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General News of Tuesday, 22 June 2010

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Commonwealth Secretariat scholarships

From Nana Sifa Twum, London

The Commonwealth Secretariat is introducing 30 additional scholarships to boost the chances of student from developing countries within the commonwealth including Ghana to study in the United Kingdom the coming academic year.

This means more Commonwealth Scholars will be admitted to study in the UK this year, than before a situation that has made it possible by the direct contributions of UK universities.

According to figures published this week in London by the Secretariat, to coincide with the Universities Week campaign, the scholarships have been made possible by a new arrangement between the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC) and the UK higher education sector.

Virtually all UK universities have agreed to provide joint scholarships, worth at least 20% of the tuition fee, to Commonwealth Scholars from developing countries. This extra revenue has enabled the CSC to bring 30 more Commonwealth Scholars to the UK this year. Many of the additional Scholars will be junior academic staff in developing country universities, whose studies in the UK will help develop capacity in their home institutions.

Currently there are 63 official students on various Ghanaian scholarship programmes and there are thousands more who are self-sponsored. They are the worst hit. Some of them claim they had to receive remittances from relatives in Ghana to enable them meet their financial obligations.

It is estimated that there are about 30 students on Commonwealth scholarships as 10 are awarded every year. Those in this category are much better off.

The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the United Kingdom (CSC) is responsible for managing Britain’s contribution to the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP), and supports around 700 awards annually. It is funded by the Department for International Development, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and the Scottish Government in conjunction with UK universities.

I an interview the Chairman of the CSC, Professor Tim Unwin, noted that it is great to see UK universities playing such an active role in the training of their colleagues in low and middle income countries.’

He was of the view that such visible support from UK universities, particularly in a period of financial restraint would go a long way in assisting many scholars in the developing world to further their education which is vital to the development of such countries.

Professor Unwin noted that as the UK government’s only substantial scholarship programme that focuses on international development objectives, this assistance from the universities.

Speaking on behalf of Universities UK, which endorsed the joint funding agreement, Chief Executive Nicola Dandridge said that the arrangement reflected both UK universities’ desire to help the developing world and their recognition of the outstanding quality of Commonwealth Scholars.

‘It is essential that the UK continues to attract the very best international talent, at both Master’s and doctoral level,’ she said. ‘Commonwealth Scholarships have a critical role to play in this respect, and I am delighted that individual universities have taken such a positive approach. ‘He observed.

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