As the 2023 cohort of Commonwealth Scholars prepare for their departure, the British Council hosted an interactive and informative Pre-departure Briefing at their library in Colombo to help scholars ensure a smooth transition to their respective university destinations in the UK. The briefing equipped the talented students with the tools and information that would enable them to have a well-rounded and positive experience in the UK.
The briefing was attended by the British Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Lisa Whanstall, Country Director of the British Council, Sri Lanka, Orlando Edwards, the departing cohort of scholars, and a diverse range of alumni scholars, led by the British Council’s Education Programmes Manager, Hamzi Haniff.
As part of the UK’s ongoing commitment to the Commonwealth, each year around 800 students globally are given the chance to undertake postgraduate degrees with UK universities. Commonwealth Scholarships are given to talented individuals with the potential to make a positive impact on the global stage and in their home country.
The British Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Lisa Whanstall said: “This is a really special year for the UK and Sri Lanka. It marks 75 years of our historic and bilateral relationship. The Commonwealth scholarships program is at the heart of what we do. It has impacted relationships between Commonwealth countries perhaps more so than any other Commonwealth initiative.”
The Country Director British Council, Orlando Edwards, said: “We’re delighted that over a period of 63 years, 1100 Sri Lankans have been selected to study in the UK. That’s a tremendous number. This scheme has continued to foster knowledge, cultural exchange, and international understanding for over six decades.
“We’re particularly pleased to have two women in STEM scholarship recipients this year. Their achievement stands as a testament to the strides we are making toward gender equity in the fields of science, technology, and engineering.”
This year’s cohort comprises 11 scholarship recipients in Sri Lanka pursuing diverse fields of study. At the Pre-departure Briefing, the cohort had the benefit of accessing resources and guidelines by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission. The session covered everything from settling in and adjusting to life in the UK to accommodation, managing finances, living safely, anti-discrimination policies, and personal safety.
The session was an interactive one where alumni members openly shared their own experiences and tips on navigating life in the UK, creating a strong balance between academics and social life, and support systems that are available to students. Group discussions allowed this year’s scholars to pose their questions freely and alumni to share their experience of being a Commonwealth alumni.
Professor Dinithi Pieris, a senior scholar from the 1995 cohort said: “I was able to do my PhD in Molecular Biology at Sheffield University, which is a top ranked institution for the subject. The foundation I received from this university experience helped propel my career.”
The Pre-departure Briefing also gave this year’s cohort, most of whom will be leaving for their respective universities this September, the opportunity to bond and create a strong support system.
Commonwealth Scholarships are funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) under six development themes that students may select. Sri Lanka has received the highest number of scholarships under the Shared Master’s Scholarship scheme this year.
Applications for the upcoming Commonwealth Scholarship schemes are open until 18 September. Applications must be made through the nominating agency for Sri Lanka which is the Ministry of Higher Education. Candidates must apply and secure admission to study an approved master’s course at a participating UK university in addition to applying for a Commonwealth Shared Scholarship via the CSC’s online application system.
Candidates can apply for more than one course and to more than one university, however they may only accept one offer of a Commonwealth Shared Scholarship. Candidates must check with their chosen university for specific advice on when to apply, admission requirements, and rules for applying. For more information on general eligibility requirements, visit: cscuk.fcdo.gov.uk/apply/.
About the Commonwealth Scholarships
Commonwealth Scholarships are highly competitive scholarships provided by the UK government to provide financial assistance to talented international students from across the Commonwealth nations who wish to pursue a postgraduate degree in the UK.
These scholarships are funded by the UK government and administered by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the United Kingdom (CSCUK).
In Sri Lanka there are 1,500 Commonwealth alumni to date. The scholarships have been available to Sri Lankan students since 1960.
About the British Council
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We support peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. We do this through our work in arts and culture, education and the English language. We work with people in over 200 countries and territories and are on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2021–22 we reached 650 million people.
British Council 1: The 2023 cohort of Commonwealth Scholars accompanied by British Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Lisa Whanstall and British Council Sri Lanka Country Director Orlando Edwards at the Pre-Departure Briefing
British Council 2: The British Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Lisa Whanstall
British Council 3: British Council Sri Lanka Country Director Orlando Edwards
British Council 4: British Council Education Programmes Manager Hamzi Haniff