Explore & Apply
The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship is a life-changing leadership journey.
The scholarship combines financial support with a leadership programme that will challenge you, grow you, and connect you to young African changemakers - just like you.
The leadership development programme
Our programme is built on our founding principles of reconciliation, education, entrepreneurship, and leadership, and a belief that leadership begins with inner transformation. We aim to keep Nelson Mandela’s legacy alive by equipping young African leaders with the competence and courage to transform the continent into a place where everyone has equal opportunity to thrive. Our programme is delivered primarily through a series of week-long residential workshops which you will attend during your time in residence.
The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship offers comprehensive funding for the core costs associated with your studies. It covers tuition for a one-year Honours degree or a two-year Masters degree in any field at a recognised South African institution of higher education. This includes tuition and registration fees, allowances for study materials, research, and medical aid, accommodation and meals, personal allowance and economy class travel to and from your home country to your South African university at the beginning and end of your degree. You will also receive a personal allowance.
Am I eligible?
If you are between the ages of 19 and 29, are a citizen of any African country, and have a first degree with above average academic results (70%), you are eligible to apply for the scholarship.
We look for young Africans who have demonstrated the potential to embody our founding principles of reconciliation, education, entrepreneurship, and leadership. You must have already assumed leadership and made an impact on your campus or community.
Potential for growth
To benefit from our programme you must be curious about doing the personal, internal work of leadership. This means a commitment to developing self-awareness by engaging with difficult parts of yourself, an openness to learning from the diversity and differences in your cohort, and a willingness to explore and embrace complexity within yourself, others, and the systems around you.
Could you be a Mandela Rhodes Scholar?
We look for young leaders who aspire to the principles below and who have demonstrated the potential to live them out.
Do you aspire to be a visionary leader who has moral authority? Do you see leadership as more than just personal ambition - as a way to pursue the advancement of equality and freedom, human rights and human dignity? And do you want to guide and inspire others to reach their full potential?
Do you believe that reconciliation - combined with reparation - is the key to harnessing an imperfect past to develop a more just world? And are you prepared to start the process by looking at your own internal landscape?
Do you have excellent academic results but believe that your education should not only benefit you but make a difference for others? And do you agree that intellectual excellence must be accompanied by character and a rounded personality?
Do you want to see Africa take its rightful place as an equal and competitive presence in the global world? Have you demonstrated individual effort, innovation and creativity to this end?
Funding and finances
What costs are covered?
- Tuition and registration fees as set by your university or institution
- A study materials allowance as set by the MRF
- Accommodation and meal allowances as set by the MRF
- A medical aid allowance as set by the MRF
- A personal allowance as set by the MRF
- Research and conferencing grants can be made available on request
- Economy-class flights for international scholars from their home countries to their institutions at the start and end of their studies
What costs are not covered?
The Mandela Rhodes Foundation does not pay for your application fees for university, or for the accreditation of your existing degrees through SAQA, which may be an entry requirement to your course. We also do not provide financial support for visa applications.
How do the finances work?
Allowances are paid twice a year. You will be required to provide proof of registration at the start of the year, and a progress report from your university two weeks after the start of the second semester. Your tuition and registration fees are paid directly to the tertiary institution, while all other allowances are paid to you. Any amount due to or owed by you prior to becoming a Mandela Rhodes Scholar, is your sole responsibility, and the MRF will not become involved in any way.
Passports and visas
Does the MRF provide support and assistance with my visa process?
No. Applying for your visa and paying for any associated costs is your responsibility. You will need a visa in order to take up the scholarship in South Africa. It is very important to start as early as possible. If your visa is delayed you may not be able to start your academic programme and the Leadership Development Programme on time. This could result in you losing the scholarship. Apply for your visa as soon as you have received acceptance from your university of choice.
Your application form states that I have to submit a copy of my passport. I do not have the means to acquire a passport, can you assist me?
If you are shortlisted for an interview and need to fly to South Africa, The Mandela Rhodes Foundation does not cover the cost of any travel documents such as passports.
The application process
How do I apply?
You must apply online. You can log onto our applications platform to access your application and upload your documents and essays. The three people who write your recommendation letters must also log onto the platform to upload their letters directly. You must give them plenty of time to write their letters, sign onto the platform, and upload them. Your application cannot be submitted without the letters and will not be considered.
What is the application deadline?
The deadline is the 16th of April, by which time all application documentation needs to have been uploaded. Your recommenders (referees) must have uploaded their references by then in order for your application to be complete.
Do I apply for SAQA verification now?
Applying for SAQA verification is not required in order to apply. However, we advise that if you get through to the second and third rounds of the application process, you apply and complete the SAQA verification of your qualifications as soon as possible. For more information about SAQA requirements visit the SAQA website. The MRF does not cover the costs of SAQA verification.
Studies and university acceptance
Do I have to apply to a university before completing the application form?
You must state what degree you are planning to study. You do not have to have applied or been accepted, but we highly recommend that you apply as soon as possible. If you do not get accepted into a South African institution, you will not be able to accept the scholarship if awarded. Apply early and have multiple options in case you do not get accepted to your first choice.
Does the MRF apply to the university for me?
No. You must apply separately to your chosen tertiary institution for the degree you wish to undertake. The award is conditional on your being offered a place at the relevant institution. It’s best to apply to several universities in case you do not get accepted at your first choice and are unable to take up the scholarship as a result.
How do I know if I meet the entry requirements for the course I want to complete in South Africa?
Many South African Masters degrees require you to have completed a four year program or an Honours degree. If you want to study for a Masters, we advise that you check carefully with your intended department of study and university, exactly what the requirements are. They may require that you get your qualifications verified by the South African Qualifications Agency (SAQA). This process can take some time and delay both your university acceptance and your visa. Start early.
NB: If you are not accepted to university timeously, you will not be able to get your study visa in time for the commencement of the programme in January, and you will not be able accept the scholarship.
Do I need straight As?
The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship is competitive. It is for young leaders who have a combination of intellect and character. You must be academically strong: your marks should be above 70%. You must also have demonstrated leadership on your campus or in your community. See the selection criteria and the scholar testimonials.
Is there an age limit?
If you are between the ages of 19 and 29 at the time of applying, you are eligible. As long as you are under the age of 30 at the time you take up the scholarship, you are eligible to apply.
I am a citizen of an African country outside of South Africa. Am I eligible?
Yes. Students who are citizens of an African country, no matter where they are currently living or studying, are eligible. And can I study in my home country? No. The scholarship is for study in South Africa, at a South African institution of higher education - you cannot study in your home country. Distance learning is not allowed - you must study at an institution in South Africa so that you can participate in our programme.
Which universities and what courses of study do you support?
The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship is for postgraduate study (Honours and Masters degrees) in any field, with the exception of MBAs, which we do not fund. You can study at any recognised South African institution of higher education.
Do you fund undergraduate study?
No. The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship is only for postgraduate study (Honours and Masters).
Can I apply if I am only completing my undergraduate degree this year?
Yes. You can apply if you are completing your undergraduate degree in 2020, but it must be complete by the time you take up the Scholarship in January 2021, should you be selected.
Questions about the programme
How long is the tenure of the Scholarship?
We will fund your degree to a strict maximum of two years, with no exceptions allowed. Students who receive the Scholarship for their Honours degree receive one year of funding, while Masters students will receive one or two years of funding.
Is it mandatory to participate in the leadership development workshops?
Yes. Attendance at the residential workshops and regional pods is mandatory, and a condition of the scholarship. Participating in the Mentoring Programme is optional.
Our applications timeline runs from March to November of each year, for the following year’s intake. Applications open in mid-March and close in mid-April. You will apply online, and access our application platform through our website.
Applications re-open in
Step 1: Check the timeline
- March: Applications open in mid-March. Candidates can add recommenders on the platform and begin uploading their documentation and working on their personal essays. See ‘requirements’.
- April: Applications close in mid-April. No late or incomplete applications will be accepted under any circumstances.
- June: You will be notified by the end of June whether or not you are through to Round Two.
- July: You will be notified by the end of July whether or not you are through to Round Three.
- August: You will be notified by the end of August if you are invited for an interview in the Final Round, or if you have been unsuccessful.
- October: If you are in the final round and you are based outside South Africa, you will be flown in for an in-person interview with our selection committee. You will be notified by the end of October if you are selected as a Mandela Rhodes Scholar.
- October-December: Selected Mandela Rhodes Scholars must do their best to secure acceptance at their university of choice, and their study visa for travel to South Africa in January.
Step 2: Check programme requirements
Tip: Take the quiz to see if the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship is for you.
The leadership development programme is primarily delivered through a series of 5-day residential workshops. Attendance is compulsory. Committing to full participation in the programme activities - which may take place during the week or on weekends - is a condition of the scholarship. There will be three workshops in your first year in residence (in January, July and September), and two in your second year (in March and August) if you are on a two-year programme. The dates are given well in advance so that you can avoid clashes with your academic timetable.
Feedback and updates
We will periodically ask that you complete feedback forms and reflections so that we can improve our offerings. Completing these timeously is a requirement, and an important component of your own learning. After the scholarship we will periodically request updates and details so that we can report on our impact and keep in touch with you.
Respect the conditions of tenure
You must accept the scholarship for the year that it is offered - it cannot be deferred. You must have secured admission to your university of choice by January of your year in residence. You must attend and participate in all activities of the leadership development programme, and travel outside South Africa, even for research purposes, will not be accepted as a reason for absence. You must maintain high standards of work and conduct. You may not hold other scholarships and funded opportunities. You may not do paid work for more than 12 hours a week. You must uphold the values, principles and standards of the Foundation, and if you do not the MRF may cease payments to you and end your participation in the programme.
Step 3: Get your documents ready
- Recommenders: We require three letters of recommendation as part of your application. Your recommenders must submit their letters through our application platform.Without these letters, you cannot submit your application. Get in touch with three people who have relevant experience of you and insight into your character as soon as possible - even before applications open - to ask them permission and give them time to write their letters. Once you register a recommender on the platform, they will receive an email asking them to log on and upload their letter.
- Documentation: You will be required to upload certificates of completion for your degrees, transcripts of your academic results, and scans of your ID and passport documents.
- Essays: You will be asked to write two short essays, one on your personal journey, and one on a specific question relating to our principles.
- Application for university: You will be asked to fill in your proposed course of study on your application. We do not require proof that you have applied, but we recommend that you apply as soon as possible, and to more than one university.
- Do your qualifications meet the requirements for your proposed course of study? Each country has its own framework for registering and rating qualification levels. In South Africa, this is managed by the South African Qualifications Agency (SAQA). SAQA accreditation can take 4-8 weeks, which can delay your acceptance to university and thus your study visa to South Africa.
- To ensure that you will be accepted for your chosen programme, we highly recommend that you find out as soon as possible what the National Qualification Framework (NQF) requirements for your course are, and whether your qualifications meet these requirements.
- Masters programmes in South Africa may require several years of work or clinical experience as an admission requirement. It is your responsibility to check if you will be accepted to the course, and apply for backup options.