The CSC does not provide individual feedback on
why an application is unsuccessful. However, there are generic reasons why many
of the applications received do not pass through to the next stage. This page
provides a short overview of the most important of these reasons.
There are two fundamental reasons why
applications for Commonwealth Scholarships or Fellowships tend to be
Excellence. All of the CSC scholarship and fellowship schemes
are highly competitive. For the standard PhD and Master’s Scholarships, for
example, on average only some 1.5% of the original applications submitted
to the nominating agencies are successful. This means that many very able
applicants will be disappointed. Only people who are outstanding across
the board are likely to be successful.
Failure to follow instructions. The selection committee assesses applications
using three key criteria (academic merit, impact of the work on
development, and study/research plan), and considers all of the
information provided on the application form. Given the competitiveness of
the schemes, failure to follow the application instructions will seriously
disadvantage a candidate.
It is therefore essential that
applicants read all of the instructions carefully prior
to completing their applications, and then complete all of the questions fully.
The CSC aims to make decisions on who receives a
scholarship or fellowship purely on the basis of the information provided in
applications. There are no quotas for people from different countries,
ethnicities, or genders.
The following are some of the more common reasons
why applicants may score poorly against each of the criteria:
Successful applicants are those with the highest
academic grades. Many have a first-class honours undergraduate degree and
a Distinction for their Master’s degree. Applicants with upper
second-class undergraduate degrees or a Pass at Master’s level do indeed
receive Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships, but all candidates must
recognise that they are highly competitive in terms of academic quality.
If there are reasons why a candidate has not scored
particularly well in part of their academic career, it is important that
these are explained in the space available for further information.
For Scholarships for PhD study or Academic Fellowships,
many applicants have a good list of publications and conference papers,
sometimes in internationally-respected academic journals. It is important
therefore for candidates to ensure that they reference these appropriately
if they have them.
It is important for candidates to identify referees who
will provide references that are detailed enough and contain sufficient information
to be evaluated. A mere five-line reference is unlikely to provide the
level of support necessary.
Absence of full details about the marks/grades gained
for particular degrees, in the form of an official transcript, makes it
difficult for the selection committee to properly consider an application.
Candidates are strongly encouraged to ensure that full supporting
documentation is provided at the time of application.
Impact of the proposed work on development
(for applicants from developing Commonwealth
The selection committee places great emphasis on the
case made by an applicant for how their proposed work will have an impact
on development when they return home. A mere 50-100 words written in this
section is unlikely to be as convincing as a well-crafted argument that
uses the full 500 words available.
Some candidates focus on how a Commonwealth Scholarship
or Fellowship would help them become rich and successful, rather than on
how their work can specifically contribute to development. Such candidates
are unlikely to be successful.
There are many ways in which ‘development’ can be
defined, and the CSC does not seek to impose specific definitions on
candidates. However, it is important that candidates demonstrate how their
specific project contributes to the development objectives that are
relevant for their country and region. It is not sufficient to state that
the subject of study is by its nature developmental; candidates must make
the case clearly that what they will go on to do after studying will have
an impact on development.
Candidates who write impenetrably or vaguely about what
they intend to do will score poorly. It is important that this section is
written clearly so that a non-specialist can understand what the aims of
the research are and how they will be implemented.
Candidates for Scholarships for PhD study who do not
provide information about the precise methodology and sampling strategy to
be used in the research do not score highly.
All candidates must explain in some detail why they have
applied to the courses and institutions listed on their application forms.
It is insufficient simply to say that the universities are excellent, or
even that they are ranked nth on a global listing of universities.
Study or research plans must be written by the
candidate, and not by the intended supervisor.
Simply cutting and pasting text about a department,
course or institution from a website or brochure is insufficient. Merely
listing the options available for a Master’s course is likewise
Recipients of Commonwealth Scholarships and
Fellowships are outstanding individuals. When differentiating between
closely-matched applications, the selection committee uses all of the
information provided by candidates on their application forms. Where candidates
have provided no additional information about, for example, voluntary
activities or other such contributions to development, this will not be to