Gates Cambridge Scholarship

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship is one of the most prestigious and competitive scholarships in the world. Offered by the University of Cambridge, the scholarship fully funds postgraduate study and research in any subject available at Cambridge for outstanding students outside the UK.

Overview of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program was established in 2000 through a $210 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the University of Cambridge.

The goal of the scholarship is to build a network of future leaders from around the world who will bring new vision and commitment to improving the lives of others. Scholarships are awarded to outstanding applicants from countries outside the UK to pursue a postgraduate degree at Cambridge in any subject available.

Each year, Gates Cambridge Scholars are selected through a rigorous assessment of academic excellence, leadership potential, and a commitment to improving the lives of others. Scholars receive full funding for their entire postgraduate study at Cambridge, including:

  • University composition fees and maintenance allowance (for living expenses)
  • Return airfare to and from the United Kingdom
  • Disability-related expenses, if applicable
  • Costs associated with dependents, if applicable

The scholarship duration is typically for 1-4 years to complete a postgraduate degree. Over 2,000 students from over 100 countries have been awarded the Gates Cambridge Scholarship since the program’s inception.

Benefits of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship is exceptionally generous and comprehensive in its support of future leaders. Here are some of the key benefits:

Full funding for Cambridge postgraduate study

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship provides full financial support, including:

  • All tuition and academic fees
  • Living allowance covering housing, food, bills, etc.
  • Travel costs to and from Cambridge at the start and end of studies
  • Additional allowances for families and disability needs

Recipients of the scholarship do not need to worry about financing their studies or acquiring student loans.

Access to the University of Cambridge

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship provides the opportunity to study at one of the top universities in the world. The University of Cambridge consistently ranks amongst the best for graduate employability, cutting-edge research, and academic excellence.

Studying at Cambridge provides access to world-leading academics, unmatched resources, and a tradition of innovation spanning over 800 years. Gates Cambridge Scholars obtain a prestigious degree from Cambridge that accelerates their careers.

Unique networking and career opportunities

In addition to their academics, Gates Cambridge Scholars gain exceptional networking and career development opportunities. Scholars become part of the Gates Scholars community, building relationships with a diverse, multicultural group of future leaders.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship also provides funding for scholars to attend academic conferences, as well as exclusive events with guest speakers and leaders in various fields. These experiences provide scholars with an invaluable professional network.

Leadership development

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship develops leadership capacity in scholars through various initiatives, including:

  • Leadership workshops and skills training
  • Opportunities to organize community initiatives and projects
  • Mentorship programs with experienced leaders
  • Events promoting pathways to impactful careers

These leadership development opportunities empower scholars with a lifelong foundation for making a difference in the world.

Eligibility Criteria

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship is highly competitive, with only 225 scholarships awarded annually from over 5,000 applications. Applicants are selected based on outstanding academic achievement, leadership potential, and commitment to improving the lives of others.

Here are the key eligibility requirements to apply for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship:


You must be a citizen of any country outside the United Kingdom.


Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree from a recognized university with a high academic achievement record. Your undergraduate degree must be completed by the start of the postgraduate study at Cambridge.

Admission offer from Cambridge

You must first apply and gain admission to pursue one of the postgraduate courses offered at the University of Cambridge. The Gates Cambridge Scholarship only funds postgraduate study at Cambridge.

Commitment to improving the lives of others

Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to improving the lives of others, demonstrating outstanding potential leadership. Extracurricular activities, volunteering experience and future goals are assessed.

Application Timeline and Process

Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Applications for the Gates Cambridge Scholarships open in early September each year for entry the following academic year. Here is an overview of the application timeline:

  • August-October – Research postgraduate courses and apply to the University of Cambridge through the normal admission process. Gain an offer for a postgraduate course before applying for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship.
  • Early September – Gates Cambridge Scholarship application opens. Begin preparing your application materials – academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, personal statement, etc.
  • Mid-October – Scholarship application deadline. All components of the application must be submitted online by the deadline. Late or incomplete applications are not accepted.
  • December-February – Selection process and interviews. Shortlisted applicants are invited for interviews with regional panels.
  • March – Final scholarship decisions are announced. Both successful and unsuccessful applicants are notified.
  • September – Start of postgraduate study at Cambridge funded by the scholarship.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship application requires submitting the following materials entirely online:

  • Application form with personal details
  • Personal statement explaining your interests and ambitions
  • Two academic references
  • Transcripts from each university attended
  • Curriculum vitae/resume
  • Proof of English proficiency scores (IELTS/TOEFL)
  • Cambridge postgraduate course offer letter

All components must be submitted by the mid-October deadline. It is crucial to give yourself sufficient time to obtain references, transcripts, test scores and draft a compelling personal statement.

Essay Prompts and Tips

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship application requires two key written components – a personal statement and curriculum vitae. Here are the prompts and tips to excel:

Personal Statement Prompt

A personal statement (up to 500 words) explaining your interests and ambitions, including how your postgraduate study at Cambridge relates to improving the lives of others.

This personal statement is a critical part of your application. It brings all the pieces of your background and aspirations together into a compelling narrative. Follow these tips:

  • Articulate your short and long term goals, including how Cambridge fits into the journey.
  • Explain why you are passionate about your chosen field of study and how it aligns with improving lives.
  • Give specific examples that demonstrate your leadership experience, collaboration skills, and commitment to helping others.
  • Be personal but professional. Use vivid descriptions.
  • Maintain a positive tone and articulate how Cambridge will help you achieve your ambitions.
  • Focus on how your experiences have shaped your perspectives on improving lives.
  • Be concrete – use examples and stories to illustrate your interests and motivations.
  • Keep it succinct within the 500 word limit. Every word counts.

Curriculum Vitae (CV) Prompt

A curriculum vitae (2 pages maximum) highlighting your academic qualifications, awards, publications, research, and professional experience.

Your CV summarizes your accomplishments and qualifications. Follow these tips:

  • Use a professional format with clear, concise descriptions.
  • List all post-secondary institutions attended, degrees, and graduation years.
  • Include academic awards, honors, scholarships, fellowships received.
  • List any research projects, publications, presentations, patents, etc.
  • Highlight relevant work and professional experience.
  • Include volunteering, extracurricular activities, and leadership experience.
  • Ensure all years are accounted for. Explain any gaps.
  • Check for any typos or grammatical errors.
  • Keep descriptions concise, honest, and easy to understand.

Selection Criteria

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship selection process is extremely competitive and comprehensive. Applications are first screened, then move on to in-depth interviews for shortlisted candidates. Candidates are ultimately selected based on four main criteria:

Academic Excellence

Applicants must demonstrate outstanding academic achievement and potential, as evidenced by:

  • Consistently strong grades and course performance
  • Awards, honors, and individual distinctions
  • Quality of academic program and institution
  • Relevant research, publications and professional experience
  • Glowing academic references

Leadership Potential

Leadership skills and characteristics are evaluated by:

  • Roles in extracurricular clubs, groups, or initiatives
  • Volunteering and community engagement experience
  • Entrepreneurship and teamwork skills
  • Communication skills and influence on others
  • Emotional intelligence and problem solving abilities
  • Professional accomplishments and work experience

Commitment to Improving Lives

Applicants must exhibit a passion for improving lives, including:

  • Articulating meaningful ways to contribute to society
  • Undertaking activities that help people and communities
  • Demonstrating perseverance in pursuing goals
  • Seeking knowledge to make an impact on real-world issues
  • A vision for change and progress
  • Empathy, concern for others, and willingness to help

Potential to Succeed at Cambridge

The applicant must demonstrate the potential to thrive academically and personally at Cambridge through:

  • Intellectual curiosity and rigor
  • Self-awareness and reflection
  • Handling criticism and ability to learn from experience
  • Resourcefulness and capacity to be independent
  • Personal integrity and determination

Well-rounded candidates able to demonstrate excellence across all four criteria have the highest chances of being offered a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

Statistics and Success Rates

With only 225 Gates Cambridge Scholarships awarded yearly, this is an extremely selective program. The competition is global, with thousands of outstanding applicants applying from over 100 countries.

Here are some key statistics about the Gates Cambridge Scholarship:

  • Approximately 5,500 applications are received annually for around 225 spots. This means the selection rate is about 4%.
  • The scholarship application deadline is in mid-October each year. Decisions are announced in March.
  • Applications are received from over 100 countries, making this a highly international scholarship. The top countries sending applicants are USA, India, China, Pakistan and Germany.
  • About one-third of scholars are from the United States, one-third from Europe, and one-third from the rest of the world.
  • On average, scholars are selected from over 60 different countries each year.
  • Approximately one-third of scholars are pursuing PhDs, one-third one-year master’s degrees, and others two-year master’s degrees.
  • The most popular subject areas are sciences (including medicine), economics, computer science, public policy, law, education, and development studies.
  • Gates Cambridge Scholars attend a four-day orientation before beginning studies to facilitate networking and community building.

Given the extremely low acceptance rate, applicants should craft the very best application possible and meet all four selection criteria for the best chance at securing this life-changing scholarship.

Notable Gates Cambridge Alumni

Many outstanding leaders have emerged from the Gates Cambridge community over the past 20+ years. Here are a few of the most influential and notable alumni:

  • Jim Yong Kim – Physician, anthropologist, 12th President of the World Bank Group, co-founder of Partners in Health.
  • Melinda Gates – Philanthropist, businesswoman, global advocate for women and girls, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • Moustapha Cisse – Computer scientist, pioneer in machine learning and AI for health care, founder of Google AI center in Ghana.
  • Mallika Srinivasan – Chairman and Managing Director of Tractors and Farm Equipment Limited, Padma Shri award recipient.
  • Ibuka Masaru – Co-founder and Chairman of the Board, Sony Corporation.
  • Charles Mwangi – Astrophysicist, Senior Research Scientist in Machine Learning, Space Telescope Science Institute at Johns Hopkins.
  • Joy Buolamwini – Computer scientist, digital activist, founder of the Algorithmic Justice League.
  • Afia Asantewaa Asare-Kyei – Human rights activist, author, founder of the African Women’s Development Fund.
  • Kasha Slavner – Public policy expert, Global Education Strategy Lead at Google.

This small sample of diverse, multitalented leaders demonstrates the exceptional calibre of the Gates Cambridge community. Scholars gain access to networking and mentorship opportunities with alumni like these around the world.

In summary, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship is an extremely selective, prestigious award for outstanding postgraduate students to study at Cambridge. The application process is rigorous, with academic excellence, leadership skills, commitment to improving lives, and the potential to succeed at Cambridge all heavily assessed. Competition is global, reflecting the international diversity of the scholarship. For scholars passionate about making an impact, the opportunity to earn this scholarship and become part of the Gates Cambridge community is life-changing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about the Gates Cambridge Scholarship:

Who is eligible to apply?

Citizens of any country outside the UK who hold an undergraduate degree and meet all other criteria may apply. You must apply and be accepted to Cambridge separately.

What levels of study are funded?

The scholarship funds postgraduate study including one-year master’s degrees, two-year master’s degrees, PhD, and second undergraduate degrees in medicine or veterinary science. Unfortunately, it does not cover undergraduate study.

How much funding is provided?

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship covers the full cost of study, including tuition fees, living expenses, travel costs, and additional allowances where applicable.

Can I choose any course at Cambridge?

You may apply for any full-time postgraduate course at Cambridge for which you meet the admission requirements.

Do I need a minimum GPA or GRE score?

No specific GPA or test score is required. Academic excellence is highly valued, including outstanding grades, awards recognitions, and glowing references.

Does the scholarship cover living costs?

Yes, the scholarship provides a stipend to cover housing, food, bills, and other living expenses in Cambridge. Married students receive additional allowances, as do students with dependent children.

How long can I study with the scholarship?

Funding is provided for 1-4 years to complete a postgraduate degree at Cambridge, depending on the program length. Funding is not renewable for additional degrees.

What is the application deadline?

The deadline is typically in mid-October each year, for programs starting the following academic year. Check the Gates Cambridge website for the exact deadline.

How competitive is the scholarship?

Extremely competitive. Around 5,500 applications are received annually for 225 spots. The acceptance rate is approximately 4%.

When are decisions announced?

Final scholarship decisions are announced in March for entry in following academic year starting in September.

Are interviews required?

Yes, shortlisted applicants are invited for Skype interviews with regional panels. The interviews assess scholarship criteria beyond academics.

Can applications be deferred?

No, the scholarship cannot be deferred if offered. You must pursue studies in the year for which you applied.

Are part-time courses eligible?

Unfortunately not. You must be enrolled full-time in an eligible postgraduate program. Part-time courses are not funded.

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