The Rhodes Trust announced this week that it will accept a cohort of Chinese Rhodes scholars in the biggest expansion of the scholarship since it was opened to women in the 1970s.
Widely regarded as among the world’s most prestigious graduate scholarships, the Trust currently grants 83 awards each year.
Several Chinese applicants will be accepted in 2015, and the Trust aims to increase Chinese enrolment in coming years. Up to 32 Chinese Scholars may be included in the programming, matching the number allocated to the United States.
Charles Conn, Warden of Rhodes House, said: ““China has an important international role to play in the 21st century, and we wish to reflect that in the global footprint of the Rhodes Scholarships.”
The Trust’s announcement comes after 18 months of work to establish the Rhodes program in China and is part of a broader strategy to expand the geographical reach of the programme.
Babbete Telgdal, communications manager for Rhodes House, told the OxStu: “The Rhodes Trust is looking to expand its international footprint to reflect the 21st century world and China forms the first part of this expansion. It is important to us to bring more countries on board, and this will continue over the coming years.”
Chinese participants in the two-year program will be recipients of over £50,000 per annum in funding. All course fees, health care, travel, and a personal stipend are provided by the Rhodes Trust.
Chinese students currently represent the third-largest group of international students at Oxford University, behind the United States and Germany. Chinese students currently make up over 20% of non-European undergraduates at Oxford, although at the graduate level only 8% of non-European students come from China.
Yanting Shen, a Chinese graduate student at Trinity, commented: “I believe the reputation of the scholarship in China will benefit immensely from this decision, and it will also resolve the difficulty for many Chinese students that only limited funding is available.”
Funding for the Scholarships is being provided in large part by the Li Ka Shing Foundation. Li Ka Shing is Asia’s richest man, controlling a diverse portfolio of real estate and businesses in Hong Kong and mainland China. Though the Rhodes Trust is “deeply grateful” to the foundation, they say that Li and his interests will not exert undue influence on the Trust’s operations. “The Rhodes selection process is entirely independent,” Telgdal explained. “The gift has been approved by the University of Oxford’s Committee to Review Donations”. The Rhodes Trust also responded to concerns that the Chinese government or Communist Party could seek to intervene in the selection process against applicants who might hold anti-government views. The selection process will mirror that which is used in other Rhodes countries, in which Rhodes alumni and other prominent citizens review and interview applicants.
The Rhodes Scholarships were founded in 1902, and seek students who combine academic achievement, extracurricular talent, and moral character.