Sunday, August 14, 2016

Tips for Commonwealth Scholarship

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.

Generic reasons

There are two fundamental reasons why applications for Commonwealth Scholarships or Fellowships tend to be unsuccessful:
  • 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:

Academic merit

  • 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 countries)

  • 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.
Study/research plan

  • 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 insufficient.
Additional information


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 their advantage.

Taken from http://cscuk.dfid.gov.uk/apply/feedback/

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