Scholarships praised in the Lords

Baroness Emma Nicholson made a short speech to the House of Lords in March 2015, about the far-reaching effect of our Master's in International Human Rights Law Commonwealth Scholarships.

The excerpt from Hansard (the edited verbatim report of proceedings of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords) columns 555-556, 10th March 2015, reads:

The rule of law inevitably depends on trained lawyers and that is why I suggest that the United Kingdom's soft power has been of profound value globally and is, at this moment, under considerable threat. Take the Commonwealth scholarships fund. Last Saturday I was at Oxford University. I spoke with the law department and heard how it reaches an outstanding group of human rights lawyers from Africa and south Asia - the Commonwealth that would otherwise be impossible to reach. The professors told me that these scholars are bright, effective, brave people. They go back to prosecute war criminals in Kenya. They broadcast programmes on gay and lesbian rights in Uganda. Once trained in Oxford, these legal people address corruption and consumer protection in Nigeria and Ghana. Some are involved in refugee protection in Somalia. One of the former students is head of obstetrics in Lilongwe central hospital. I recall well visiting Lilongwe central hospital maternity ward some years ago. The very high degree of neonatal deaths accounts for the low level of life expectancy in Malawi. What could be better than having a fully trained obstetrician with legal knowledge there? Some of the students have developed a national human rights-based approach to primary education for disabled children in Uganda and beyond.

Without Commonwealth support, this sort of skill and knowledge development and the access that mature students gain to a worldwide network of human rights advocates would be lost to them. Their often weak institutions and the populations that they support would not gain the credibility and knowledge that the students bring back.

Today, the scholarships cover all costs, with the Commonwealth providing 60% of the funds for a master's degree in international human rights law. All flights, reading material, accommodation, university and college fees are included. The design of the degree is unusual in that it is a part-time course spread over two years. I am supporting one student myself and I know how good it is. The course includes periods of traditional full-time study at Oxford during the summer combined with closely tutored online training which the student does from home or work. The degree helps mid-career professionals to extend their advocacy skills and knowledge of law while continuing with their human rights work at home. This means that students are able to use immediately what they have learnt in class. There is no brain drain from those nations and there is no immigration impact on Britain. Indeed, the Commonwealth Secretariat was one of the very first institutions providing education in the developing world to recognise the potential of the internet for advanced training.

You can see this excerpt on the UK Parliament website's 'Daily Hansard'.

Published 26 May 2015