12 october 2011

Ten years, 1,000 Clarendon Scholars for Oxford


Arunabha Ghosh was one of the first Clarendon Scholars in 2001.
Arunabha Ghosh was one of the first Clarendon Scholars in 2001.

Oxford’s Clarendon Fund scholarship programme reaches a milestone this term, celebrating ten years of supporting international graduate students at Oxford – more than 1,000 in all.

Celebrating its tenth class of scholars starting their studies in Oxford this week, the Clarendon is Oxford’s largest University-run scholarship for international graduate students, providing around £7.5m in funds for fees and expenses each year. The scholarships are funded by an annual transfer from Oxford University Press and are awarded for academic excellence, with awards worth on average more than £30,000 per student in funding each year.

Emily Hancock from the United States is one of the latest graduate students to win a Clarendon Fund scholarship. Originally from rural New Mexico where her mother is a retired school teacher and her father is a cattle rancher, she won a scholarship to Harvard and earned a Master’s degree in psychology at the University of Arizona. Her research at Oxford will focus on understanding people who stutter, using MRI scanning to look at the communications between brain areas. She says: ‘Because of my family's modest income and my own status as a graduate student at the time, the Clarendon was really my only viable chance at coming to Oxford. To me Clarendon meant the difference between having an opportunity I could never have dreamed of, and having to watch that opportunity slip through my fingers. I chose to apply to Oxford because of the opportunity to work with my adviser, who is phenomenal, motivational, and an incredibly good fit for me, and the potential to proceed directly into a research program. The facilities here are state of the art, as well. In fact, the software I used at Harvard, MIT, and the University of Arizona was developed here at Oxford. For a geek like me, there is no better opportunity than to study with the people who create the tools that set international standards.

‘I love the freedom to focus on research full time and to absorb all that I can from my incredibly gifted colleagues. I feel that the relationship between a mentor and graduate student is probably the most important factor in determining success, so I came to Oxford because of the opportunity to work with an accomplished young woman who is in her prime and has a world of knowledge to offer me. Of course as many other students, I am also here to take advantage of the investments Oxford has made into facilities, faculty, staff, and students that make this University one of the best in the world at pretty much everything.’

To me Clarendon meant the difference between having an opportunity I could never have dreamed of, and having to watch that opportunity slip through my fingers.

Emily Hancock, incoming Clarendon Scholar

Individuals' experiences of the Clarendon scholarships underline the need for Oxford to continue to extend its postgraduate funding, including through philanthropic giving. In his recent annual oration, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, spoke at length about ‘the challenge of adequate financial support for graduate students’.

He said: ‘Increasing support for graduate scholarships is a major priority of the Oxford Thinking fundraising campaign.' Citing Clarendon scholarships as outstanding examples of postgraduate support, he said: 'In the long term, we aim to offer needs-blind admission to attract the most talented graduate applicants from around the globe. Our strategic objective is to provide full funding packages covering all fees and living costs to the majority of students studying for doctorates and stepping-stone master’s degrees.’

Since the first scholars arrived in 2001, over 1,000 students from more than 60 nationalities have been supported by the Clarendon Fund. With more than £1m now contributed from Oxford’s colleges to the fund, even more scholarships will be supported in the future. In total there are currently 295 Clarendon scholars at Oxford, representing 38 different countries. They are based at 33 different colleges and are studying in a broad range of subject areas.

One of the first students to receive a Clarendon Fund scholarship ten years ago was Arunabha Ghosh, who was funded for an MPhil in International Relations at Oxford – a degree he wanted to pursue but thought he would be unable to fund. He says: ‘The Clarendon scholarship changed my life because it allowed me to pursue my interest in international relations much sooner than I had expected. Having already studied as an undergraduate at Oxford, I didn't expect to find funding to pursue graduate studies. I was on my way to becoming an investment banker when I was offered the Clarendon. I jumped at the opportunity and my career took a different route: a rewarding time at the United Nations Development Programme in New York, a stint at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, and as a Global Leaders Fellow at Oxford and Princeton, before I returned to India to help found the Council on Energy, Environment and Water.

‘When I started as a Clarendon Scholar it was a small community, but as the fellowship of scholars grows, I am sure that a global network can develop that will offer both intellectual and professional support as well as personal relationships to last a long time. I look forward to being an active member of that community.’While postgraduate course fees at Oxford vary, the Clarendon Fund scholarships provide support totalling on average more than £30,000 per student. All Clarendon Scholarships cover full Oxford tuition fees, plus a generous grant for living expenses worth nearly £14,000. The scholarship is tenable for the duration of the scholar’s fee liability, which is generally the same as the length of their course.

‘Our connection with the Clarendon Fund is something we value greatly,’ says Nigel Portwood, Chief Executive of Oxford University Press, the department of the University of Oxford which transfers funding for the scholarship programme. ‘Since its beginnings a decade ago, we’ve provided £52 million to enable more than 1,000 remarkable scholars from across the globe to continue their studies at Oxford. For me, Clarendon embodies many of the values that make OUP a success. It has a clear focus on excellence, excels in a broad range of academic areas, and is truly global in nature. It is a world-class programme for a world-class university and we are immensely proud to be a part of it.’

Oxford has recognized the ten-year anniversary of the Clarendon Fund with a series of events including a reception for new scholars in Oxford’s Town Hall, a Clarendon Fund Alumni event during the University’s alumni weekend in September, and the launch of an essay competition for scholars. Oxford University Press will also run a publishing seminar for Clarendon scholars.