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Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships are for candidates from least developed, low, and lower middle income Commonwealth countries, for part-time Master’s study by distance learning on selected courses offered 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 in key development areas.
Intended beneficiaries: High-quality postgraduate students who wish to access training not available in their home countries, who wish or need to remain in their home country while they study, and who have the potential to enhance the development of their home countries with the knowledge and leadership skills they acquire.
University applications
Development themes and impact
Type and duration of study
Financial commitment and branding of awards
Disability support
Selection criteria
Recruitment and selection of candidates
Eligibility of candidates
Eligible Commonwealth countries
Any questions?
University applications
UK universities are invited to apply for up to 15 Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships to be offered in 2018-2019. Applications must be submitted via the CSC’s Electronic Application System (EAS) by 23:59 (GMT) on 21 December 2018.
The CSC is not always able to offer the maximum number of scholarships for which a university applies, and reserves the right to limit the number of scholarships for programmes that are new to the scheme. It is normal practice for the CSC to offer a maximum of five awards to universities that are new to the scheme or have not participated in the scheme in the last three years.
These scholarships support distance learning Master’s degree courses offered in partnership with local providers in eligible countries, as well as courses delivered directly by UK universities. Universities may submit an application for a single course, or for a cluster programme containing multiple courses, as long as these courses are within the same department or share similar objectives.
Development themes and impact
Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships enable talented and motivated individuals to gain the knowledge and skills required for sustainable development, and are aimed at those unable to study in the UK for financial and other reasons. 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.
Subjects of study must be developmental in nature, and must be aligned with one of these six themes.
As part of its application, the university will be asked to provide a statement explaining the direct relevance of the course to one of the above themes, including a brief outline of how the course will benefit individuals and their home countries. 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 application that does not include a development statement will be deemed ineligible.
The CSC does not fund MBA programmes.
Type and duration of study
Awards are for full-time or part-time study of a taught course at postgraduate level by distance learning. These scholarships do not support research degrees or undergraduate study.
Funding is available for five academic years from the start of an approved programme. Awards cannot be extended or renewed.
Financial commitment and branding of awards
Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships are financed by the CSC for a maximum of five years.
All applications must adhere to the CSC’s overall funding cap of £18,000 per scholarship. This figure must cover all elements of the award, including:
Course tuition fees
Grant to contribute to study-related costs
Partnership development costs
Any UK residential programme(s)
Where a university intends to run a UK residential programme as part of the course, the university is expected to provide at least the following level of support:
Return travel from the Scholar’s home country to the UK location
Cost of UK visa
Maintenance stipend of £1,065 per month (£1,306 for Scholars in London), to be paid for the full duration of the UK residential. These amounts are set by the UK government for all students on government-funded scholarships, and increase annually.
Any contribution towards costs over the CSC’s £18,000 cap must come from the university’s own funds or from an organisation whose missions and aims are in line with those of the CSC. The source of this additional funding must be clearly identified in the application.
Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholars must not be asked to contribute to any compulsory costs except in the instance of resits or retakes. Any application requiring a Distance Learning Scholar to fund or partially fund their studies will be deemed ineligible.
All promotional and award material must recognise that Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships are awarded by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK (CSC).
Disability support
The university is responsible for managing the welfare of Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholars while they are on award, including 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.
Selection criteria
Applications will be considered according to the following selection criteria:
Quality of the course, the quality assurance record, and the track record for delivery of the course through distance learning. Applications are strengthened by copies of any independent/external reports of the programme undertaken in recent years.
Learning opportunities provided for students in developing countries, including whether the course takes into account appropriate use of technology, whether course providers can identify a target audience of potential applicants and recruit them successfully, and the factors likely to affect candidates’ successful completion of their studies.
Development impact of the course of study, including how the course content can be applied to the specified theme, DFID priority areas, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the subsequent career patterns of course alumni.
If the university is working with a partner, the partner must be based in an eligible Commonwealth country.
Recruitment and selection of candidates
The CSC selection committee will consider university applications in January. Successful universities will be notified which courses and how many awards have been approved by the CSC. The CSC will issue a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to institutions that will confirm the terms and conditions of the award(s), as well as the responsibilities of the CSC and the university.
Universities must then conduct their own recruitment process to nominate a specified number of candidates to the CSC. The university will be established as a nominator on the CSC’s Electronic Application System (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 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 Distance Learning Scholarships are expected to open at the end of March 2018, with a final closing date for applications at the end of June 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 within four weeks of the CSC’s final closing date for applications. The CSC selection committee will select Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholars from the shortlists of nominated candidates in July.
Eligibility of candidates
The university is responsible for ensuring its candidates meet the CSC’s eligibility criteria.
To apply for a Commonwealth Distance Learning 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. A lower qualification and sufficient relevant experience may be considered in certain cases
Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarships may not be held concurrently for more than one course.
If selected for a scholarship, candidates must be and remain resident in an eligible Commonwealth country and must not undertake study towards any other qualification for the duration of their award.
When submitting their application to the CSC, all candidates must provide at least one reference and hold an offer to start their chosen course of study in the 2018-2019 academic year. These award conditions are current as of November 2018and are subject to change.
Eligible Commonwealth countries
The Gambia
Papua New Guinea
Sierra Leone
Solomon Islands
Sri Lanka

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