Iftekharul Islam | Published: October 15, 2022 14:37:23 | Updated: October 19, 2022 23:06:10
The Commonwealth Scholarship is one of the distinguished world-renowned scholarships granted by the UK government. Every year, only 800 students from 56 Commonwealth member nations are selected to study for graduate degrees in reputed UK universities. Commonwealth Scholars are expected to bring positive and significant changes through their global-level contributions.
What is the inspiration behind choosing this scholarship? Humayra Ibrahim, who completed her MSc in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Birmingham, is currently doing her PhD at the same university, had two reasons.
“Firstly, this scheme provides the opportunity to pursue a postgraduate degree in the UK with full funding. Secondly, scholars are offered a range of development training workshops to acquire skills that add great value in both their personal and professional lives.”
As this scholarship is highly selective, does it require excellent academic performance and research experience? According to Humayra, the eligibility criteria are simple – anyone with a minimum 70 per cent score and good English language proficiency can apply.
“However,” she continues, “the selection process is highly competitive since one-third of the total applicants receive the awards. So, having exceptional academic results and research experience will surely increase your chances of getting the scholarship.”
“The scholarship committee also takes into account your other achievements – how you influenced the society around you or, was your research activity in line with any of the SDGs, etc.,” she added.
Regarding the need for work experience, Humayra remarked, “I did not have any job experience apart from some research work I was carrying out in BUET with my undergraduate supervisor. Then again, the majority of the scholars in my cohort were working professionals. Work experience benefits the applicants if it’s relevant to their study.”
“I strongly suggest that applicants who don’t have job experience should mention any industrial training/internships, volunteer roles, cultural/social activities, etc. This will at least convey the message that you have good communication skills and can work in a team setup.”
What should applicants be on the lookout for when applying? According to Jewel Kumar Roy, who earned his MSc in FinTech at the University of Stirling, the personal statement is the most important.
“You need to develop a compelling personal statement that conveys your enthusiasm and aspirations. I used my reasons for wanting to be a university teacher, the issues I have noticed in my profession, and the solutions I have implemented thus far as examples.”
“I spoke about my goals, my career, and how my chosen field of study related to the application. If you find better ways of responding to the questions by repeating them in the essays, don’t worry. Don’t send off an application in a hurry until you have reviewed your essays well,” Jewel cautioned.
Humayra Ibrahim agrees. “I feel the essays should be given the highest importance. The shortlisted candidates have to fill in an online form with questions regarding their motivation, future goals, career plan, and how the intended research/study will contribute to their country’s development, etc. Familiarise yourself with the concept of SDGs. You must draw a connection between your field of study/research and the SDGs (just the 2/3 best-suited).”
They also ask for the names of three universities where you plan to study. So applicants should do some research before making their choice because it cannot be changed later, and one must receive unconditional offer letters from all three universities.”
Humayra shared hers as well as advised future applicants. “My interview was held in the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh office. The whole interview will be conducted in English. There will be some common questions where the panel members will ask you to introduce yourself, inquire about the IELTS test, receive offers from UK universities, etc. It’s a good idea to revise the basic topics of your undergraduate education beforehand. Try to sound confident and be concise when describing your research experience and publication details.”
“If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it politely. The panel may also want to know why (and which subject) you want to study in the UK and how this will bring a developmental impact to the country. So, do some research about these questions and prepare yourself accordingly.”
Humayra also advises being careful about personal statements. “Be honest in your application. Please avoid plagiarism while writing the essays. A lot of candidates with outstanding profiles do not make it just because of it. Spend 25 per cent of your time on planning and reading, 50 per cent on writing the answers, and the remaining 25 per cent on modifying and correcting what you have written. And of course, look out for the deadlines!”
Jewel encourages applicants to be brave. “I would like to encourage anyone who desires to further their education but does not have the funds. The Commonwealth Program has scholarships for every field of study, will give your career a considerable boost towards a PhD, and the exposure is undoubtedly priceless. Don’t give up!”
Applications for Commonwealth Master’s scholarships for the 2023/24 academic year are now open, and the deadline is October 18th. Considering the varying successes of the scholars, this scholarship is an excellent opportunity for students of Bangladesh.
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