Stephanie Ifayemi

  Stephanie Ifayemi

Prioritising graduate scholarships through matched funding

More than 700 students have benefited from the Oxford Graduate Scholarship Matched Fund.


Graduate students are vital assets to the University: they are engines of research in laboratories, libraries and seminars, making an essential contribution to Oxford’s ground-breaking work, as well as to its academic reputation across a wide range of fields. There is a long history of Oxford graduates taking on leadership roles throughout the world and the very international nature of Oxford’s graduate student body, representing 130 countries, means that they create valuable and long-lasting international connections for their departments, their colleges and for the UK.

With the introduction of higher undergraduate fees in England and Wales from 2012–13 and traditional funding sources for graduate scholarships in decline, increasing numbers of prospective graduate students have been struggling to cover the cost of their studies. As a result, many rely on a heavily oversubscribed and limited pool of scholarship schemes.

In response to this issue, Oxford decided to take long-term, strategic action through the creation of the Oxford Graduate Scholarship Matched Fund (OGSMF). The OGSMF was established in 2012 with the aim of encouraging new philanthropic donations towards the provision of fully funded graduate scholarships. By matching gifts at a ratio of 60% from the donor to 40% from the University, the scheme allows benefactors to maximise the value and impact of their gifts.

Since the introduction of the scheme, more than £130 million has been raised for endowed graduate scholarships. This has been matched with £91 million from the University, ensuring that funding for academically gifted students will be available for generations to come. To date, over 100 different scholarships have been created for graduate students, supporting 750 scholars through their studies.

In order to attract applications from exceptional students, the scheme covers course fees plus a stipend for living expenses. In this way, the University is able to remain competitive in attracting a globally mobile student population who could be enticed by funding packages from other top universities.

Enhancing career prospects

Graduate scholar Stephanie Ifayemi applied to study the Master of Public Policy (MPP) at Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government in 2017. Her background included working in Haiti after a catastrophic earthquake there, studying for a degree in politics and international relations at Warwick University, and undertaking a role with the German foreign office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, advising the African Union Commission on the implementation of a higher education project based in sub-Saharan Africa.

Stephanie was delighted when she became only the second recipient of the school’s Duke of Cambridge Scholarship. Partly funded by the OGSMF scheme, the scholarship is awarded each year to a future British leader with outstanding potential.

‘I can honestly say that receiving the Duke of Cambridge scholarship has provided me with an array of opportunities within Oxford and beyond, which would otherwise have been out of my reach,’ says Stephanie. ‘I’ve had the opportunity to follow a course which brings together academic rigour and practical application. The scholarship has also allowed me to access further funding through my college, University College, which enabled me to attend the 2019 Global Solutions Summit, a pre-G20 meeting in Berlin, Germany.’

After the MPP, Stephanie was able to pursue her interests by working part-time as a research assistant at the Government Outcomes Lab based at the Blavatnik School.

As Stephanie’s story illustrates, graduate education has the potential to enhance career prospects outside academia, as well as within it, and can be a necessity for entering a number of the top professions. In partnership with generous donors, the OGSMF scheme is enabling future leaders in their fields to study at Oxford regardless of their personal financial means, giving them the opportunity to push boundaries and reshape the course of their lives.

Some content from this article was originally published on the Blavatnik School of Government’s website.

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