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The Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholarship

A scholarship for doctoral studies in the UK, open exclusively to Mandela Rhodes Alumni

A partnership between the Mandela Rhodes Foundation and the Leverhulme Trust to amplify the impact of our alumni

Funding for your tuition

A stipend for living costs

Note: this scholarship is only open to Mandela Rhodes Alumni. If you're looking for Honours and Master's funding, please see the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship.


In 2016 the MRF partnered with the Leverhulme Trust to create a new doctoral scholarship only available to alumni of the Mandela Rhodes Scholars. This a very compelling supplementary offering to the Mandela Rhodes experience, and a highly competitive opportunity as there are two scholarships available per year. The Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholarships were known as the Leverhulme Mandela Rhodes Doctoral Scholarships until March 2020, when they were renamed in honour of our founding Executive Director after he passed away unexpectedly.

Purpose and aims

The aim of the Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholarships (SJMS) is to increase the impact and effectiveness of Mandela Rhodes Alumni who wish to pursue PhD studies outside the African continent, by connecting them to financial support for doctoral study in the United Kingdom.

The SJMS aims to increase vocational capacity by:

  1. Supporting alumni to further specialise in their disciplines through doctoral study.
  2. Enabling alumni to access some of the best supervisors and research facilities in those disciplines, which may not necessarily be available in their home countries.

The SJMS aims to increases leadership capacity by:

  1. Supporting alumni who have clearly identified and articulated the next phase of their leadership journey and feel that doctoral studies will support that intent.
  2. Increasing alumni access to international networks of academic and vocational influence via their UK universities.

“The Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholarship has been an incredible opportunity to further my career aspirations in the academy. [...] The support from Leverhulme has been exceptional. They ensured that we were firmly settled in upon our arrival, and organised an event where we could meet other Leverhulme researchers and fellow SJMS Scholars currently in the UK.”

— Axolile Qina (South Africa & Stellenbosch, 2016)

How to apply

Applications run from March to April every year; you can find dates for the current application cycle below.

Step 1: Check whether you are eligible

This scholarship is only open to Mandela Rhodes Alumni. For the main Mandela Rhodes Scholarship, please click here.

  • Candidates must be Mandela Rhodes Scholars seeking to do doctoral study in the UK
  • Candidates must be beginning a new PhD – the SJMS does not provide support for PhDs which have already been started

Step 2: Check the selection criteria


We acknowledge and support the Leverhulme Trust’s approach to grant giving, which is to use established criteria as a baseline, and from there select on the basis of congruence with the Trust’s values and aims. The primary criteria for PhD research proposals are: originality, importance, significance and merit.

The secondary criteria for the SJMS are designed to support the MRF’s purpose and values. Applicants should motivate for the scholarship on the bases of the following criteria:

  1. Their research. The research proposal should have a demonstrable potential social impact, that will contribute to the betterment of Africa. The research should meet the criteria of originality, importance, significance and merit.
  2. Their research institution of choice. The applicant should motivate for why it is necessary for this research to be conducted at a UK institution of their choice, making specific mention of potential supervisor/s they have identified, or research units they intend to join. The applicant should be able to articulate how this positioning will advance them in their career, beyond the completion of the doctoral thesis.
  3. Their leadership capacity and potential. The applicant should demonstrate how the MRF values have been threaded through their journey since their time in residence to the present moment, though their academic and non-academic pursuits. They should be able to motivate for why they believe the Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholarship for doctoral study in the UK is an essential next part of their leadership journey.

More info on the Leverhulme Trust’s approach to grant-making

The Trust seeks to fund outstanding scholarship, while maintaining a distinctive role within the research funding landscape. In assessing applications for funding, we use the following established criteria to priorities work of outstanding scholarship:

  • Originality: the research achieves more than the incremental development of a single discipline
  • Importance: the work will enable further research or enquiry
  • Significance: the proposed research has relevance outside a single field, and is able to excite those working in other disciplines
  • Merit: the quality of the research design and methodology, and the sustainability of the researcher and institution for the realization of the proposed research objectives

Secondary criteria in the Leverhulme Trust's approach

A second set of criteria reflect the particular values of the Leverhulme Trust, and express the Trust Board’s aspiration that our funding maintains a distinctive role within the research funding landscape. We particularly welcome applications that:

  • Reflect an individual’s personal vision, aspiration, or intellectual curiosity
  • Take appropriate risks in setting and pursuing research objectives
  • Enable a refreshing departure from established patterns of working – either for the individual, or for the discipline
  • Transcend disciplinary boundaries

Step 3: Review the process and timeline

  • Applications will open on the 17th of March and close on the 20th of April 2021.
  • Mandela Rhodes Alumni who wish to apply to be recommended for the Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholarship can download an application form via MandelaRhodesConnect. Forms will be made available on the 17th of March.
  • Applications will close at 12 noon, SAST, on the 20th of April. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered.
  • All application forms are to be submitted directly to Gigi Edross-Jeppie, via email (
  • Referees must be asked to send reference letters directly to Gigi by the 12noon deadline on the 20th of April. If your references have not been received, your application will not be considered.
  • Candidates will be contacted by the 30th of April, and informed on whether or not they have been shortlisted for interviews.
  • Panel interviews will take place virtually in the week of the 10th of May.
  • Candidates will be informed whether their application for the SJMS has been successful by the end of May.

Step 4: Review your application checklist

Please ensure the following documentation accompanies your application form. Please note that applicants are responsible for obtaining the reference letters from referees and submitting them with the application.

  • A completed application form
  • A 3 page CV
  • Matric transcripts
  • Transcripts and degree certificates from tertiary institutions
  • A one-page exposition of proposed thesis
  • A 500 word essay on your leadership journey and the MRF values since your time in residence
  • Two academic reference letters

Ready? Let's go!

Please check MandelaRhodesConnect for application forms.


Is there an age limit to the scholarship?

No, you can apply at any age.

Is the funding comprehensive?

Yes, the Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholarship covers your tuition and provides a stipend for your living costs.

Is there support for my partner and family to accompany me?

No. The scholarship provides an individual stipend. Your family’s travel, accommodation, and visa will be your responsibility.

Does MRF administer the Scholarship?

No, once you have been recommended to the Leverhulme Trust, they will administer the scholarship.

Will there be support for me with the UK Visa process?

You will need to manage your own application process for your UK university, and the accompanying Tier 4 visa process. Your university will have to provide a Confirmation of Acceptance letter, and the Leverhulme Trust will provide a confirmation letter of your funding.

Previous Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholars

SJMS 2017

Jolynne Mokaya

Kenya & Stellenbosch University, 2016

Studied at University of Oxford as a Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholar

I am a Postdoctoral Researcher based at the Nuffield Department of Medicine, Centre for Tropical…

SJMS 2017

Mark John Burke

South Africa & University of Cape Town, 2012

Studied at University of Cambridge as a Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholar

Mark recently completed his PhD at Cambridge University on a Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholarship. He…

SJMS 2018

Anton Botha

South Africa & Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, 2008

Studied at Durham University as a Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholar

I am currently working as a senior Industrial and Organizational Psychologist for the United Nations…

SJMS 2018

Richard Burman

South Africa & University of Cape Town, 2015

Studied at University of Oxford as a Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholar

Richard graduated with distinction and was awarded a distinction for his Masters dissertation in in…

SJMS 2019

Axolile Qina

South Africa & Stellenbosch University, 2016

Studied at Edinburgh University as a Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholar

I am currently a researcher who is interested in theology, particularly the field of New Testament…

SJMS 2019

Leané Meiring

South Africa & University of the Witwatersrand, 2015

Studied at University of Roehampton as a Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholar

I am a registered dramatherapist (arts psychotherapist) and PhD researcher at the Centre for…

SJMS 2020

Andrew Tangang

Cameroon & Stellenbosch University, 2018

Studied at University of Birmingham as a Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholar

Andrew Tangang hails from the Bambui Fondom, a village located in the North West Region of Cameroon…

SJMS 2020

Musa Mdunge

South Africa & Monash University, 2016

Studied at University of Dundee as a Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholar

Musa Mdunge was born on 25th October 1993 in Soweto, South Africa. In 2014, he completed a B.A…

SJMS 2021

Alexes Mes

South Africa & University of Cape Town, 2019

Studied at University of Cambridge as a Shaun Johnson Memorial Scholar

Alexes Mes grew up in the Lowveld of eastern Limpopo, South Africa. She would sleep out under the…


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