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How to apply for the Ruth First Scholarship

How to apply for the Ruth First Scholarship

Applications for the 2024-25 award are now open.

The Ruth First Educational Trust and Durham University offer a scholarship to support a student from southern Africa taking a one-year taught course in the academic year 2024-25 leading to the award of a Master’s degree at Durham University.

Deadline for applications: 10 March 2024.


You should:
(a) be a citizen of or resident in one of the following countries: Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Republic of South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and
(b) hold a relevant Honours degree of sufficient standard to be admitted to your chosen Master’s course, and
(c) not hold a Master’s degree, nor have previously studied at a university outside southern Africa, and
(d) show evidence of active commitment to and leadership in voluntary work for the benefit of causes such as rural or urban community development; young people or educational projects; charitable organisations; health or AIDS awareness projects; student welfare or guidance; the defence of human rights; the promotion of equal opportunities or social justice; environmental sustainability. If you have a paid job that involves working in such areas, you should show evidence of leadership and commitment beyond the requirements of the job.

The Trust aims to award the Scholarship to individuals who not only have the academic and personal qualities to enable them to complete and benefit from a postgraduate course, but who will also act as positive ambassadors for their home countries in Durham and put their enhanced knowledge, skills and leadership capacity to good use for the benefit of the wider community in southern Africa and beyond.

The Ruth First Scholarship may not be awarded to a student taking the MBA programme; it is also unsuitable for 2-year programmes such as the Master’s in Social Work.

The person selected for the Ruth First Scholarship will need to provide evidence of possessing a qualification in English language that meets the minimum requirement for the programme applied for. This is a UK Government requirement: if it is not met, a visa will not be issued. If you already have a suitable qualification (see the University’s guidance here), send a scan of the certificate with your application. If you haven’t, don’t do anything about it now: this will be a condition of any offer made to you by the University. Requirements for particular programmes at Durham are listed here.


The University will award to the successful candidate a tuition fee scholarship covering the full fees for the programme chosen. Through an agreement between the Trust and the University, the Scholar will receive a monthly allowance to cover living and other expenses for 12 months, as well as free accommodation and meals at St Chad’s College (the cost of which is shared between the Trust and the College). In 2023-24 the allowance is £525 per month and the value of the full-board accommodation is approximately £530 per month.
The Scholar will also receive a small settling-in payment on arrival. The Trust will pay for one return air ticket from the home country to the UK and the cost of travel between the UK airport and Durham City. The Trust will also cover the cost of applying for a Tier 4 UK visa and the Immigration Health Surcharge. The Trust cannot provide additional support for dependants, nor for travel during the period of the Scholarship.

The Scholar is required to attend all taught components of the chosen course and complete all assignments prescribed, including a dissertation or project, and a placement if required. The normal starting date for most Masters programmes is late September.

How to apply

Go to Durham University’s page for the Ruth First Scholarship and complete the online application forms for a place at the University and for the Scholarship. 

You must make the application to the University first. When you do this, the system will generate a Durham Student ID number which you must include in your Ruth First Scholarship application. 

The deadline for applications is 10 March 2024.

A scan of your first degree results transcript must be e-mailed to Prof Michael Thompson at [email protected].

TWO reference letters (one academic and one non-academic) must be provided for your Ruth First application; the academic one may also be used for your University application, while the non-academic one should provide information about your achievements in paid or voluntary work. The reference letters must be e-mailed to Prof Michael Thompson at [email protected].

An offer of a place at the University does not imply that you have been awarded the Ruth First Scholarship; applicants who are not offered a place by the University cannot be considered for the Scholarship. Applicants for the Scholarship are not required to pay a tuition fee deposit to the University (if the system fails to recognize this and sends you an e-mail requesting payment of a deposit, reply to the e-mail pointing out that you are applying for the Ruth First Scholarship). The winner of the Scholarship will be notified once the selection process has been completed.

List of courses available
(Browse all courses or search for a particular subject; specify Postgraduate)

Further information for prospective international students can be found on the University’s website.

Official visa information is available on the UK Government’s website.

Enquiries about applications may be sent to [email protected]

Professor Mike Thompson
Chair of the Board of Trustees
Ruth First Educational Trust

Further information for applicants

The Trust

The Ruth First Educational Trust was established to enable members of historically disadvantaged communities in South Africa to study at the University of Durham. A fund for this purpose has existed since 1964, and in 1982 was renamed in memory of Ruth First, the prominent writer and anti-apartheid activist, who taught Sociology and Development Studies at the University during her exile from South Africa until she was assassinated in Mozambique. The fund is financed by donations from students, staff, other supporters in Durham and Durham County Council. After 1994, the focus shifted to the funding of postgraduate study, and since 2007 the geographical scope has been extended to accept applications from other countries in southern Africa as well as the Republic of South Africa (Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia and Malawi).
The Trust also aims to educate and inform members of the University and the general public about educational and development issues in southern Africa. Holders of Ruth First Scholarships are expected to help the Trust to fulfil this aim.

The University

Founded in 1832, Durham is one of Britain’s most popular and prestigious universities. It has about 16,000 undergraduate and 4000 postgraduate students. It ranked 92nd in the 2023 QS World University Rankings, and 6th in UK university league tables. There are excellent library, computing and sports facilities, and a wide range of non-academic interests are catered for by student clubs and societies. As well as an academic department, each student belongs to one of 17 Colleges or Societies, which provide a social and pastoral focus. Since 2006-07, every Ruth First Scholar has been a member of St Chad’s College, which supports the Scholarship by providing subsidized accommodation and meals, and welcoming the Scholar into a supportive and stimulating community.

City of Durham

Durham is a beautiful, ancient cathedral city in the north-east of England, about 260 miles north of London and 15 miles south of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Historically, the economy of the north-east region was dominated by coalmining and industries such as iron and steel, shipbuilding, heavy engineering and chemicals. These have been in severe decline during the last 40 years and coalmining and shipbuilding have almost disappeared. The lost jobs have been replaced in part by newer industries such as electronics, motor manufacturing and services. County Durham is a very pleasant area in which to live. It has a beautiful coast and is mainly rural, including sparsely populated hilly areas. The city has excellent road and rail links, and a lively cultural life centred mostly on the University.

Updated Feb 2024 Mike Thompson
[email protected]
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