In this New York Times article, it is reported that Rhodes scholarships, the “prestigious grant program” that sends college-age students from around the world to the University of Oxford in England for studies, is planing to expand to countries in the developing world, including China.

This move is expected to be the largest change in its program since the 1970’s when women were made eligible to participate.  The hope is that with this expansion, it will provide a more diverse “crop of young people” who “will become leaders in their countries, adding to a list of luminaries that includes Nobel Prize recipients, former President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia.”

Cecil Rhodes

Students walking past a statue of the British mining magnate Cecil Rhodes at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He created the Rhodes scholarship program more than a century ago. Credit Schalk Van Zuydam/Associated Press

According to the article, the Rhodes program has had financial problems in recent years and this is an attempt to widen its reach to raise money to keep the scholarships going by broadening its base especially in China.  There is concern however, that the Communist Party may try to “exert pressure on the selection process to exclude university students whom the authorities view as critical of the government.”  It is interesting to note that in a earlier New York Time’s article, the Chinese government was criticized, both by students and teachers in China, for trying to limit the use of foreign textbooks as this was viewed as promoting unwelcome “western values.”

That being said, the “scholarship program has already won major commitments from wealthy Chinese and Hong Kong businessmen, including a foundation set up by Asia’s wealthiest man, Li Ka-shing. The Rhodes Trust said it also worked with Alvin Jiang, the grandson of former President Jiang Zemin of China and a co-founder of one of China’s biggest private equity firms, in searching for donations in China.”

Hopefully, these political overtones will not harm the good will that this program aims to achieve and its latest efforts to be more inclusive and representative of the world’s best and brightest students wherever they may be found in the world.

The full article can be read at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/31/world/asia/rhodes-scholarships-expanding-to-include-chinese-students.html?ref=world&_r=1

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