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The Rhodes Scholarship, named after Cecil John Rhodes, is an international postgraduate award for selected foreign students to study at the University of Oxford. Established in 1902, it was the first large-scale programme of international scholarships, and is widely considered the "world's most prestigious scholarship" by many public sources such as Time, Yale University Press, The McGill Reporter, and Associated Press.
Rhodes Scholars may study any full-time postgraduate course offered by the university, whether a taught master's programme, a research degree, or a second undergraduate degree (senior status). In the first instance, the scholarship is awarded for two years. However, it may also be held for one year or three years. Applications for a third year are considered during the course of the second year.
University and college fees are paid by the Rhodes Trust. In addition, scholars receive a monthly maintenance stipend to cover accommodation and living expenses. Although all scholars become affiliated with a residential college while at Oxford, they also enjoy access to Rhodes House, an early 20th-century mansion with numerous public rooms, gardens, a library, study areas, and other facilities.
"For more than a century, Rhodes scholars have left Oxford with virtually any job available to them. For much of this time, they have overwhelmingly chosen paths in scholarship, teaching, writing, medicine, scientific research, law, the military, and public service. They have reached the highest levels in virtually all fields."
Known as an old and prestigious international graduate scholarship, the Rhodes Scholarships are administered and awarded by the Rhodes Trust, which was established in 1902 under the terms and conditions of the will of Cecil John Rhodes, and funded by his estate under the administration of Nathan Rothschild. Scholarships have been awarded to applicants annually since 1902 on the basis of academic achievement and strength of character. Rhodes, who attended the University of Oxford (as a member of Oriel College), chose his alma mater as the site of his great experiment because he believed its residential colleges provided the ideal environment for intellectual contemplation and personal development.
There have been more than 7,000 Rhodes Scholars since the inception of the trust. More than 4,000 are still living. The Rhodes Trust provides the Rhodes Scholarships in partnership with the Second Century Founder, John McCall MacBain, and other generous benefactors.
In 1925, the Commonwealth Fund Fellowships (later renamed the Harkness Fellowships) were established to reciprocate the Rhodes Scholarships by enabling British graduates to study in the United States. The Kennedy Scholarship programme, created in 1966 as a memorial to John F. Kennedy, adopts a comparable selection process to the Rhodes Scholarships to allow 10 British post-graduate students per year to study at either Harvard or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 in the United Kingdom did not affect wills, but another Act of Parliament changed the Rhodes' will to extend selection criteria to include women. In 1977, the first year women were eligible, 24 women (out of 72 total scholars) were selected worldwide, with 13 women and 19 men selected from the United States. The average female share of the scholarship in the United States had been around 35 percent but has since increased. From 2003 to 2012, 46 percent of scholarship winners from the United States were women.
For at least its first 75 years, Rhodes Scholars usually studied for a second Bachelor of Arts degree. While that remains an option, more recent scholars usually study for an advanced degree.
Rhodes' legacy specified four standards by which applicants were to be judged:
This legacy originally provided for scholarships for the British colonies, the United States, and Germany. These three were chosen because it was thought that " ... a good understanding between England, Germany and the United States of America will secure the peace of the world ... "
Rhodes' bequest was whittled down considerably in the first decades after his death, as various scholarship trustees were forced to pay taxes upon their own deaths. A change occurred in 1929, when an Act of Parliament established a fund separate from the original proceeds of Rhodes' will and made it possible to expand the number of scholarships. Between 1993 and 1995, scholarships were extended to other countries in the European Community.
Four South African boys' schools were mentioned in Rhodes' will, each to receive an annual scholarship: the Boys High School, in Stellenbosch (today known as Paul Roos Gymnasium); the Diocesan College (Bishops) in Rondebosch; the South African College Schools (SACS) in Newlands; and St Andrew's College in Grahamstown.
During the ensuing 100 years, the trustees added at one time or another approximately another 40 scholarships, though not all have continued. Some of these extended the scheme to Commonwealth countries not mentioned in the will. A more detailed allocation by region by year can be found at Rhodes Scholarship Allocations. Very brief summaries of some of the terms and conditions can be found on the trust's website. Complete details can be obtained from the nominating countries.
Currently, scholars are selected from citizens of 14 specified geographic constituencies, namely: Australia; Bermuda; Canada; Germany; Hong Kong; India; Jamaica & Commonwealth Caribbean; Kenya; New Zealand; Pakistan; Southern Africa (South Africa and neighbours Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and Swaziland); United States; Zambia; and Zimbabwe.
From 2006, 11 scholarships were suspended for a period of five years.[why?] The scholarships for Hong Kong were abolished in July 1997 following its withdrawal from the Commonwealth (due to the transfer of sovereignty from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China), although a Commonwealth country, Sri Lanka, has not been granted scholarships since 1974 even though scholarships were granted when that country was called Ceylon. However, with the benefaction from the Lee Hysan Foundation (described by the Rhodes Trust as "substantial and generous"), the Rhodes Scholarships for Hong Kong were reintroduced in late 2006.
Many Rhodes Scholars have gone on to have prominent careers in business, politics, sport and academia. Several Scholars subsequently became heads of government or heads of state, including Bob Hawke, Wasim Sajjad, Bill Clinton, Dominic Mintoff, John Turner and Tony Abbott.
In recognition of the centenary of the foundation of the Rhodes Trust in 2003, four former Rhodes Scholarship recipients were awarded honorary degrees by the University of Oxford. Note that these people already held regular higher degrees.