The ambition

The UK has been a popular destination for students from across the world for many years. It is also home to a number of scholarship programmes that award scholarships to students, often from less privileged backgrounds, to study in one of the UK’s higher education institutions. Scholarship programmes typically aim to provide access to education, foster international collaboration and build capacity for when scholars return to their home country.    

The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK (CSC) was set up in 1959 to promote intellectual achievement. Since its establishment, it has awarded over 26,000 scholarships to individuals from Commonwealth countries. 

A key challenge for scholarship programmes is to assess the impact the scholarship has on the individual scholars, their environment and their home country. In the past years, the CSC has set up a sophisticated evaluation system to keep track of scholars after their studies. This system asks questions about where the scholars go on to teach or work and how their scholarship has helped them develop their skills and improve their work. 

CSC asked Firetail to conduct an evaluation of the organisation’s impact in the past years, as well as an assessment of the suitability and effectiveness of its Monitoring and Evaluation systems.

Our approach

The project, conducted in close collaboration with CSC, consisted of a mix of stakeholder engagement and data analysis. We conducted a number of interviews with staff members of the Commission and the Secretariat – responsible for administering scholarships - as well as other international scholarship programmes, UK universities and institutions in Commonwealth countries that nominate scholars. We also conducted data analysis on the large amounts of survey data the CSC collects, enabling us to assess the impacts of different scholarship schemes.

The impact

Our findings have provided the CSC with a review of its impact on the individuals that receive awards, and further thoughts on how to increase and demonstrate further development impact. It also provided recommendations on how CSC’s evaluation systems can increase their effectiveness and insight, ensuring that evaluation findings are used to make choices about the future of the scholarship programme.