How to apply for the Ruth First Scholarship

The Trust plans to offer, in the academic year 2017-18, a scholarship to support a student from southern Africa taking a one-year taught course leading to the award of a Master's degree at Durham University.


You should:
(a) hold a relevant honours degree of sufficient standard to be admitted to your chosen Masterís course, and
(b) not hold a Masterís degree, nor have previously studied at a university outside southern Africa, and
(c) show evidence of active involvement in and commitment to 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.

English language requirements for international students coming to study in the UK were tightened in 2011. 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. The general minimum set by the UK Government is Level B2 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, and there are strict guidelines about which qualifications are acceptable. 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: we'll sort this out with the successful applicant. Requirements for particular programmes at Durham are listed here.

If you are employed, or receiving a grant or sponsorship, you must be able to provide (before you take up the Scholarship) written evidence that an agreement has been made with your employer or sponsor approving your absence for the period of the Scholarship and confirming any arrangements for continued payment of salary or sponsorship.

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 and skills to good use for the benefit of the societies to which they return in Africa.


The University will award to the successful candidate a tuition fee scholarship covering the full fees for the programme chosen. Through a Gift 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 2016-17 the allowance is £500 per month and the value of the full-board accommodation is approximately £515 per month.
The Ruth First Scholarship may not be awarded to a student taking the MBA programme.

The Scholar will also receive a settling-in allowance on arrival and a contribution to the cost of sending belongings home before departure if necessary. The Trust will pay for one return air ticket from the home country to the UK and the cost of return travel between the UK airport and Durham City. The Trust will also pay £400 towards 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 and a placement if required. The normal starting date for most Masters programmes is the beginning of October.

How to apply

Application forms (6 pages plus 2 referee report forms) have been sent to universities in South Africa and other southern African countries. You may download the form as a Word document here and type into the boxes. The application and references may be submitted as e-mail attachments. Academic results transcripts should be sent by post, or by e-mail as scans of the original documents (please compress image files sent electronically to a size under 1 MB).

Download application form

Download Academic reference form

Download Non-academic reference form


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

Completed applications (form + 2 references + transcript) should be sent to:

Dr Mike Thompson
Ruth First Educational Trust

School of Modern Languages & Cultures
Durham University
Durham DH1 3JT


by 9 March 2017.

NB: All applicants must also submit a formal application to Durham University by 9 March 2017
Read the guidance Applying for Postgraduate Study and click "Apply on-line". Further instructions on completing the online application can be found on the Ruth First Scholarship application form. An offer of a place at the University does not imply that you have been awarded the Ruth First Scholarship. The winner of the Scholarship will be notified separately once the selection process has been completed.

Enquiries about applications may be sent to The outcome of the selection process will not be known before the end of May. The name of the successful applicant will be announced on this website (we are unable to send individual notifications to unsuccessful applicants).

Further details of particular programmes and general information about postgraduate study at Durham can be found on the University's website. There are also pages providing information for prospective international students. Official visa information is available on the UK Government's website.


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 it was renamed in memory of Ruth First, who taught 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, trade unions 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, Swaziland, 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 Britainís most popular and prestigious universities. It has about 13,500 undergraduate and 4,200 postgraduate students at its two campuses in Durham City and Stockton. 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 15 Colleges or Societies, which provide a social and pastoral focus. Since 2006-07, the 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 30 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 Jan 2017 Mike Thompson

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