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Review of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission Doctoral Scholarship Programme 1960-2015

The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission has offered Scholarships for PhD study from the outset and they remain a core element of the Commission’s portfolio. From 1960 to 2015, the period under consideration for this review, over 7,500 individuals from 60 countries across the Commonwealth have taken up these PhD scholarships. Almost 7,150 of these scholars undertook fully-funded doctoral study in the United Kingdom with the remainder the remainder holding “Split-Site” awards, which offer support for students to take a 12-month period of study in the UK as part of a PhD programme registered in their home country. This review, which focuses on the fully-funded, UK-based PhD Scholarships, is inspired by the desire to better understand both the historical and contemporary contexts related to our awards, as well as more in-depth policy and operational issues. It seeks to answer the following sets of questions:

  • What does the Commission’s support for PhD scholarships look like? How many awards have we funded? In what fields? What are the demographic characteristics of our PhD Alumni?
  • Where do Commonwealth PhD Alumni end up? What are they doing? And what are the tangible outcomes of Commonwealth PhD Scholarships?

The overall aim of this review therefore is to provide a comprehensive summary of the Commission’s support for PhD study to date, as well as presenting evidence of the outcomes and impact of this support and identifying areas that merit future investigation. It begins by addressing the first set of questions, beginning with a brief description of the history of the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan, as well as the broader global context related to doctoral study in Section One, before describing the demographics of the Commonwealth PhD Scholarship scheme over the past fifty-five years in Section Two.

The report then focuses on to providing answers to the second set of questions about Alumni outputs using data sourced from Alumni through surveys and interviews before approaching this from a different perspective, looking at evidence gathered from UK-based supervisors of PhD Alumni.

The report concludes that there is evidence, both quantitative and qualitative, which suggests that the Commonwealth PhD Scholarship programme is meeting the core objectives set out by the Commission, as well as the priorities of its funders. It also identifies several areas for further investigation and development by the Commission. Overall the report forms a part of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission’s ongoing portfolio of monitoring and evaluation work, and contributes to the growing body of evidence demonstrating both the relevance and effectiveness of scholarship programmes to development.

Read the full report below:

Full report (67 pages) – all of the details of our analysis

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