The Gates Cambridge Scholarship programme was established in October 2000 by a donation of US$210m from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the University of Cambridge; this is the largest ever single donation to a UK university.
For 2020 entry, Gates Cambridge will offer 80 full-cost scholarships to outstanding applicants from countries outside the UK to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree in any subject available at the University of Cambridge. Approximately two-thirds of these awards will be offered to PhD students, with approximately 25 awards available in the US round and 55 available in the International round.
The selection criteria are:
- outstanding intellectual ability
- reasons for choice of course
- a commitment to improving the lives of others
- leadership potential
There are about 225 Scholars from c. 50 countries studying in Cambridge at any one time who pursue the full range of subjects available at the University and are spread across its departments and Colleges.
The aim of the Gates Cambridge programme is to build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others.
Check if you are eligible to apply:
You can apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship if you are:
- a citizen of any country outside the United Kingdom
- applying to pursue one of the following full-time residential courses of study at the University of Cambridge:
- One year postgraduate course (with some exceptions – see below)
The courses not eligible for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship are listed at the bottom of this page.
You can use the form below to quickly check if you are eligible to apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship and, if so, in which of the two application rounds you must apply.
Current student at Cambridge?
If you are currently studying at Cambridge and wish to apply for a new postgraduate course you can apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. For example, if you are currently studying for an MPhil you can apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to pursue a PhD. Current Gates Cambridge Scholars may also apply for a second scholarship if they are applying for a new degree. All current Cambridge students will be considered in round two. However, if you have already started a course you cannot apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to fund the remainder of it.
Courses which are NOT eligible for Gates Cambridge Scholarships:
- Any Undergraduate degree such as BA (undergraduate) or BA affiliated (a second BA)
- Master of Business (MBA)
- Master of Finance (MFin)
- MBBChir Clinical Studies
- MD Doctor of Medicine degree (6 years, part-time)
- Graduate Course in Medicine (A101)
- Part-time degrees
- Non-degree courses
Applications for October 2020 entry are now open.
Gates Cambridge considers candidates in two selection rounds each year:
Round 1: US citizens living in the USA only
Applicants in this round must apply by 9 October 2019 for entry in October 2020.
Round 2: All other eligible applicants (part of the Graduate Funding Competition)
The application deadline in this round is determined by the course you are applying for and is set by the central Graduate Admissions Office. You can find which of the two deadlines below applies to you by checking the Graduate Funding Competition deadline in the course directory. Please also note that if a course deadline is earlier than the relevant funding deadline above (e.g. the LLM in Law), you must apply by the earlier course deadline.
Gates Cambridge follow the University of Cambridge application deadline time rule of midday (UK time) on the relevant application deadline day.
|What stage?||Round 1||Round 2|
|Applications open||2 September 2019||2 September 2019|
|Application deadline||9 October 2019||Dependent on your course – either 3 December 2019 or 7 January 2020|
|Departmental ranking||October – November||December – February|
|Trust shortlisting||Mid-December||Early March|
|Shortlisted candidates invited to interview||Late December||Early March|
|Interviews||24 & 25 January 2020 (Seattle, USA)||23 & 24 March 2020 (Cambridge, UK)|
|Scholarships offered||Early February||Late March|
|Scholarships accepted||48 hours after offer||48 hours after offer|
Our Scholars come from diverse backgrounds and each brings something unique to the programme. We use four criteria to select them.
To be competitive for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship candidates must show evidence of academic excellence (through their transcripts, references, experience and the potential to succeed on the chosen course). Academic departments at the University of Cambridge nominate only the most academically outstanding applicants for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, which ensures that those whom we select will thrive at Cambridge.
Reasons for choice of course
You should be able to make a strong case for a particular postgraduate degree at Cambridge. PhD applicants (and most research MPhil applicants) will need to make contact with a potential supervisor with whom they will develop a research project, a summary of which is part of the application. You will need to demonstrate that you have the academic background and the necessary skills and expertise to complete the course. Taught MPhil and other applicants need to make a strong case for how completing the proposed course will facilitate their career plans. Gates Cambridge seeks Scholars who will have an academically transformative experience at Cambridge, so it is important that you fully research and justify the course for which you are applying.
A commitment to improving the lives of others
A defining characteristic of the Gates Cambridge programme is the commitment of our Scholars to improving the lives of others. We interpret this criterion broadly and applicants define it themselves by providing evidence of their past, current and future commitment to the societies in which they will live and work.
A capacity for leadership
Successful applicants must be able to demonstrate a capacity for leadership, which can be expressed in a multitude of ways. Applicants should provide evidence of their leadership experience to date and indicate the ways in which their leadership skills may have impact in the future careers.
A note on the ratio of PhD:Masters awards
In order to create and sustain a viable Scholar community in Cambridge University and for Scholars to take full advantage of their time in Cambridge, we aim to select approximately 2/3 PhD scholars each year. Those applying for taught Masters should pay special attention to explaining why this is the optimal course for them and how it is critical to their future academic or professional training plans.
To apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship you need to submit an application for admission and funding
Applicants submit their application for admission and funding (Gates Cambridge and other funding) via the University’s Graduate Application Portal. See How to apply for details.
To be considered for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship you must complete the section to apply for admission to a course and a College place and the Gates Cambridge part of the funding section. Gates Cambridge has access to the full application for admission and funding when reviewing applications. As part of your application you will submit the following:
Gates Cambridge Statement
In the application form we ask:
In no more than 3000 characters (approximately 500 words) please explain why you are applying for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship and how you meet the four main criteria. Full details about how to apply, including selection criteria and guidance on completing this statement, can be found at: www.gatescambridge.org/apply
The statement is used by the Gates Cambridge shortlisting committees to distinguish between candidates who have been highly ranked by departments on academic grounds. It helps our committees identify those candidates who, as well as being academically outstanding, possess a capacity for leadership and commitment to improving the lives of others. This is the only part of the application form where applicants are specifically asked about their fit with the Gates Cambridge programme and you should use your background, achievements, experiences and future aims to show how you would be a good fit with the Gates Cambridge programme.
Research proposal (PhD applicants only)
Gates Cambridge requires PhD applicants only to submit a research proposal as part of their application for funding. Most PhD applicants will upload a research proposal as part of their application for admission, but where this is not the case a research proposal is required to apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. If you are applying for a degree other than the PhD you do not need to submit a research proposal as part of your materials of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. The research proposal for Gates Cambridge’s purposes needs only be about 2 pages, but you should check the requirements for your course and department to be sure about length and format.
Gates Cambridge reference
In addition to two academic references for admission, Gates Cambridge applicants submit a reference about their fit with the scholarship.
In the application form we ask:
Please give your assessment of the applicant’s suitability for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. These are awarded on the following criteria: intellectual ability, justification for the choice of course, a commitment to improving the lives of others and leadership capacity.
We also ask:
- How highly would you rank the applicant for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship?
- On what overall group are you basing this ranking?
- What is the size of this group?
The Gates Cambridge Reference is used in the same way as the Gates Cambridge Statement – to reduce the large number of well-qualified applicants to those who match the Gates Cambridge criteria.
Referees are also asked how they rate the applicant for the scholarship: exceptional, strong, not strong, weak. They may paste/type up to 4,000 characters into the on-line reference or upload a separate letter.
Who should write the Gates Cambridge Reference?
This is a common question. You should definitely not ask friends or family, or someone who is unable to comment on your suitability for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.
You should ask someone of appropriate standing who is able to answer the question with authority and who understands the the criteria and highly competitive nature of the Gates Cambridge programme.
Many applicants ask a current or former academic advisor who is aware of their personal attributes, others ask a current or former employer, while others ask senior staff in an organisation with whom they may have volunteered. These are all sensible choices, although this is by no means an exhaustive list. Some applicants ask one of their two academic referees to write the Gates Cambridge reference: this is fine as long as that person has a good understanding of your personal qualities and does not provide a third academic reference. The important point to remember is that the Gates Cambridge Referee must understand what the Scholarship is about and must be able to write authoritatively about how you meet the criteria.
Some points to consider are:
- It is essential that the Gates Cambridge Referee is fully briefed about the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, especially its selection criteria;
- It is useful when referees use specific examples of how you meet the Scholarship’s criteria;
- While your referees are likely to be busy, you will need to ensure they understand the need to keep the reference focused on the Gates Cambridge criteria and not, for example, rehash a standard or previous reference.
If you are shortlisted for interview you will have already gone through an incredibly competitive process.
You will be invited for a 20-25 minute interview and, depending on where you are, you can interview either in person or by Skype. Where you are able to attend the interview in person we encourage this.
There are four broadly subject-based interview panels:
- Biological Sciences
- Physical Sciences
- Social Sciences
Each three to four person panel usually consists academics, a representative of the Trust and Gates Cambridge alummi. Each interview has four main sections:
1. Welcome and introduction
- The Chair will introduce the panel, set out the format of the interview, and provide any other essential information to allow for a productive session.
2. Gates Cambridge
- What you know about the Gates Cambridge Scholarships
- Your motivation for applying
- Why you think you could be a Gates Cambridge Scholar
- Your thoughts on the opportunities and responsibilities that a prestigious, full-cost scholarship at one of the world’s leading universities brings
3. Academic and career plans
- Your academic work to date – can you convincingly communicate your passion for, and the importance of, your chosen subject?
- Your proposed degree at Cambridge – can you provide a convincing justification for your choice of course?
- Your career plans – can you convincingly link your application for both a Gates Cambridge Scholarship and your proposed course at Cambridge to your future career plans?
- You may also be asked probing intellectual or ethical questions, to which there are no ‘right’ answers.
4. Final thoughts and any questions you might have.
- A chance to add anything further you would like the interview panel to consider, and to ask any questions you may have (having no questions to ask is also fine).
How we select
Gates Cambridge uses a three-stage selection process to ensure Scholars meet all of our criteria to the highest degree.
1. Departmental ranking
Gates Cambridge asks academic departments in Cambridge to score and nominate eligible applicants. Those who are put forward by departments (a small proportion of the total applicant pool) are considered the most academically outstanding applicants the department has received that year, who also meet the other Gates Cambridge criteria.
Once Gates Cambridge has a list of nominated candidates from departments, these are divided into broad subject areas and passed to our Shortlisting Committees. These Committees look at the candidates’ entire application pack (including the Gates Cambridge Statement and Reference) and use Gates Cambridge criteria to identify those who should be invited for interview. Everyone who is shortlisted for interview will have gone through an exceptionally competitive process and will show evidence of meeting all criteria to a high level.
All shortlisted candidates are interviewed to assess how they meet all Gates Cambridge criteria and Scholars are selected after interview. More details are available from the interview page.
Please note that the Trust is not able to provide feedback to applicants.
How to apply
Ready to make an application?
You may apply for admission to a postgraduate degree, a College place and various sources of funding (including Gates Cambridge) via the University’s Graduate Applicant Portal. Full details can be found at www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk.