The Gates Cambridge Scholarship programme was established in October 2000 by a donation of US$210m from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the University of Cambridge; this is the largest ever single donation to a UK university. The first class of scholars came into residence in October 2001. Since then, the Trust has awarded over 2,000 scholarships to scholars from more than 100 countries.
Each year Gates Cambridge offers c.80 full-cost scholarships to outstanding applicants from countries outside the UK to pursue a postgraduate degree in any subject available at the University of Cambridge. Approximately two-thirds of these awards will be offered to PhD students, with approximately 25 awards available in the US round and 55 available in the International round.
The selection criteria are:
- outstanding intellectual ability
- reasons for choice of course
- a commitment to improving the lives of others
- leadership potential
There are at approximately 250 Scholars from c. 50 countries studying in Cambridge at any one time who pursue the full range of subjects available at the University and are spread across its departments and Colleges, as well as forming their own distinctive community.
There is also a community of more than 1,700 Gates Cambridge Alumni spread across the world.
The Gates Cambridge mission is to build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others. It aims to achieve this mission by selecting outstanding scholars, providing them with financial and non-financial support at one of the world’s leading universities and facilitating community building at and beyond Cambridge.
A Gates Cambridge Scholarship covers the full cost of studying at Cambridge. It also provides additional, discretionary funding.
- the University Composition Fee at the appropriate rate*
- a maintenance allowance for a single student (£18,744 for 12 months at the 2022-23 rate; pro rata for courses shorter than 12 months) – for PhD scholars the award is for up to 4 years
- one economy single airfare at both the beginning and end of the course
- inbound visa costs & the cost of the Immigration Health Surcharge
* The University Composition Fee varies for different types of students; applicants should see the Graduate Studies prospectus for full details about precise amounts. Where a student has been successful in gaining a fees award from public authorities (such as the UKRI) they must accept this and the Trust will not pay these fees.
The Trust also considers applications for several types of additional funding on a discretionary basis:
- Academic development funding – from up to £500 to up to £2,000, dependent on the length of your course, to attend conferences and courses.
- Family allowance – up to £10,944 for one child and up to £15,612 for two or more children (2022-23 rate). No funding is provided for a partner.
- Fieldwork – you may apply to keep up to your normal maintenance allowance while on fieldwork as part of your PhD (the Trust does not fund other fieldwork costs as these should be funded by the University Composition Fee).
- Maternity/Paternity funding – should you require it, you may apply to intermit your studies for up to 6 months and continue to receive your maintenance allowance during this time
- Hardship funding – for unforeseen difficulties facing the scholar
Receiving a salary or substantial other scholarship?
If you are receiving a salary from an employer or have another substantial scholarship, the Trust reserves the right to reduce or not pay the standard maintenance allowance. You should let the Trust know ASAP if you are awarded any funding towards your degree at Cambridge.
What is not covered?
Most costs are covered by the Scholarship but Gates Cambridge does not cover bench fees or the costs of scientific equipment or similar academic resources. The Trust expects such core course costs to be covered by the academic department at Cambridge.
Who can apply?
You can apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship if you are:
- a citizen of any country outside the United Kingdom
- applying to pursue one of the following courses at the University of Cambridge:
- PhD (full-time or part-time*)
- MLitt (full-time)
- One year postgraduate course (full-time), with some exceptions – see below
* For October 2023 entry, Gates Cambridge is piloting a scheme which allows applicants to apply for funding for a part-time doctoral degree.
Current student at Cambridge?
If you are currently studying at Cambridge and wish to apply for a new postgraduate course you can apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. For example, if you are currently studying for an MPhil you can apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to pursue a PhD. Current Gates Cambridge Scholars may also apply for a second scholarship if they are applying for a new degree. All current Cambridge students will be considered the second, international round. However, if you have already started a course (e.g. you are currently part way through a PhD) you cannot apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to fund the remainder of it.
General funding at Cambridge
Whether or not you are eligible for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship you may be eligible for other funding offered by the University of Cambridge. See www.student-funding.cam.ac.uk for more details.
Courses which Gates Cambridge does NOT consider:
- Any Undergraduate degree, such as BA (undergraduate) or BA affiliated (a second BA)
- Business Doctorate (BusD)
- Master of Business (MBA)
- Master of Finance (MFin)
- MASt courses
- MBBChir Clinical Studies
- MD Doctor of Medicine degree (6 years, part-time, Home students only)
- Graduate Course in Medicine (A101)
- Part-time degrees other than the PhD
- Non-degree courses
How To Apply?
A combined application form
Applicants submit their application for admission and funding (Gates Cambridge and other funding) via the University’s Graduate Application Portal.
To be considered for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship you must complete the section to apply for admission to a course and a College place and the Gates Cambridge part of the funding section. Gates Cambridge has access to the full application for admission and funding when reviewing applications.
The admission section
In this section you are applying to a specific graduate course and a College place. You will provide all of the usual details about yourself, your academic background, plans and suitability for the proposed course.
The funding section
In this section you can apply for a range of funding offered by the University and associated bodies, including the Gates Cambridge Scholarships, which has it’s own sub-section. When applying for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship you will be asked to provide the following:
Gates Cambridge statement
In the application form we ask:
In no more than 3000 characters (approximately 500 words) please explain why you are applying for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship and how you meet the four main criteria. Full details about how to apply, including selection criteria and guidance on completing this statement, can be found at: www.gatescambridge.org
The statement is used by Gates Cambridge to help distinguish between those candidates who have nominated by academic departments. It helps us identify those candidates who, as well as being academically outstanding, possess a capacity for leadership and commitment to improving the lives of others. This is the only part of the application form where applicants are specifically asked about their fit with the Gates Cambridge programme and you should use your background, achievements, experiences and future aims to show how you specifically meet the programme’s criteria.
Research proposal (PhD applicants only)
Gates Cambridge requires PhD applicants only to submit a research proposal as part of their application for funding. Most PhD applicants will upload a research proposal as part of their application for admission, but where this is not the case a research proposal is required to apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. If you are applying for a degree other than the PhD you do not need to submit a research proposal as part of your materials of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship .
Gates Cambridge reference
In addition to two academic references for admission, Gates Cambridge applicants must arrange for someone to submit a reference setting out how they meet the scholarship’s criteria.
In the application form we ask:
Please give your assessment of the applicant’s suitability for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. These are awarded on the following criteria: intellectual ability, justification for the choice of course, a commitment to improving the lives of others and leadership capacity.
We also ask:
- How highly would you rank the applicant for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship?
- On what overall group are you basing this ranking?
- What is the size of this group?
The Gates Cambridge reference is used in the same way as the Gates Cambridge statement – to help distinguish between those candidates who have nominated by academic departments.
Referees are also asked how they rate the applicant for the scholarship: exceptional, strong, not strong, weak. They may paste/type up to 4,000 characters into the on-line reference or upload a separate letter.
Who should write the Gates Cambridge reference?
You should ask someone of appropriate standing who is able to answer the question with authority and who understands the criteria and highly competitive nature of the Gates Cambridge programme and academic standards at the University of Cambridge.
Many applicants ask a current or former academic advisor who is aware of their personal attributes, a current or former employer, or a senior member of an organisation with whom they have volunteered – although this is by no means an exhaustive list. Some applicants ask one of their two academic referees to write the Gates Cambridge reference: this is fine, as long as that person has a good understanding of your personal qualities and writes specifically about how you meet the Gates Cambridge criteria (and does not provide a third academic reference).
You should not ask a friend or a family member, or someone who is unable to comment on your suitability for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.
Some points to consider are:
- It is essential that the Gates Cambridge referee is fully briefed about the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, especially its selection criteria, so they can write the most appropriate reference for you;
- It is useful when referees use specific examples of how you meet the Scholarship’s criteria;
- You will need to ensure your Gates Cambridge referee understands the need to keep the reference focused on the Gates Cambridge criteria (and not, for example, rehash a standard or previous reference).
- You must ensure both your academic and gates Cambridge referees submit their references by the specified deadline
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