African scholarship programme goes from strength to strength

Andrew Moffat

One year into the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Edinburgh, ensuring access to education for young African students who have great potential but few educational opportunities.

By Andrew Moffat

The first group of Mastercard Foundation Scholars embarked on their Edinburgh experience in 2016. This was just the first intake of some 200 African students that the University will welcome over seven years.

The $27 million Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Edinburgh will ensure access to education for young African students who have great potential but few educational opportunities.

Edinburgh is the first university in Europe to collaborate with The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program. To date, the Scholars Program has committed over US $700 million to support the education and leadership development of over 30,000 young people.

Year One

The first year of the programme welcomed twelve students to Edinburgh from various African countries. The students benefitted from world-class learning experiences, from research-led teaching and digital learning to project placements. They took part in curricular and extracurricular activities that explored their academic interests and career aspirations in engaging and dynamic ways, and they spent a year amid Edinburgh’s likeminded international community.

Group shot of the MasterCard Foundation Scholars
The MasterCard Foundation Scholars who joined in 2016. Photo by Yao Hui.

The Scholars Program supports young people in developing the skills, mind-sets, and attitudes of transformative leadership through a range of activities. These include volunteer opportunities, summer schools, work-based placements, masterclasses, and leadership retreats.

Dorcas Amoh-Mensah, from Ghana, was part of the 2016/17 intake. She will shortly complete her MSc in Africa and International Development.

Commenting on her time at Edinburgh, Dorcas said: “The University has been an awesome place for me to learn, with a relatively open culture, where everyone is willing to support you to do better academically, socially and emotionally.”

“The experiences, opportunities and challenges during my time here has definitely shaped my mind-set. Edinburgh has given me time to reflect on my career and personal development, provided me opportunities to make informed choices and pushed me to learn more about who I am.”

“My time at Edinburgh has also exposed me to the world. Learning and interacting with people from across the globe was one of my most cherished experiences. I now hope to contribute to the economic development and transformation of my own country and continent.”

Dorcas Amoh-Mensah

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at the University of Edinburgh provides comprehensive programme to support and inspire a generation of transformative leaders to make positive change in their local and global communities.

A World View

During the first year of the programme, students have taken part in world leading forums and gained experiences not just in Edinburgh but around the globe. Scholars have delivered a TEDx talks, attended the Skoll World Forum in Oxford and the Forum on World Affairs in Switzerland and had the chance to meet the Princess Royal at the Chancellor’s Reception.

Soufia Bham, a postgraduate scholar from Mauritius, studied global health policy during her time at Edinburgh. Commenting on her extra-curricular activities she said: “As a scholar, I had the incredible opportunity to share my passion for education at the Forum on World Affairs 2016 in Switzerland as well as delivering a TEDx talk on Women & Homelessness. Through the Edinburgh Award workshops, reflection sessions and reading group, I became more aware of how I can bring about transformative change and also how I can embrace activism, entrepreneurship and creativity as part of my journey.”

Meeting with Nigerian author

A group of the Mastercard Scholars were also present as the acclaimed Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, was awarded an honorary degree by the University. Ms Adichie received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters at the University’s recently redeveloped St Cecilia’s Hall - Scotland’s oldest concert hall.

The award, presented by the University's Principal and Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir Timothy O'Shea, was in recognition of Ms Adichie's achievements as an author and public intellectual.

The Second Year

The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at The University of Edinburgh is based on the belief that all young people, no matter their starting point in life, should have an equal chance to gain a quality education and pursue their aspirations to improve the lives of others.

As some of the postgraduate Mastercard students prepare to leave Edinburgh and embark on their next stage of their journey, the University welcomes a new group of 26 students from across Africa for 2017/18.

Scholars Lab - Mastercard foundation

More than 2400 applications were received for the programme for 17/18, outlining the level of awareness of the scheme and the need for scholarship opportunities for African students not just at Edinburgh but around the world.

The number of Mastercard Foundation scholars at Edinburgh now totals 32, studying a range of subjects, from sustainable energy systems and international development to global health policy and engineering. By the fourth year of the programme, the University expects to have 100 Mastercard Foundation students studying at Edinburgh.

This year’s group includes students from South Sudan, Nigeria and Rwanda, Ethiopia and Uganda.

Charlegne Rambanapasi, from Harare, Zimbabwe, is one of the new undergraduates. She will shortly begin studying Chemical Engineering at Edinburgh.

“Getting this scholarship means the world to me. I will be the first of five siblings to go to University. I enjoy chemistry so I am looking forward to exploring so much in my chosen field and do valuable research and hopefully a bit of good in the world.”

Charlegne Rambanapasi

“I'm hoping to learn a lot in terms of transformative leadership as well as technical expertise in my field of interest so that I can help transform and develop my country. I also want to get out of my shell and meet lots of people, make great friends and create tonnes of great memories.”

“We are delighted, and proud, to see our first six postgraduate students complete their studies and our first six undergraduate students prepare for second year. We are also excited to welcome the 26 students who will joining us from 11 African countries in the coming weeks.”

Professor James Smith, the University of Edinburgh’s Vice-Principal International, said “We are delighted, and proud, to see our first six postgraduate students complete their studies and our first six undergraduate students prepare for second year. We are also excited to welcome the 26 students who will joining us from 11 African countries in the coming weeks.”

“Our Mastercard Foundation scholars have already contributed in many ways to our university community - from better food to brighter billboards - and we’re looking forward to an equally exciting year ahead.”

Africa Week

Some of the Mastercard students will be involved in this year’s Africa Week celebrations, with events running from Thursday 26 October to Wednesday 1 November. The programme of activity celebrates the University’s engagement across the continent.

Africa Week provides a forum for students, staff and the public to share ideas, discuss aspects of African research and celebrate diverse African culture through a number of cultural events.

The University has a long and important historical connection with Africa, from early pioneering graduates to current research and teaching.

Our educational links with Africa can be traced back to the 19th century, to the University’s first black African graduate, James Africanus Beale Horton, of Sierra Leone, who gained his MD in 1859.

Africa Engagement

Edinburgh welcomed 602 students from 29 African countries last year. The University’s largest cohorts in 2016/17 included 125 students from South Africa, 113 students from Nigeria and 85 students from Kenya.

The University is engaged in multi-disciplinary research relating to Africa through Edinburgh’s four Global Academies – Development, Health, Justice, Environment and Society.

Edinburgh’s Centre of African Studies is a world leader of research on Africa and the largest research hub of its kind in Europe.

Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program website