Commonwealth Shared Scholarships 2018 – university bidding guidance notes

(revised November 2017)

Commonwealth Shared Scholarships are for candidates from least developed, low, and lower middle income Commonwealth countries, for full-time Master’s study on selected courses, jointly supported by UK universities. These scholarships are funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

Purpose: To contribute to development needs of Commonwealth countries by providing training for skilled and qualified professionals and academics who would not otherwise have been able to study in the UK.

Intended beneficiaries: High-quality postgraduate students who have not studied extensively overseas before, who would not otherwise have the opportunity to study in the UK, and who have the potential to enhance the development of their home countries with the knowledge and leadership skills they acquire.

University bids
Development themes and impact
Duration of study
Financial commitment and branding of awards
Welfare and disability support
Recruitment and selection of candidates
Eligibility of candidates
Eligible Commonwealth countries
Any questions?

University bids

UK universities are invited to bid for up to ten Commonwealth Shared Scholarships to be offered in 2018-2019.

The CSC currently expects to allocate around 215 new Commonwealth Shared Scholarships in 2018-2019. Awards are normally for one-year taught courses at postgraduate level; bids for research degrees or undergraduate study will not be considered.

Universities may put forward no more than 10 courses in their bid. Each course must be individually named and bids for subject areas or listed by department will not be considered.

The CSC is not always able to offer the maximum number of scholarships for which a university bids. It aims to offer one award to universities that are new to the scheme or have not participated in the scheme in the last three years.

Development themes and impact

Commonwealth Shared Scholarships enable talented and motivated individuals to gain the knowledge and skills required for sustainable development, and are aimed at those who could not otherwise afford to study in the UK. These scholarships are offered under six themes:

1. Science and technology for development

The scholarship, which may be in any area of science or technology (including, for example, agriculture, veterinary science, or forestry), will develop knowledge and/or skills that are directly related to the specific needs of a low or middle income country. Where possible, applications should cite expressed national or local priorities.

2. Strengthening health systems and capacity

The scholarship will develop knowledge and/or skills that will improve health provision or outcomes for disadvantaged groups in low and middle income countries. A range of approaches could be adopted, such as training staff to fill critical shortage areas; establishing better systems, processes, or management; health promotion and improving understanding of non-take up; or developing new treatments.

3. Promoting global prosperity

The scholarship will support economic prosperity in low and middle income countries. The knowledge and/or skills gained could lead to, for example, enhanced trade capacity; improved economic understanding or decision- making by business or government; new products and services; or long-term capacity building, through the development of entrepreneurial skills, for instance.

4. Strengthening global peace, security and governance

The scholarship will develop knowledge and/or skills that will strengthen peace and security at national, regional, or international levels. Multiple approaches could be used, such as strengthening open and transparent governance; improving mutual understanding within and between societies; or building systems that reduce the potential for conflict or encourage its resolution.

5. Strengthening resilience and response to crises

The scholarship will develop knowledge and/or skills which will help low and middle countries adapt to changing contexts, withstand sudden shocks, or increase capacity to preserve the continuity of operations following such events. This could apply to a broad range of threats, including natural and physical disasters; long-term threats such as climate change; interruptions to the supply of key resources; or sudden economic or technological disruption.

6. Access, inclusion and opportunity

The scholarship will develop knowledge and/or skills that will promote opportunity amongst historically disadvantaged groups in low and middle income countries. This could be through, for example, expanding educational opportunities; conducting community outreach; enhancing access to decision-making; or increasing understanding of the barriers faced. A range of disadvantage can be addressed – including social, economic, gender, ethnic, regional, or political – provided that the need is clearly stated.

Courses must be explicitly and directly developmental in nature, and must be aligned with at least one of these six themes. The university must demonstrate an immediate, applied development impact in its bid.

As part of its bid, the university must select a primary theme for each course, and must provide a development statement explaining how the course relates to this primary theme (and any other themes that may be relevant), as well as the value of the course to least developed, low, and lower middle income countries. This should include a brief outline of how the course will benefit individuals and their home countries. The link to the specified theme(s) as well as the developmental value of the course will be assessed, and allocations of awards will be made based on the strength of the statements provided. Generic course descriptions will not be considered. Any bid that is not linked to a development theme or does not include a development statement will be deemed ineligible.

The following dos and don’ts outline what the CSC expects to be provided in the development statement.


  • Explain how each course directly relates to development through at least one of the CSC’s development themes
  • Explain how the course is relevant to least developed, low, and lower middle income Commonwealth countries
  • Be specific about how the course content can be applied in order to have a development impact
  • Demonstrate how the course can have a development impact on the Scholar’s home country when they return
  • Provide examples of the course and/or the university’s record in development (where applicable)
  • Consult with the course leaders when writing the statement
  • Write at least one paragraph
  • Check that the statement is complete and correct before submitting the bid (only information provided via the bidding form will be considered)


  • Use the same statement for each course
  • Use generic course descriptions (these will not be considered)
  • Rely on the name of the course to demonstrate its developmental nature
  • Copy and paste course information from the university website

Only courses which do not require further study, training, or employment in the UK are eligible. MBA courses will be supported only in exceptional circumstances where a direct development focus and aim can be demonstrated.

Duration of study

Awards are tenable normally for one year, and up to two years in exceptional circumstances.

Awards cannot be extended or renewed. All Commonwealth Shared Scholars are required to return to their home country immediately on conclusion of their course. No permission will be given to defer the homeward airfare, except where a Scholar has secured an offer of PhD study in the UK with funding for three full years of study from a university or recognised scholarship body. In such cases, if the Shared Scholarship host university agrees, the CSC will allow the Scholar to remain in the UK.

Financial commitment and branding of awards

Commonwealth Shared Scholarships are jointly financed by the CSC and participating universities or their sponsors.

The CSC will pay the following costs (on receipt of an invoice and relevant supporting documentation from the university):

  • Course tuition fees up to a cap of £22,500
  • Airfares to and from the UK (booked in line with CSC policy)
  • Grant to contribute to study-related costs (exact amount for 2018 to be confirmed); additional sums available for CSC events
  • Tuberculosis test fees (where required by UK Visas and Immigration)
  • Excess baggage allowance on return home, up to the specific rate set by the CSC

The costs of any compulsory field trips should be included in the tuition fee; the CSC will not cover any additional field trip costs.

The university is expected to provide at least the following level of support:

  • Maintenance stipend of £1,065 per month (£1,306 for Scholars in London), to be paid for the full duration of the award
  • Warm clothing allowance of £414
  • For Scholars who are widowed, divorced, or a single parent: child allowance of £457 per month for the first child, and £112 per month for the second and third child

These amounts are set by the UK government for all students on government-funded scholarships, and increase annually. 2017-2018 figures are quoted above; figures for 2018-2019 will be available in July 2018.

The university’s share of the award costs may not come from HEFCE, HEFCW, Scottish Funding Council, or DELNI, or from other public funds. Any contribution towards the university’s share of the award costs must come from the university’s own funds or from an organisation whose mission and aims are in line with those of the CSC.

Commonwealth Shared Scholars must not be asked to contribute to the university’s share of the award costs. Any university expecting a Shared Scholar to do this will render themselves liable to repayment of the tuition fee to the CSC and exclusion from the scheme in future years.

All promotional and award materials must recognise that Commonwealth Shared Scholarships are jointly funded by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK (CSC) and the university.

Welfare and disability support

The university is responsible for managing the welfare of Commonwealth Shared Scholars while they are on award, including paying for living allowances and providing any additional funding necessary to support their welfare. This includes supporting disabled Scholars and funding any reasonable adjustments that are required. For further information on the support provided by the CSC to candidates with a disability, see the CSC disability support statement.

Recruitment and selection of candidates

Universities that are successful at the bidding stage will be notified which courses and how many awards have been approved by the CSC in January 2018. The CSC will issue a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which will confirm the terms and conditions of the award(s) as well as the responsibilities of the CSC and the university; this will be reviewed on an annual basis.

Universities must then conduct their own recruitment process to nominate a specified number of candidates to the CSC. The CSC expects all universities to use the CSC’s Electronic Application System (EAS) to recruit candidates, rather than using their own separate scholarship application systems, in order to streamline the application process for candidates. The university will be established as a nominator on the EAS and given advice and support on how to use the system to recruit candidates. Candidates must complete a scholarship application using the EAS, in addition to completing the admissions procedure of the university.

The list of eligible courses and universities, with university contact details and institutional application closing dates, will be published on the CSC website.

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 candidates. In particular, universities are asked to encourage women and candidates from a range of countries to apply for these scholarships. The university is responsible for recruiting candidates in an open and transparent manner and with reference to the CSC anti-fraud policy.

Candidate applications for 2018 Commonwealth Shared Scholarships are expected to open at the end of January 2018, with a final closing date for applications of 29 March 2018. When submitting a bid, the university must indicate the closing date for applications for its awards – this should be on or before 29 March 2018. The list of eligible courses and universities, with university contact details and institutional application closing dates, will be published on the CSC website. The university must nominate its chosen candidates by 30 April 2018 at the latest.

Eligibility of candidates

To apply for a Commonwealth Shared Scholarship, candidates must:

  • Be a citizen of or be granted refugee status from an eligible Commonwealth country, or be a British Protected Person
  • Be permanently and continually resident in an eligible Commonwealth country
  • Hold a first degree of at least upper second class (2:1) standard, or lower second class level plus a Master’s degree. The CSC cannot assess work experience in lieu of this minimum academic qualification

The university must confirm that its candidates are sufficiently fluent in written and oral English to pursue their studies immediately, and ensure that they meet the English language requirement set by UK Visas and Immigration. Pre-sessional English language courses are not supported.

Candidates are required to sign an undertaking at the time of application that they:

  • Have not studied for one (academic) year or more in a high income (developed) country
  • Have not worked for one year or more in a high income (developed) country
  • Are themselves, or through their families, unable to pay to study in the UK (the university may be asked to state its procedures for verifying applicants’ financial status)
  • Will return to their home country within one month of the end date of their award

Eligible Commonwealth countries

Please note that this list of countries has been revised for this round of bids, in line with the CSC’s focusing of awards on lower income countries. The CSC is keen to ensure a good geographical spread of awards across eligible countries.

Papua New Guinea
Sierra Leone
Solomon Islands
Sri Lanka

Any questions?

If you are based at a UK university and have any questions about Commonwealth Shared Scholarships or the university bidding process, please contact the CSC Secretariat at or on 020 7380 6751.

General enquiries about applying for Commonwealth Scholarships or Fellowships sent to this email address will not be answered; please use the Contact us form instead.

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