Higher education has the power to transform people’s lives, opening possibilities to undertake specialist research, harness skills for professional development, and forge lasting networks for future development impact.
Many people, however, experience obstacles to postgraduate study and research which can prevent them from realising their goals. These can include barriers they face within their community or society as well as a lack of available opportunities for specialist studies or research in their home countries.
These barriers are played out at a global scale. Whilst worldwide, the higher education enrolment rate has more than doubled in the last 20 years, huge disparities remain between higher and lower income countries. In 2020, the World Bank reported that while 79% of individuals in high income countries attend higher education, only 9% of individuals in low income countries do.
“I am happily completing my PhD in Biomedical Science in a prestigious UK higher education institution at the moment because Commonwealth Scholarships supported my big dream of accessing higher education in the UK and made it a reality against all odds.”
Joshua Nonso Awoke, 2021 Commonwealth PhD Scholar from Nigeria studying for a PhD in Biomedical Science at Nottingham Trent University
Working with NGOs and Charitable Trusts to break down barriers
At the CSC, we work with a range of agencies, including Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Charitable Trust Nominating Agencies, to provide equitable and inclusive scholarships that recognise achievement and help to widen access in higher education.
Our partner NGOs and Charitable Trusts play a vital role in enabling us to reach those who face barriers to postgraduate education and support them in the application process. These organisations include:
- Canon Collins Educational Trust and HALI Access Network – focused on recruiting applicants with a low-socio-economic status
- Wellcome Trust – focused on science and research awards for least developed countries in East Africa
- Windle Trust International – recruit refugees and internally displaced people in Kenya and Uganda
- Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) – open for applications from women working in education in sub-Saharan Africa
- Commonwealth Disabled People’s Forum – provide an application route for people with disabilities across the Commonwealth
“For me, the Commonwealth Scholarship not only provides an opportunity to attain higher education, but also a life-changing experience. It attracts a wealth of talent from over 50 countries, providing the opportunity to meet, share ideas, learn new cultures, and develop professional relationships with other young people.”
Charity Nankunda, 2020 Commonwealth PhD Scholar from Uganda studying for a PhD in Civil Engineering at the University of Birmingham, Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) nominee
Bringing together Scholars and subject experts
Access to the right course and knowledge expertise can also be a challenge. In 2022, 71% of Scholars indicated that it would not have been possible for them to have undertaken the same programme or qualification in their home country.
Commonwealth Scholarships can help to connect postgraduate students to the appropriate subject experts in their field, whether in health, education, science and technology, conservation, or public policy. The CSC also supports inclusive policies to broaden representation in key areas, such as initiatives to encourage more women to take up STEM subjects.
“The Commonwealth Scholarship changed my life. Pursuing my PhD in mining and sustainability had been a long-time goal of mine, and when I found a PhD project in the niche subject of small-scale mining, I was completely enamoured. Without my scholarship, I would not have been able to follow my dreams to the United Kingdom, where I am currently involved in mining paradigm transformations to sustainably source our world while protecting our people and planet.”
Cassia Johnson, 2019 Commonwealth PhD Scholar from Canada studying for a PhD in Mining and Minerals Engineering at the University of Exeter
Find out more about the ways in which accessing higher education through a Commonwealth Scholarship has shaped Scholars’ lives: