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Things to Consider When Applying for a Government-Funded International Scholarship

Wednesday | February 12, 2014 | by Kata Orosz

International student at her computer

A large number of international students receive funding from their home government: in the past two academic years, more than 57,000 international students studying in the U.S. received financial support from the government of their home country or from a university in their home country.

If you are an international student looking for funding to pay for your education abroad, applying for a government-funded international scholarship program might be an option. This post gives you the inside scoop about the variety of international scholarship programs and provides you with a checklist as you think about applying for such a program.

Many Governments Fund Education Abroad

Did you know that there were at least 183 international scholarship programs funded by national governments operating in 2013? A recent study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Nazarbayev University found that half of the 196 independent states of the world sponsor at least one international scholarship program, one-fifth sponsor two programs, and one in ten found more than two programs.

Nations at all levels of economic development and political freedom award scholarships for studying abroad. The most common scholarship program by far is the Fulbright program: more than 80 nations co-sponsor Fulbright scholarships with the U.S. government, funding graduate studies for international students in the U.S.

Programs Vary by Study Level, Expenses Covered, and Other Characteristics

Does your home country fund one or more international scholarship programs? Great! Before applying, you should take some time to learn about the characteristics of the program you are interested in. While all government-funded international scholarship programs have something in common—they provide financial support to students who want to get a higher education abroad —they vary both in terms of the support they provide as well as in their criteria for selecting scholarship recipients.

For example, most government-funded international scholarship programs fund studies at the graduate (master’s, doctoral, post-doctoral) level; only one-fifth of programs funds undergraduate studies abroad. If you are interested in getting a degree abroad, you might be a good candidate for a government-funded international scholarship: eight out of ten government-funded programs support applicants who want to get a degree abroad.

Some government-funded scholarships offer a full ride, while others only pay for tuition or cover travel expenses but do not provide for insurance, accommodation, or other expenses. Another important piece of information to check is whether your government prioritizes certain academic or professional fields when awarding international scholarships. Nearly half of all government-funded programs award international scholarships only in specific priority fields, such as STEM, social sciences, or the arts.

Checklist for Applying for Government-Funded International Scholarships

Receiving a government-funded international scholarship has several benefits: it helps you pay for your education abroad, it may be looked upon positively by the colleges and universities that you are applying to, and it frequently puts you in touch with a network of academics and professionals who received the scholarship before you.

Applying for a government-funded international scholarship is often a complex and time-consuming process. You can use the checklist below to gather information about programs and decide whether the program offered by your nation is the right choice for you.

  • Study level: Does the program fund undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate studies?
  • Program intensity: Does the program help you complete a degree abroad or is it for short-term exchange only?
  • Priority field: Does the program fund studies only in certain fields? If so, which fields?
  • Eligibility criteria: What are the criteria for scholarship applicants? Common criteria include some measure of academic achievement (e.g. GPA), foreign language test score, prior work experience, and others.
  • Expenses covered: What costs are covered by the scholarship? Common items include tuition, fees, travel, living expenses, insurance, and others.
  • Destination restrictions: Can this scholarship be held in any country and at any higher education institution? Are there any restrictions?
  • Return obligation: Do scholarship recipients have to return to the sponsoring country after the completion of their program?

Source of data points on government-funded international scholarship programs and program characteristics: Perna, L. W., Orosz, K., Gopaul, B., Jumakulov, Z., Ashirbekov, A., and Kishkentayeva, M. (2014). Promoting human capital development: A typology of international scholarship programs in higher education. Educational Researcher. Published online first on 24 January 2014.

Kata Orosz
Kata Orosz is a Research Assistant and Ph.D. Student at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).