A Guide to Commonwealth PhD Scholarships | FindAPhD.com

A Guide to Commonwealth PhD Scholarships

Written by Taru Medha

The Commonwealth PhD Scholarships offer funding to talented doctoral students from Commonwealth nations for either a full-time PhD or 12 months of research at a UK university, depending on the kind of scholarship scheme.

This guide explains how the different Commonwealth Scholarship schemes work, what benefits they offer and how you can apply for funding.

What are the Commonwealth PhD scholarships?

The Commonwealth PhD Scholarship programme is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). They are aimed at students from Commonwealth countries at various stages of development.

There are three main Commonwealth PhD Scholarship schemes. Which one you apply for depends on where you are from and where you wish to study your PhD.

  • Commonwealth PhD Scholarships for least developed countries and fragile states: These scholarships are for students from economically underdeveloped or politically fragile Commonwealth countries to study a full-time PhD at a UK university. Eligible countries for this scholarship are classified by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC).
  • Commonwealth PhD Scholarships for high income countries: These scholarships are for citizens of wealthier Commonwealth countries to benefit from full-time PhD study in the UK. You can see the full list of eligible countries on the Commonwealth Scholarships website.
  • Commonwealth Split-site PhD Scholarships: These scholarships are for citizens of some specific low-and-middle-income Commonwealth nations to spend 12 months of their research at a UK university. The funding only covers expenses for the time you’ll be in the UK, but it is a good opportunity to access specific equipment and expertise for your research.

Your doctoral research will need to be covered by one of the following six development themes, as specified by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC):

  • Access, inclusion and opportunity
  • Promoting global prosperity
  • Science and technology for development
  • Strengthening global peace, security and governance
  • Strengthening health systems and capacity
  • Strengthening resilience and response to crises

Who is eligible for Commonwealth PhD scholarships?

The eligibility criteria for all three scholarships schemes are largely the same. Depending on your nationality, you’ll only be eligible for one of the three schemes. Once you’re sure which scholarship scheme applies to you, you’ll need to satisfy these criteria to apply:

  • Be a citizen (or have been granted refugee status) by an eligible Commonwealth country.
  • Be a permanent resident in an eligible Commonwealth country
  • Have a 2.1 undergraduate degree or a 2.2 undergraduate degree with a postgraduate degree (like a Masters)
  • Be able to demonstrate your financial situation and that you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford PhD study in the UK.

If you’re applying for a Split-site Scholarship, make sure your university in your home country has a connection with the UK university you want to complete a placement at.

How much are the Commonwealth PhD Scholarships?

The financial assistance given by all three PhD Scholarship schemes is the same. However, you need to remember that if you’re applying for the Split-site Scholarship, only the time you spend in the UK will be covered.

The main financial benefits you’ll get are:

  • Full tuition fee waiver
  • Air fare to and from your home country
  • Monthly living stipend worth £1,347 (£1,652 if your university is in London)
  • Study-related travel expenses

There is also a family allowance available if you’ll be accompanied by dependants.

  • If you’re accompanied by a spouse, you’ll get a spouse allowance of £290 per month for a maximum of nine months.
  • If you’re accompanied by a spouse and child, you’ll still get the spouse allowance and an additional £290 per month for the first child, as well as £143 per month for the second and third children, provided they are under the age of 16.
  • If you’re accompanied by children but no spouse, you’ll receive a child allowance of £576.61 per month for the first child and an additional £143 per month for the second and third children provided they are under the age of 16.

How can you apply for a Commonwealth PhD Scholarship?

All applicants need to apply directly to the CSC using their online application portal. However, depending on the scholarship scheme you’re applying, there might be a few other steps in the application process.

Applicants from the least developed and fragile commonwealth states must also apply to a nominating agency which include national nominating agencies, selected universities or selected non-governmental and charitable organisations. These agencies put forward candidates to the CSC for consideration and usually have their own selection process.

Split-site Scholarship applicants can only apply to a UK university that has a part funding arrangement with the CSC. You can see the full list of the eligible universities on the Commonwealth Scholarships website.

To complete your application, you will also need to submit these supporting documents:

  • Proof that you are a citizen of an eligible Commonwealth country (like a National ID)
  • Full transcripts from your previous degree(s)
  • Two references

Once you’ve applied, the CSC will assess you on three main criteria. Your academic merit, the quality of your research proposal and the impact of your research on your home country.

Applications for the Commonwealth PhD Scholarship for least developed countries and fragile states for the 2024/25 academic year are open until 17 October 2023. Applications for the other schemes are yet to open for the next academic year.

Find out more about doing a PhD in the UK

Read our detailed guide to PhD study in the UK, with advice on applications, funding and more.

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Last Updated: 19 September 2023