Rhodes Scholarship Program To expand
LONDON — The Rhodes Trust announced on Wednesday the largest expansion of the Rhodes scholarship program in its 113-year history. The trust will open the program, which finances graduate study at the University of Oxford, to students from Ghana, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, the Palestinian territories, Syria and the United Arab Emirates.
“Our goal is to be completely a global scholarship,” Charles Conn, the warden of Rhodes House and the chief executive of the Rhodes Trust, said in a telephone interview. “There’s never been an increase like this before.” The number of scholarships awarded each year will rise to 95 from 83, an increase that includes four new scholarships for Chinese students, announced last year. The number of Rhodes scholars studying at Oxford at any time will rise to about 250, from around 220.
The announcement comes amid international, mostly negative, scrutiny of Cecil Rhodes, the 19th-century British diamond-mining magnate and imperialist who helped establish white minority rule in South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). He endowed the scholarships in his will.
Last year, a movement at the University of Cape Town under the slogan “Rhodes Must Fall” galvanized protests across South Africa, drawing attention to persistent racial inequalities in the country’s higher education system more than two decades after the end of apartheid.
At Oxford, a South African Rhodes scholar led a movement to have a statue of Rhodes removed from Oriel College, Rhodes’s alma mater. Oriel, one of Oxford’s 38 largely self-governing colleges, said in January that the statue would remain but promised to “provide a clear historical context to explain why it is there.”
Asked if the announcement on Wednesday was timed to address those controversies, Mr. Conn said, “Not at all.”
“The trust wasn’t set up to be the guardian of Cecil Rhodes’s political legacy, but to identify really talented people to fight the world’s fights,” he said, noting that Rhodes scholarship alumni included the Jamaican statesman Norman W. Manley; the South African anti-apartheid activist Bram Fischer; Lucy Banda Sichone, a Zambian educator and human rights advocate; and many others who have fought colonialism and racism.
“We’re about Rhodes scholarship,” Mr. Conn said. “We’re not about this historical character — any more than the Nobel Prizes are about Alfred Nobel, who was an arms manufacturer.”
Intro of the Rhodes Scholarship Program
When the scholarships were introduced, there were 57 each year: 32 for the United States, 20 for various parts of what was then the British Empire (and later the Commonwealth), and five for Germany. (There have been Rhodes scholars from Ghana, Malaysia and Nigeria in the past, but those Rhodes scholarships were stopped because of political interference or economic problems.
The Rhodes scholarships — each is worth about 55,000 pounds, or around $79,000, a year — are good for two to four years and cover tuition, fees and a stipend. The scholars study for master’s and doctoral degrees, although a few scholars, notably Bill Clinton, did not finish their degrees.
Also on Wednesday, the Rhodes Trust announced a partnership worth £75 million, or about $108 million, with the Atlantic Philanthropies, a time-limited foundation established by Charles F. Feeney, who made his billions in duty-free stores and has vowed to give away nearly all his money.
The foundation will pay for an Atlantic Institute at Rhodes scholarship House to convene scholars, activists, writers, government officials and others — in areas like neuroscience, public health and global inequality — to share knowledge, and will create a new award, the Rhodes Fellowships, to support midcareer professionals working on topics of public concern.
By/Follow Sewell Chan on Twitter @sewellchan.