The Rhodes Scholarship is awarded for postgraduate studies at University of Oxford. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious international fellowships. Approximately 90 scholarships are awarded each year.
Rhodes Scholars can pursue any full-time postgraduate course offered by the Oxford University except MBA. They can also pursue a second undergraduate degree (senior status) over two years. The scholarship is offered for two years only. However, it can be extended to one more year depending on the judgment of the Trustees. The Scholarship covers the University and College Fees and the scholars receive a monthly pay to cover their accommodation and living expenses.
Rhodes Scholarships are awarded to students from the selected countries as Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Commonwealth Caribbean, Germany, India, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, USA, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Scholarship owes its origin to the Will of Cecil. J. Rhodes. Cecil Rhodes was a British colonial pioneer and statesman. Rhodes was himself an alumnus of Oxford University. He believed that Oxford would give able and exceptionally gifted students the right environment for personal and intellectual development. There were originally 52 scholarships. During the ensuing 100 years, the Trustees added another 40 scholarships.
According to Rhodes, the selection criteria for scholars was to be based on academic brilliance, involvement in sports like cricket or football or any other sports, qualities of personal morality, strength and compassion, sense of public good etc.
Rhodes Scholarship was introduced in India when the scholarships were extended to the Commonwealth countries. Prof. Asim Kumar Datta (passed out from Christ Church, 1947) and Late Mr. Lovraj Kumar (Magdalen, 1947) comprised the first batch of Indian Rhodes Scholars. India had one or two scholarships during the initial years of introduction of the scholarships in India. The number of Scholarships was increased to 3 per year in 1985 and 4 in 1991.
Initially Rhodes Scholarships were offered to male student only. Until 1977, no women were elected to Rhodes Scholarships. However, with the continuous lobbying by Rhodes Trustees, the Secretary of State for Education in UK made an order in 1976 declaring Rhodes Scholarships to be tenable by women and in 1979, Amrita Cheema became the first woman from India to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, and in 1995, Ms Roopa Unnikrishnan became the 100th Rhodes Scholar from India. From 1998, six scholars are elected form India every year. Indian Rhodes Scholarships are awarded on an All-India basis. The selection procedure in India involves zonal interviews (in the North, East, West and South zones) to shortlist candidates for the final interview and screening process.
The list of Rhodes Scholars from India include Olympic athletes Eric Prabhakar (India & Christchurch, 1948)and Ranjit Bhatia (India & Jesus, 1957), metallurgist Tanjore R.Anantharaman (India & Trinity, 1951), medical scientist Ranjit Roy Chaudhary (India & Magdalen, 1955), United Nations Under Secretary-General Virendra Dayal (India & University, 1956), Assistant Secretary General of the Commonwealth (India & Balliol, 1958), playwright and actor Girish Karnad (India & Lincoln, 1960), economist and Planning Commission Dy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia (India & Balliol, 1964), Indian Ambassador to Japan Aftab Seth (India & Christ Church, 1965), Vice Chancellor of Delhi University Deepak Nayyar (India & Balliol, 1967)