The Rhodes Scholarships owe their origin to the remarkable vision expressed in the Will of Cecil J. Rhodes, British colonial pioneer and statesman who died on March 26, 1902. He dreamed of bettering the lot of humankind through the diffusion of leaders motivated to serve their contemporaries, trained in the contemplative life of the mind, and broadened by their acquaintance with one another and by their exposure to cultures different from their own. Rhodes hoped that his plan of bringing able students from throughout the English-speaking world to study at the University where he took his degree in 1881 would aid in the promotion of international understanding and peace. Dedicated alumnus though he was, he was not moved merely by sentimental loyalty to establish the Scholarships at Oxford. Rhodes believed that, in addition to its eminence in the world of learning, Oxford University--with its emphasis on individualized instruction and on the community life provided by residential colleges--offered an environment highly congenial to personal and intellectual development.
Cecil Rhodes named nine beneficiary countries in his Will, and since 1904 other countries have been added to the list. In 1976, the scope of the Rhodes Scholarships was further extended when legal changes in the United Kingdom permitted the Rhodes Trustees to open the competition to women.
Rhodes described the qualities he sought in his scholars in the following terms:
My desire being that the students who shall be elected to the scholarships shall not merely bookworms I direct that in the election of a student to a Scholarship regard shall be had to
(i) his literary and scholastic attainments
(ii) his fondness of and success in manly outdoor sports such as cricket football and the like
(iii) his qualities of manhood truth courage devotion to duty sympathy for the protection of the weak kindliness unselfishness and fellowship and
(iv) his exhibition during school days of moral force of character and of instincts to lead and to take an interest in his schoolmates for those latter attributes will be likely in afterlife to guide him to esteem the performance of public duties as his highest aim.
The 52 original scholarships
The scheme was unprecedented in scale as well as vision. Rhodes' original will provided for 52 scholarships each year. 20 scholarships were for countries then forming part of the British Empire: two for Canada (one each for Ontario and Quebec), six for Australia (one for each colony or state), five for South Africa (one each for Natal and for four named schools in the Cape), three for Rhodesia, and one each for New Zealand, Newfoundland, Bermuda and Jamaica. 32 scholarships were for the United States: two every three years for each of the then States of the Union.
The administration of the scholarships was vested in a board of Trustees nominated in the Will. The first Trustee included the Earl of Rosebery, Earl Grey, Lord Milner and Sir Leander Starr Jameson. Later Trustees included Rudyard Kipling, Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, the first Viscount Hailsham, and Sir Kenneth Where. When Rhodes' estate was settled up in 1907 it was valued at £3,345,000. By 1924, owing to various charges, including death duties, it was estimated to be worth £2,276,000, its lowest valuation. At that point the investment portfolio was placed in the hands of Baring Brothers, who have administered the scholarship funds, under the direction of the Trustees, ever since. At the end of the financial year 1995-1996 the Trust's assets were valued at £145,638,000. The present Trustees are Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, Sir Richard Southwood, the Rt. Hon. William Waldegrave, Dr Colin Lucas, and Professor Robert O'Neill.
Scholarships to India and Women
While the 52 scholarships in the original will are still offered annually, a number of changes and additions have been made. These include introduction of scholarships to the Commonwealth countries including India. Prof. Asim Kumar Datta (Christ Church, 1947) and Late Mr. Lovraj Kumar (Magdalen, 1947) comprised the first batch of Indian Rhodes Scholars. For the first 38 years, India had one or two scholarships every year. The number of scholarships was increased to three per year in 1985, and four per year in 1991.
Until 1977 no women were elected to Rhodes scholarships, because the will as interpreted by the Rhodes Trust Acts of Parliament confined the awards to 'male students', when the U.K. government introduced legislation to outlaw sex discrimination a clause in the bill permitted single-sex educational institutions and charities to continue to discriminate in favor of one sex. Following lobbying by the Rhodes Trustees, a further clause was inserted into the eventual Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 allowing single-sex education charities to seek leave to open their awards to both sexes. Under this clause the Secretary of State for Education made an order in 1976 declaring Rhodes Scholarships to be tenable by women, and nullifying the effect of the words 'manly' and 'manhood' in the will.
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. Since 1998, six scholars are elected from India every year. Unlike USA and many other Rhodes constituencies that have a "quota" for each state, Indian Rhodes scholarships are awarded on an All-India basis. However, our selection procedure involves zonal interviews (in the North, East, West and South zones) to shortlist candidates for the final interview and screening process.
Cecil Rhodes stated in paragraph 23 of his will:
"My desire being that the students who shall be elected to the Scholarships shall not be merely bookworms I direct that in the election of a scholarship regard shall be had to (i) his literary and scholastic attainments (ii) his fondness of and success in manly outdoor sports such as cricket football and the like (iii) his qualities of manhood truth courage devotion to duty sympathy for and protection of the weak kindliness unselfishness and fellowship and (iv) his exhibition during school days of moral force of character and of instincts to lead and to take an interest in his school-mates for those latter attributes will be likely in afterlife to guide him to esteem the performance of public duties as his highest aim".
The words 'manhood' and 'manly' were removed when the law was changed to throw open the scholarships to both sexes. With that exception, the Trustees consider that nothing has rendered invalid these directions and that the aim of selection committees will be to choose persons whom they consider likely to become outstandingly good citizens, with the desire to serve and with the energy to fulfil ambitions in whatever area they may eventually make their careers.