Rhodes Scholarship

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Rhodes House , Oxford . Seat of the Rhodes Trust

The Rhodes Scholarship (English: Rhodes Scholarship ) is a scholarship for studying at Oxford University in Great Britain and is widely believed to be one of the most prestigious scholarships in the world to this day. It goes back to the British entrepreneur and politician Cecil John Rhodes (1853-1902), who laid the foundations for a foundation (English Rhodes Trust ) in his will . This has awarded and financed the scholarships since 1902.

The scholarship holders (English Rhodes Scholars ) come from defined regions ( constituencies ), for each of which a certain number of scholarship places is provided (see below). Traditionally, these essentially include the Commonwealth of Nations (but excluding Great Britain itself), the USA and Germany . As a result of reforms between 2010 and 2020, scholarships for some countries in the Middle East and the People's Republic of China have now been introduced, and a limited number of scholarships that do not require a specific nationality have also been created in the form of so-called global scholarships .

Scope of the grant

The regular duration of the scholarship is two years. During this time, scholarship holders can pursue any postgraduate course (mostly doctorate or master’s ) at Oxford. A second bachelor's degree is also possible; In these cases, the university generally grants candidates with a previous degree in another subject a shortening of the study period from three to two years. However, a first bachelor's degree is not possible, as Rhodes Scholars must already have completed an undergraduate degree in order to be able to apply for the scholarship. Since a doctorate in England can almost never be completed within two years, PhD Rhodes Scholars are usually granted an extension of the scholarship to a third year, in individual cases even longer.

The financial benefits to the fellows include not only the complete takeover of the study and college fees a fixed amount to cover the cost of living, which is currently (as of academic year 2019/20) 1,325 pounds a month weight; payment is made monthly. In addition, there are smaller benefits such as private supplementary health insurance, flight tickets for travel to and from Oxford, and free participation in occasional events such as lectures, dinners or receptions held by the Rhodes Trust . Scholarship holders are also free to use the facilities in Rhodes House , the seat of the Rhodes Trust .

Application process and selection

The selection of the scholars is decentralized. For this purpose, the countries in question are divided into areas (English constituencies ), for each of which there is a national selection committee appointed by the Rhodes Trust, but working independently. For example, Germany has its own constituency with a selection committee. States that provide a large number of Rhodes Scholars (especially the USA with currently 32 scholarships) are often divided into several constituencies . In addition, for historical reasons there are special features that Cecil Rhodes himself provided for in his will; In South Africa, for example, individual schools sometimes form their own constituency .

The selection process is carried out by the national committees, which report the successful candidates to the Rhodes Trust in Oxford after the process has been completed . The German committee carries out a two-stage process in which a pre-selection is first made based on the submitted documents and these shortlisted applicants are then invited to a personal selection interview, on the basis of which the grant decision is finally made.

The criteria on the basis of which the scholarship holders are to be selected were specified by Cecil Rhodes himself and include formalities such as the nationality of a country in question and an existing undergraduate degree as well as personal characteristics of the applicants. The latter are currently formulated by the trust itself as follows:

  • literary and scholastic attainments (German: "literary and scholastic achievements")
  • energy to use one's talents to the full (German: "the energy to use one's talents fully")
  • truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship (German: "Truth, courage, fulfillment of duty, compassion for and protection of the weak, friendliness, selflessness and sociability")
  • moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in one's fellow beings (German: "moral strength of character and leadership skills, and an interest in one's fellow creatures")

However, the practical interpretation and application of the criteria, which now seem a bit outdated, varies. So the second criterion was understood in the past and is still partly understood - especially in the USA - in the direction of sporting and athletic successes, which are to be added to academic merits in the form of outstanding grades - a formulation that is now considered outdated outlined this as fondness of and success in manly outdoor sports . However, especially recently, many committees have given less emphasis to this component.



Cecil John Rhodes was a Briton who was born in England but who emigrated to South Africa at a young age, and who had made a fortune there as the founder of the diamond company De Beers, which still exists today . He was also politically active, serving as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896 . In this role he also worked towards the acquisition of the areas named after him of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe ) and Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia ) for the British Empire . His imperialist ideals were also reflected in his will, with which he initiated the scholarships. The aim was to bring talented young people from the colonies to Oxford to study, so that they could acquire a pro-British attitude there and take them with them when they returned home. Rhodes died in 1902, and the first class of scholarship holders arrived in Oxford in 1903.

The original distribution of the scholarships to the countries in question is based on Cecil Rhodes' will, which caused a sensation when it was published due to its prominence at the time and in which he left detailed regulations on the scholarships. Originally, it envisaged a total of 52 scholarships, which were spread over the USA (already at that time the largest constituency with 32 scholarships annually ) and the following dominions and colonies of the British Empire : Canada ; Australia ; South Africa ; Rhodesia ; New Zealand ; Newfoundland ; Bermuda ; Jamaica . The idea of ​​promoting the cohesion of the Empire was hotly debated in the press, as initially John Astley Cooper wanted to hold the Pan-British Olympic Games with students from precisely these countries. This should also be linked to Empire exhibitions and studies in Oxford and / or Cambridge. In a codicil , Rhodes modified his will to the effect that scholarships were also set up for Germany .

In the case of the former British colonies and the USA, Rhodes' motivation to provide these countries with scholarships was based on the fact that Rhodes aimed for greater cohesion in the British Empire and the English-speaking countries as a whole. Germany was included in a codicil when Rhodes learned that English language instruction had been introduced as a compulsory subject in German schools . Since Cecil Rhodes attributed this reform, which he welcomed very much, to the then German Kaiser Wilhelm II , the curiosity arose that instead of a national selection committee, he personally entrusted the Kaiser with the selection of the German scholarship holders - a task that the latter accepted with thanks and delegated to his personal friend Friedrich Schmidt-Ott from the Prussian Ministry of Culture . With the suspension of the German pre-war scholarships in 1914, this special feature was of course no longer necessary.

Original scholarship distribution (1902)
country Number of scholarships
Canada 2
Australia 6th
South Africa 5
Rhodesia 3
New Zealand 1
Newfoundland 1
Bermuda 1
Jamaica 1
United States 32
Germany 5

Later development

Over time, the distribution was adapted to the changed political conditions, in particular the process of decolonization in the former British Empire after the Second World War. Nevertheless, the principle remained for a long time that only students from the so-called constituencies (areas to which scholarships were allocated), the USA, British colonies and, after their independence, the now independent states and Germany were eligible for a Rhodes scholarship . From 1992 scholarship holders from Europe were also admitted; this possibility was abolished in 1996.

A major change came in 1977, making the grants accessible to female students. For this purpose, since Rhodes had only provided scholarships for men, the trustees had to politically request that the will be amended by British law.

The German scholarships, although enshrined in the will itself, were suspended in 1914 when Germany and Great Britain faced each other as enemies in World War I. this suspension lasted until 1929. In 1939 there was a renewed suspension which lasted until 1969. Since 1970 Rhodes Scholars from Germany have been sent to Oxford every year, currently two a year.

The largest geographic expansion of the Rhodes scholarship to date took place in the 21st century, when scholarships for the People's Republic of China (2015; excluding Hong Kong , which was already given its own scholarships due to its former status as a British colony), the United Arab Emirates (2016 ), Israel (2016), Saudi Arabia (2018) and Syria , Jordan , Lebanon and Palestine (2019). This results in the following distribution:

Distribution of scholarships today (as of 2020)
country Number of scholarships
Australia 9
Bermuda 1
Canada 11
People's Republic of China (excluding Hong Kong ) 4th
East Africa 1
Germany 2
Hong Kong 1
India 5
Israel 2
Commonwealth of the Caribbean 2
Kenya 2
Malaysia 1
New Zealand 3
Pakistan 1
Saudi Arabia "up to 2"
Singapore 1
Southern Africa 10
Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine 2
United States 32
Western Africa 1
Zambia 2
Zimbabwe 2

There are also two so-called global scholarships for applicants who do not come from any of the constituencies mentioned .


The scholarship enjoys an excellent reputation in many countries, which is not least due to the large number of prominent alumni who were Rhodes scholarship holders (see below). This applies in particular to the USA, which currently provides 32 scholars a year. The rather unusual selection criteria described above, which also, but not exclusively, have academic skills in mind and go back to Cecil Rhodes' rejection of pure “bookworms”, have contributed to this prestige. Time magazine formulated this thought as follows:

The annual award amounting to $ 15,000 is generous, but what has brought fame to the scholarship and endowed its holders with distinctive luster are its unusual criteria for selection. Rhodes disdained candidates who were "merely bookworms"; he demanded that the winners have the character to fight "the world's fight." Despite numerous modifications of his imperious vision, the basic criterion remains the same today. Says David Alexander, secretary of the Rhodes program in the US: "The Rhodes competition is a talent hunt for an elite that will lead."

Similar to the New York Times :

At 100 years old, the Rhodes is the granddaddy of all fellowships, both the most prestigious and the most arduous.

Financing and organization

The fundamentals for the funds managed by the Rhodes Trust come from the private wealth of Cecil Rhodes, who had made his fortune as an entrepreneur, especially in the South African diamond trade (founding of the De Beers conglomerate). To this day, the grants are mainly financed from the income from the investment of this capital stock (English endowment ). Donations from alumni are increasingly being used to supplement funding. In 2019 the Rhodes Trust's net worth was £ 376 million.

Legally, Rhodes' Foundation is organized as a trust under English law with its seat in Rhodes House in Oxford. The administration is the responsibility of a full-time Warden of Rhodes House (since 2018 the philosopher Elizabeth Kiss) with staff under the supervision of a Board of Trustees . Prominent personalities repeatedly acted as trustees , such as Rudyard Kipling , Stanley Baldwin , the Earl of Rosebery and Alfred Milner , with whom Rhodes was also personally friends in many cases. The current chairman of the Board of Trustees has been Oxford Medicine Professor John Bell since 2019.

Well-known Rhodes Fellows

Traditionally , as far as scholarships are concerned, Rhodes Scholars are identified by first naming their constituency in brackets , then the Oxford College they studied at, and finally the year for which they were selected as the scholarship holder were. This so-called Rhodes Scholar identifier is also retained in the following list:


  • Register of Rhodes scholars 1903-1995 . Rhodes Trust, Oxford 1996, ISBN 0-9527695-0-6 .
  • Philip Ziegler, Legacy: Cecil Rhodes, The Rhodes Trust and Rhodes Scholarships . Yale University Press 2008.
  • Thomas J. Schaeper / Kathleen Schaeper, Rhodes Scholars, Oxford, and the Creation of an American Elite . Berghahn Books 2010.

Web links

References and comments

  1. Time: https://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,949697,00.html (accessed on September 16, 2011)
  2. Spiegel Online: http://www.spiegel.de/unispiegel/studium/0,1518,409917,00.html (accessed on September 17, 2011)
  3. ^ Sunday Times: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1146450.ece (Retrieved September 17, 2011)
  4. ^ Philip Ziegler, Legacy: Cecil Rhodes, The Rhodes Trust and Rhodes Scholarships. Yale University Press 2006 http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300118353
  5. McGill Reporter http://www.mcgill.ca/reporter/34/07/rhodes/
  6. ^ Rhodes Trust website: Rhodes Trust , accessed January 7, 2018.
  7. https://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/scholarships/the-rhodes-scholarship/
  8. https://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/scholarships/list-of-rhodes-scholarship-constituencies/
  9. https://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/media/43519/information-for-candidates-germany.pdf
  10. https://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/media/43793/usaendorsementguidance-2019.pdf
  11. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1146450.ece (Accessed September 17, 2011)
  12. Arnd Krüger (1986): Was John Astley Cooper the inventor of the modern Olympic Games? In: Louis Burgener u. a. (Ed.): Sport und Kultur , Vol. 6. Bern: Lang, 72 - 81.
  13. http://ia600308.us.archive.org/23/items/lastwilltestamen00rhodiala/lastwilltestamen00rhodiala.pdf (Testament of Cecil Rhodes, accessed on September 12, 2011)
  14. http://ia600308.us.archive.org/23/items/lastwilltestamen00rhodiala/lastwilltestamen00rhodiala.pdf (Testament of Cecil Rhodes, accessed on September 16, 2011; there p. 36)
  15. ^ Philip Ziegler, Legacy: Cecil Rhodes, the Rhodes Trust and Rhodes Scholarships . New Haven / London: Yale University Press 2008, p. 47
  16. Not including Newfoundland, which only became part of Canada after the Second World War.
  17. ^ Philip Ziegler, Legacy: Cecil Rhodes, the Rhodes Trust and Rhodes Scholarships . New Haven / London: Yale University Press 2008, pp. 300-304
  18. This lobbying resulted in p. 78 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 ( http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1975/65/pdfs/ukpga_19750065_en.pdf , accessed September 17, 2011)
  19. "Quarantine lifted". Der Spiegel, April 7, 1969. Available at https://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-45861248.html
  20. https://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/scholarships/list-of-rhodes-scholarship-constituencies/
  21. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/31/world/asia/rhodes-scholarships-expanding-to-include-chinese-students.html
  22. https://gulfnews.com/uae/education/uae-rhodes-scholarship-programme-gets-permanent-funding-1.1943021
  23. https://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Israelis-to-be-awarded-2017-Rhodes-Scholarships-for-the-first-time-484866
  24. https://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/news-events/latest-news/news/2018/april/launch-of-rhodes-scholarship-for-saudi-arabia-in-partnership-with-muhammad -alagil /
  25. https://news.yale.edu/2019/11/14/senior-first-yale-student-syria-win-rhodes-scholarship
  26. https://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/scholarships/list-of-rhodes-scholarship-constituencies/
  27. https://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/scholarships/apply/global
  28. https://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,949697,00.html (accessed on September 16, 2011)
  29. https://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/12/education/how-to-win-a-rhodes.html
  30. https://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/media/44384/rhodes-trust-consolidated-financial-statements-ye-19-signed.pdf
  31. https://www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk/news-events/latest-news/news/2019/june/the-rhodes-trust-announces-sir-john-bell-as-new-chair-of -the-rhodes-trustees /