What is a Rhodes Scholar?

Updated July 24, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

The Question:

What is a Rhodes Scholar? Who was Rhodes?

The Answer:

A Rhodes scholar is someone who has been awarded a Rhodes scholarship. The world's oldest fellowship program, Rhodes scholarships provide students with two years of study (with an option for a third) at Oxford University in England.

The program was established in the will of British-born financier and statesman Cecil J. Rhodes who graduated from Oxford in 1881 and died in 1902. Rhodes outlined a plan that would bring students from different countries and cultures to Oxford in the hopes that their interactions would promote international understanding and peace.

Rhodes' first plan included nine countries. Since then, the program has expanded to include Australia, Bangladesh, Bermuda, Canada, the Commonwealth Caribbean, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The United States, which handed out its first Rhodes scholarship in 1904, recognizes 32 Rhodes scholars each year, making it the largest delegation.

Candidates from close to 300 U.S. colleges and universities apply each year. Selection committees in each of the 50 states nominate students and it's up to regional committees decide who will receive the 32 scholarships.

Famous American Rhodes scholars include NBA Hall of Famer and former presidential candidate Bill Bradley; writer/educator Alain Locke; singer/songwriter and actor Kris Kristofferson; diplomat Strobe Talbott, who helped negotiate an end to the war in Yugoslavian in 1999; and former president Bill Clinton.

-The Editors

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