UK government plans to halve Afghan Chevening Scholarships 

 In News

In a meeting with Afghan Chevening alumni on June 4, the UK Foreign Commonwealth Development Office discussed halving the number of places for Afghan students to approximately 10, according to Chevening alumni who attended the meeting.

“It is 1,000 days since the Taliban banned education for women and girls in Afghanistan. If Afghans need one thing, it’s education. I was hoping that the FCDO would double the quota of Chevening scholarships and dedicate them solely to female students,” Chevening alumnus Naimat Zafary told The PIE News.

According to Zafary, the FCDO proposed reducing next year’s cohort by 50% due to budgeting issues and the inability to find the right candidate, although the government has not confirmed the changes.

Chevening is a highly sought after government program that offers fully funded scholarships to international students to pursue a master’s degree in the UK. Approximately 20-25 Afghan students are granted scholarships every year.

Last year, the UK government reopened Chevening scholarships for Afghan nationals, but said that only students living outside of Afghanistan would be eligible to apply, due to the “security risks, and financial and logistical implications” of opening applications to prospective students residing in Afghanistan.

According to the FCDO, this decision is being kept under review for the academic year 2024/25.

If the scholarships are halved, it will be a tragedy

Naimat Zafary, Chevening alumnus

Zafary, an Afghan Chevening scholar who came to the UK as the Taliban took control of Kabul in 2021, has written a letter to Dr. Emma Hennessey, head of scholarships at the FCDO, about the “deeply dismaying news”.

He has urged the FCDO to consider the implications of the move for “those talented potential scholars driven to third countries through no fault of their own, and often in part because they are committed to the very values of education, equality and development that Chevening represents.”

According to Zafary, the final number of scholarships awarded will be revealed at the end of June when confirmation letters are sent from the FCDO to applicants.

“I really hope this number is wrong. If the scholarships are halved, it will be a tragedy,” Zafary told The PIE.

Very much hope this decision can be reviewed.

It sends the wrong signal to Afghan scholars in 🇦🇫 and driven into third countries, and to the current rulers.

There is much talent but it needs support to one day rebuild and to serve others impacted by conflict now.@FCDOGovUK

— Ruth Arnold (@RuthArnold) June 6, 2024

“Very much hope this decision can be reviewed,” Ruth Arnold, executive director of Study Group, posted on X.

“It sends the wrong signal to Afghan scholars in [Afghanistan] and driven into third countries, and to the current rulers.”

Zafary was particularly concerned about the impact of the changes on female Afghan students who have no access to education in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

A PhD student in international development at the University of Sussex, Zafary said that he “could see a bright future” after coming to the UK as a Chevening scholar.

His daughter, a year seven student at school in the UK, is benefitting from an education that her cousins in Afghanistan cannot access.

“It is not only higher education that Chevening Scholarships provide, but also a life after education for myself and my family,” said Zafary.

The PIE reached out to the FCDO but has not received a reply at the time of writing.

The post UK government plans to halve Afghan Chevening Scholarships  appeared first on The PIE News.

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