master’s degrees in subjects ranging from Conflict Studies to Sustainable Aquaculture, reflecting the diverse paths that can lead to meaningful developmental impact. Subjects related to Health feature strongly in the Distance Learning programme, covering remits from Midwifery to Palliative Medicine, and everything in between. Topically, in a year focused on COVID and Climate, CSC Distance Learning Scholars will be working towards degrees in subjects including Global Health and Forced Migration Studies, equipping them with the knowledge and skills needed to tackle some of the most pressing development issues of our time.

We are grateful for our partnerships with 42 Higher Education Institutions across the UK which allow us to continue offering these innovative and impactful awards to deserving Scholars from across the Commonwealth every year. The value and relevance of Distance Learning Scholarships is clearer than ever in a year when even traditional face to face learning has been required to move online with little warning. At a time when many people around the world find themselves increasingly isolated, and their opportunities curtailed, Distance Learning continues to provide a valuable opportunity, allowing promising Scholars to continue to learn, develop, and connect with the wider world.

Further information can be found on the Evaluation page. The CSC’s Senior Evaluation Officer Brendan Harrison will be leading on the forthcoming review. We look forward to hearing more from our Distance Learning Scholars and Alumni as well as our University partners and invite you to keep an eye on your inbox for ways that you can contribute! For further information please contact