Mandela scholars come to Britain

March 26, 1999

David Jobbins reports on the South African connection in the second part of a survey on global student mobility

Last September, ten South African students arrived in Britain on the first Nelson Mandela scholarships.

The Unilever Foundation funding the scholarships, worth Pounds 3.1 million over the next ten years and administered by the Canon Collins Educational Trust for Southern Africa hopes it will cultivate leadership qualities in the students to guide post-apartheid South Africa.

The ten were selected from more than 1,700 applicants; nine others take up the scholarships in 1999-2000. Because of the differences in the academic year between South Africa and the UK, the next selections will be for 2000-2001 and applications close in June.

Unilever is assessing the Mandela scholars' progress. One student review has already been received, and another will be carried out in the third term.

The company said that the scholarships reflect its experience that placing an individual in a different culture and a different country accelerates leadership development.

The students receive full funding to complete postgraduate studies in the UK, after which they will be offered a year's work with a Unilever subsidiary.

Many of the students are continuing with development studies begun in South Africa, others are taking business studies. Corporate law and building design are also represented.

Inevitably there have been teething problems but the students have been full of praise for the support they have had from staff at the Canon Collins Trust and from their tutors.

When the scheme was launched, Niall FitzGerald, Unilever chairman, said:

"It gives us great pleasure that President Nelson Mandela has given his name to the project.

"The foundation builds on our deep roots in South Africa, our determination to embrace new ideas and our commitment to the highest standards of corporate behaviour towards societies and the world in which we live."

Ethel de Keyzer, director of the Canon Collins Trust, said: "We know from our experience in education for Southern Africans over nearly two decades that such programmes will make an important contribution to South Africa's transformation."

Several are on courses with strong overseas student representation and feel they have benefited from the cultural and social mix. But a common theme is the difficulty of penetrating British reserve, both among fellow students and in society outside the university environment.

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