The Rhodes Scholarships were created by EnglishmanCecil John Rhodes. They have been awarded to applicants annually since 1902 by the Oxford-based Rhodes Trust, on the basis of academic qualities as well as those of character. They provide the successful candidate with two years of study at the University of Oxford in England, possibly extended for a third year.
When Rhodes died in 1902, his will stipulated that the greater part of his fortune was to go towards the establishment of a scholarship fund. The scholarships, originally worth £300, would reward those applicants who exhibited worthy qualities of intellect, character, and physical ability. There has been some controversy over the original aim of the scholarships, as Rhodes held racist opinions about the superiority of the English race over all others, and his intention was to use the scholarships to educate future foreign leaders in England so that they could help spread English influence when they returned to their home countries. However, it is generally felt that the Rhodes Trust has since rejected the racist parts of Rhodes's original ideals.
Rhodes, who attended Oxford, chose his alma mater as the site of his great experiment because he believed its residential colleges provided the ideal environment for intellectual contemplation and personal development.
The program has evolved over its century of existence.
An early change was the elimination of the scholarships for Germany during World Wars I and II. No German scholars were chosen from 1914 to 1932 nor from 1939 to 1970.
The bequest of Cecil Rhodes was whittled down considerably in the first decades after his death, as various scholarship trustees were forced to pay taxes upon their own deaths. A change occurred in 1929, when an Act of Parliament established a fund separate from the original proceeds of Cecil Rhodes's will. This made it possible for an expansion to the number of scholarships. For example, between 1993 and 1995, scholarships were extended to other countries in the European Community.
Because the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 in the UK did not affect wills, it took another Act of Parliament to change the will of Cecil Rhodes to extend selection criteria in 1977 to include women.
For at least its first 75 years, scholars usually read for a Bachelor of Arts degree. While that remains an option, more recent scholars usually read for an advanced degree.
Approximately 90 Scholars are selected worldwide each year.
Rex Nettleford (1957), pro-vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies, author, dance director
David R. Woods (Natal and University, 1963), vice-chancellor at Rhodes University
The universities of Harvard, Yale and Princeton hold the top three spots, respectively, in terms of largest number of U.S. Rhodes Scholarships won by their graduates. In the election of November 2004 (for the class matriculating in 2005), the number of students selected from Harvard, Yale and Princeton to be Rhodes scholars were 5, 2, and 0, respectively.