Gates Scholarships Programme at University of Cambridge 2022

Scholarships Overview

Gates Cambridge Scholarship programme was established in October 2000 by a donation of US$210m from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the University of Cambridge; this is the largest ever single donation to a UK university. The first class of scholars came into residence in October 2001.

Each year Gates Cambridge offers c.80 full-cost scholarships to outstanding applicants from countries outside the UK to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree in any subject available at the University of Cambridge. Approximately two-thirds of these awards will be offered to PhD students, with approximately 25 awards in the US and 55 in the International round.

The selection criteria are:

  • outstanding intellectual ability

  • reasons for the choice of course

  • a commitment to improving the lives of others

  • leadership potential

There are at least 225 Scholars from c. Fifty countries studying in Cambridge at any time pursue the full range of subjects available at the University. They are spread across its departments and Colleges, forming their distinctive community.

There is currently a community of more than 1,700 Gates Cambridge Alumni spread worldwide.

The Gates Cambridge mission is to build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others. It aims to achieve this mission by selecting outstanding scholars, providing them with financial and non-financial support at one of the world’s leading universities and facilitating community building at and beyond Cambridge.

Who can apply?

You can apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship if you are:

  • a citizen of any country outside the United Kingdom
  • applying to pursue one of the following full-time residential courses of study at the University of Cambridge:
    • PhD
    • MPhil/MLitt
    • One-year postgraduate course (with some exceptions – see below)

Current student at Cambridge?

If you are currently studying at Cambridge and wish to apply for a new postgraduate course, you can apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. For example, if you are currently studying for an MPhil, you can apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. Current Gates Cambridge Scholars may also apply for a second scholarship if they apply for a new degree. All current Cambridge students will be considered in round two. However, if you have already started a course, you cannot apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to fund the remainder of it.

General funding at Cambridge

Whether or not you are eligible for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, you may be eligible for other funding offered by the University of Cambridge. See UK for more details.

Courses which are NOT eligible for Gates Cambridge Scholarships:

  • Any Undergraduate degree, such as BA (undergraduate) or BA affiliated (a second BA)
  • Business Doctorate (BusD)
  • Master of Business (MBA)
  • Master of Finance (MFin)
  • PGCE
  • MBBChir Clinical Studies
  • MD Doctor of Medicine degree (6 years, part-time)
  • Graduate Course in Medicine (A101)
  • Part-time degrees
  • Non-degree courses
  • From September 2022, ​MASt courses – MASt courses are treated as undergraduate courses for fee purposes, and applications will no longer be accepted from September 2022 for courses starting in October 2023 onwards.


A Gates Cambridge Scholarship covers the full cost of studying at Cambridge. It also provides additional discretionary funding.

Core components

  • the University Composition Fee at the appropriate rate*

  • A maintenance allowance for a single student (£18,384 for 12 months at the 2022-23 rate; pro rata for courses shorter than 12 months) – for PhD scholars, the award is for up to 4 years.

  • one single economy airfare at both the beginning and end of the course

  • inbound visa costs & the cost of the Immigration Health Surcharge

* The University Composition Fee varies for different students; applicants should see the Graduate Studies prospectus for full details about precise amounts. Where a student has successfully gained a fee award from public authorities (such as the UKRI), they must accept this, and the Trust will not pay these fees.

Discretionary components

The Trust also considers applications for several types of additional funding on a discretionary basis:

  • Academic development funding – from up to £500 to up to £2,000, dependent on the length of your course, to attend conferences and courses.

  • The family allowance is currently up to £10,420 for one child and £14,870 for two or more children (2022-23 rate TBC). No funding is provided for a partner.

  • Fieldwork – you may apply to keep up to your normal maintenance allowance while on fieldwork as part of your PhD (the Trust does not fund other fieldwork costs as the University Composition Fee should fund these).

  • Maternity/Paternity funding – should you require it, you may apply to intermit your studies for up to 6 months and continue to receive your maintenance allowance during this time.

  • Hardship funding – for unforeseen difficulties facing the scholar

Receiving a salary or substantial other scholarship?

If you receive a salary from an employer or have another substantial scholarship, the Trust reserves the right to reduce or not pay the standard maintenance allowance. You should let the Trust know ASAP if you are awarded any funding for your Cambridge degree.

What is not covered?

The Scholarship covers most costs, but Gates Cambridge does not cover bench fees or the costs of scientific equipment or similar academic resources. The Trust expects such core course costs to be covered by the academic department at Cambridge.

A combined application form

Applicants submit their application for admission and funding (Gates Cambridge and other funding) via the University’s Graduate Application Portal.

To be considered for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, you must complete the section to apply for admission to a course, a College place, and the Gates Cambridge part of the funding section. Gates Cambridge has access to the full application for admission and funding when reviewing applications.

The admission section

In this section, you are applying to a specific graduate course and a College place. You will provide the usual details about yourself, your academic background, plans and suitability for the proposed course.

The funding section

In this section, you can apply for a range of funding offered by the University and associated bodies, including the Gates Cambridge Scholarships, which has its sub-section. When applying for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, you will be asked to provide the following:


In the application form, we ask:

In no more than 3000 characters (approximately 500 words), please explain why you are applying for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship and how you meet the four main criteria. Full details about how to apply, including selection criteria and guidance on completing this statement, can be found at:

The Gates Cambridge shortlisting committees use the statement to distinguish candidates whose departments have highly ranked on academic grounds. It helps our committees identify those candidates who, as well as being academically outstanding, possess a capacity for leadership and commitment to improving the lives of others. This is the only application form part where applicants are specifically asked about their fit with the Gates Cambridge programme. You should use your background, achievements, experiences and future aims to show how you would fit well with the Gates Cambridge programme.

Research proposal (PhD applicants only)

Gates Cambridge requires PhD applicants only to submit a research proposal as part of their funding application. Most PhD applicants will upload a research proposal as part of their application for admission. Still, where this is not the case, a research proposal is required to apply for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. If you are applying for a degree other than the PhD you do not need to submit a research proposal as part of your materials for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

Gates Cambridge reference

In addition to two academic references for admission, Gates Cambridge applicants submit a reference about their fit with the scholarship.

In the application form, we ask:

Please give your assessment of the applicant’s suitability for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. These are awarded on the following criteria: intellectual ability, justification for the choice, of course, a commitment to improving the lives of others and leadership capacity.

We also ask:

  • How highly would you rank the applicant for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship?
  • On what overall group are you basing this ranking?
  • What is the size of this group?

The Gates Cambridge Reference is used the same way as the Gates Cambridge Statement – to reduce many well-qualified applicants to those who match the Gates Cambridge criteria.

Referees are also asked how they rate the applicant for the scholarship: exceptional, strong, not strong, weak. They may paste/type up to 4,000 characters into the online reference or upload a separate letter.

Who should write the Gates Cambridge Reference?

This is a common question. You should not ask friends, family, or someone unable to comment on your suitability for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

It would help if you asked someone of appropriate standing who can answer the question with authority and understands the criteria and highly competitive nature of the Gates Cambridge programme.

Many applicants ask a current or former academic advisor who is aware of their attributes; others ask a current or former employer. In contrast, others ask the senior staff in an organisation with whom they may have volunteered. These are all sensible choices, although this is by no means an exhaustive list. Some applicants ask one of their two academic referees to write the Gates Cambridge reference: this is fine as long as that person has a good understanding of your personal qualities and does not provide a third academic reference. The important point to remember is that the Gates Cambridge Referee must understand what the Scholarship is about and be able to write authoritatively about how you meet the criteria.

Some points to consider are:

  • It is essential that the Gates Cambridge Referee is fully briefed about the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, especially its selection criteria;
  • It is useful when referees use specific examples of how you meet the Scholarship’s criteria;
  • While your referees are likely to be busy, you will need to ensure they understand the need to keep the reference focused on the Gates Cambridge criteria and not, for example, rehash a standard or previous reference.