Postgraduate scholarships: insider tips to maximise your chancesOvec
Weekly takes a close look at the smorgasbord of scholarships available to postgraduate students from Mauritius. What are the best strategies for obtaining one? Weekly speaks to experts in the know.
Postgraduates get more job offers, higher salaries and climb the career ladder faster, labour market surveys have shown. For many bright professionals in Mauritius, however, financial constraints limit the possibilities of extending their studies beyond a first degree. The good news is that postgraduate scholarships tend to be significantly more generous than the undergraduate equivalent, especially if the applicant is interested in conducting research.
What exactly is available out there for Mauritian professionals who plan to embark on further studies in the near future?
THE CHEVENING SCHOLARSHIPS
Applications are already open for the Chevening Scholarships of 2015 and 2016, the British government’s global scholarship programme. Under the programme, scholars with undergraduate degrees and a minimum of two years’ work experience are offered funding for postgraduate studies in any UK university.
While the British high commission up to now has been entrusted with selecting two applicants from Mauritius per year, the good news is that a larger number of Mauritians will get to benefit from the programme in the future. “The UK government has seen the many benefits that the programme has, which is why our budget has been tripled,” Jean-Philippe L’Eveque, political and media officer at the British high commission, revealed. He spoke to Weekly just as the two Mauritian scholars selected for this year’s edition were getting ready to head out to the UK (see inset).
The particularity of the Chevening Scholarships is that the jury attempts to single out applicants with leadership potential who are likely to take up positions of influence in their respective countries. Each year, a few areas of priority are selected and applicants who operate in those specific fields are considered for the scholarships. This year, the selected fields were economy and finance, environment, education, law and order and human rights and government.
What strategy, then, should bright professionals who want their own names to be added to the list opt for? In cases where the applicants’ qualifications and experience are equally promising, the personal statement is what sets the brightest candidate apart, L’Eveque said. The most common mistake applicants make, according to him, is to overfocus
on past achievements. “What we really want to know is how they plan to influence their sectors in the future,” he said. The same holds true for candidates who pass through the threshold and are called to an interview. “Applicants with the potential to become influential in their fields should be able to tell us what is wrong in their sectors today,” L’Eveque offered. “We need to know what kind of change they plan to bring and how,” he explained.
SCHOLARSHIPS AWARDED BY UNIVERSITIES
In addition to the scholarships awarded by various foreign governments (see inset), it would be unwise not to consider the programmes financed by individual universities. “There is a large variety of scholarships out there for postgraduate studies,” Dorish Chitson, director of the Overseas Education Centre (OVEC), said. “The research scholarships are especially attractive, since the universities are looking for bright students who can add value,” she continued, adding that she had just assisted a Mauritian student who was awarded a full PhD scholarship from the University of Newcastle, Sydney.
Mauritians who embark on postgraduate studies with financial assistance from their universities tend to favour Australia, in Chitson’s experience, although she emphasised that it is possible to obtain generous offers from universities in other countries as well. The reason Australia is so popular is that two years of postgraduate studies that result in a Master’s degree make graduates eligible for a two-year work visa. “That way, postgraduates can get some international work experience as well,” Chitson said.
For students who would rather go east, Chinese universities are particularly generous when it comes to financing Mauritian candidates’ postgraduate degrees, according to Chitson. “Many Chinese institutions have a policy of giving candidates from the developing world preferential treatment,” she said.
As for the Americas, while the sky is always bright in the land of opportunities for brains that are sharp enough, Canada has a long tradition of reserving their scholarships for students who are fresh out of secondary school. “Representatives from Canada tell us when we meet with them that they aren’t that interested in postgraduates,” Chitson said. The reason, according to her, is that Canadian institutions aim to produce undergraduates that can fill the country’s labour market needs. “There has been a change in the mindset, though, with more interesting opportunities for postgraduates,” Chitson commented.
Regardless of where you plan to study, when it comes to writing a scholarship application that will take the jury’s breath away, there are several things that you ought to keep in mind. Institutions abroad are often interested in knowing why you have opted for them in particular, according to Christine Faugoo, country director of IDP Education. “They want to support applicants who are likely to become good ambassadors for their institutions after graduation,” she explained. In scholarship applications, candidates should also elaborate on why they want to deepen their knowledge about their particular field, she added.
If you apply for a scholarship programme that specifically targets citizens of the developing world, do not be too embarrassed to emphasise that financial support is the only thing that stands between you and the academic goals you aspire to achieve. “Describe your financial circumstances and elaborate on how the postgraduate degree you are aiming for will allow you to bring a useful contribution to your country,” Chitson advised. Good luck with your scholarship hunting!
MEET THIS YEAR’S CHEVENING SCHOLARS
Vignesh Ellayah joined the DPP’s Office in 2012 after having been admitted to the Bar of the Republic of Mauritius (2010) and the Bar of England & Wales (2008). A holder of a Master of Laws (LLM) in advanced legal practice, Ellayah will study towards a LLM in international banking and finance law at the University College London (UCL) under the Chevening programme.
Participating in the programme will allow the state council to contribute more efficiently to the fight against financial crime, he believes. “The increasing sophistication and the broadening of the reach and network of financial crime globally have elevated this threat to a higher level in Mauritius,” he said. “Although Mauritius has so far taken effective measures to combat financial crime, we need to continuously update ourselves for future challenges,” he added.
Ellayah is confident that the LLM from UCL will enable him to better understand the complexities of the international financial market, process fi nancial information strategically and untangle complex legal problems posed by financial crime. “I intend to make use of the expertise that I will acquire to address the problems of financial crime from an international perspective,” he said.
The state counsel encourages focused and driven Mauritian professionals to apply for a Chevening scholarship for the purpose of widening their horizons. Selected candidates, he emphasised, get the opportunity to interact with scholars and alumni from across the globe – a highly-regarded and influential international network.
Vignesh Ellayah, state counsel at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. PHOTOGRAPHER: YANCE TAN YAN
Yamal Matabudul, who has extensive experience in the local tertiary education sector, will travel to the UK on a Chevening scholarship shortly to study for a postgraduate degree in higher education at the University of Oxford.
Already a holder of an undergraduate physics degree and a Master’s in public policy, Matabudul is confident that this opportunity will allow him to positively contribute to the development of Mauritius’ tertiary education sector as the island aspires to fulfil its vision of becoming a knowledge hub. “What Mauritius needs at this point are professionals who have knowledge about tertiary education as a fi eld,” he said. “The UK has some of the oldest universities in the world and Oxford in particular has an excellent higher education department centred around aspects like the tertiary education sector’s impact on the economy,” he added.
Matabudul’s vision is to contribute to bringing positive structural change to the tertiary education landscape. “Most of the universities and institutions present in Mauritius have their raison d’être but the country needs to aspire to do more and to innovate in the sector,” he said. “The current situation is that nearly all of the institutions present here offer courses in the same fi elds,” he continued. Matabudul envisions partnerships between governments, the private sector and supranational organisations like the United Nations, which can result in a more multi-dimensional tertiary education landscape in the country. He plans to interact with the extensive Chevening network and future contacts within the Association of Commonwealth Universities, which manages applications for the scholarship programme, to contribute to making it happen.
What advice can the scholar offer other bright professionals who are interested in the Chevening programme? “Line out a strategy map that shows where you are now and where you want to go,” he said. “It’s important to identify the link that will enable you to bring yourself from the first point to the other!”
Yamal Matabudul, general manager of the Medine Education Village. PHOTOGRAPHER: EJILEN RAMASAWMY
In Australia, the closest equivalent to the UK’s Chevening Scholarships would be the Australia Awards, described as a means to give the “next generation of global leaders” opportunities to study. Under the programme, Mauritian applicants are eligible for the funding of a Master’s degree or short-term courses. In the US, the government-sponsored Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange option. Mauritians are eligible for funding for up to two years of postgraduate studies and for an advanced research programme.
The Indian government offers undergraduate and also postgraduate and doctorate scholarships to Mauritian students under its Africa Scholarship Scheme. France and China are other countries that offer governmental postgraduate scholarships that Mauritians are eligible for.
In addition to international programmes, the government of Mauritius gives financial assistance under its Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme. It is up to the selected candidates to decide whether they want to study in Mauritius or abroad.