W’Africa gets three Oxford scholarship slots from Rhodes Trust

Rhodes Trust has increased the number of permanent yearly scholarships for West Africa to three, commencing from the 2024 academic session.

Established in 1903, the Rhodes scholarship programme is the oldest and, perhaps, the most prestigious international scholarship in the world. Administered by the Rhodes Trust in Oxford, the programme offers over 100 fully-funded scholarships yearly for postgraduate studies at University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, one of the world’s leading universities.

The Rhodes Scholarship for West Africa was established in 2017 with only one slot. Although two Rhodes scholars were selected that year, it was not until 2020 that the slot was raised to two permanent scholarships yearly, and now three. 

The Chief Executive Officer of Rhodes Trust and Warden of Rhodes House, Elizabeth Kiss, said, “We are delighted to announce that three scholarships will, henceforth, be available yearly for applicants for the Rhodes Scholarships for West Africa. This is particularly cheerful news, given the large pool of applications we receive, despite that this is our youngest constituency, having been established only six years ago.”

Rhodes scholarships are for young leaders of outstanding intellect and character, who are motivated to engage with global challenges and are committed to the service of others. They must show promise of becoming value-driven, principled leaders for the world’s future, wherever their careers might take them, and in any field.  

The criteria for selecting Rhodes scholars are powerful and have remained largely unchanged over the past century, having been drawn directly from the founder’s Will. They include academic excellence (Oxford University is one of the most competitive graduate environments in the world; hence, applicants must meet or exceed the entry requirements of their chosen course, which requires graduating with First Class Honours or a minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average of 3.70 out of 4.00 or equivalent); energy to use their talents to the full (this can be as demonstrated by success in areas such as sports, music, debate, dance, theatre and artistic pursuits, including where teamwork is involved); demonstrating the virtues of truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindness, selflessness and fellowship; as well as moral force of character and instinct to lead and take interest in their fellow humans.

Additional eligibility criteria for West African applicants are that they must have to be between 18 and 24 years of age by October 1 in the year they apply, and must have lived at least five out of the last 10 years in West Africa. 

Interested applicants, who believe they can meet all these requirements, are invited to apply online at www.rhodeshouse.ox.ac.uk between June 1 and August 28 to stand a chance of winning a fully-funded scholarship to Oxford the following year.

The 2024 application window closed only a few weeks ago with the receipt of 319 completed applications, comprising 144 females and 175 males for the three slots available. With 193, Nigeria has the largest number of applications, followed by Ghana’s 77 and Sierra Leone’s 14. The Gambia and Liberia have eight applications each. Benin Republic, Mali and Senegal got four each. Cote d’Ivoire and Niger Republic two apiece, while Mauritania, Gunea and Togo got one each.

The West African Selection Committee, made up of 15 distinguished individuals from disciplines that cut across banking, finance, law, medicine, architecture, healthcare and academia, has already commenced evaluation of the completed applications and will be concluding its selection of three new Rhodes scholars by mid-November.

The 2024 selection committee members include Prof Maryam Aminu, a Senior Fulbright Scholar and Dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria; Prof Bello Mukhtar of the Department of Chemical Engineering, ABU; Alexa Fleischer, a consultant with Reindorf Chambers based in Accra, Ghana; and Fatumata Soukouna-Coker, Group Chief Executive, Ygroup Holdings Inc, Monrovia, Liberia.

Also in the committee are Prof Ifeoma Nwaoha of the Department of Food Science and Technology, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria; Prof John Danjuma Mawak, Director of Academic Planning of Karl Kümm University, Vom, Plateau State, Nigeria; Fui Tsikata, Senior Partner at Reindorf Chambers, the Ghanaian affiliate of the international law firm, DLA Piper; Prof Preye Fiebai of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria; and Kate Onyejekwe, Director of International Division for JSI and JSI Research & Training Institute based in Boston. 

The rest are Dr Abdullateef Bello, CEO of DatStrat Consulting Limited and independent board member, Jaiz Bank, Abuja, Nigeria; Dr Pascal Brenya, Coordinator of the Kufuor Scholars Programme, Accra, Ghana; Dr Innocent Okpanum, founder and director of the architectural practice of Ngonyama Okpanum and Associates, Abuja, Nigeria; Kobby Bentsi-Enchill, Executive Director and Head, Investment Banking, Stanbic Bank, Accra, Ghana; and Sangu Delle, CEO of CarePoint (formerly Africa Health Holdings), Accra, Ghana. 

Members of the selection committee have, over the years, shown diligence, integrity, transparency and professionalism in the selection process.

“These fine women and men have ensured that we have chosen only the best candidates from our applicant pool, which has averaged about 3,000 applications yearly,” according to Ike Chioke, National Secretary for the Rhodes Scholarships for West Africa.

“Kiss, members of the Rhodes House team and, more importantly, benefactors of the Rhodes Scholarships have contributed in diverse ways to making the scholarships increasingly available for deserving West African youths,” Chioke stated. 

The Rhodes Scholarships for West Africa has, so far, awarded 10 scholarships since inception, including the two pioneer scholars, who graduated from Oxford University with PhD in their chosen fields in 2022, six scholars still in residence and two scholars that came up to Oxford this September. 

The scholarship covers all Oxford University fees plus a stipend for two to three years.

The Rhodes Trust sponsors the Rhodes Scholarships, in partnership with the Second Century Founders, John McCall, MacBain O.C., The Atlantic Philanthropies and many other benefactors.

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