Evaluating Commonwealth Scholarships

November 7, 2011

The Commowealth Scholarships Commission in the UK has recently put out two reports evaluating the impact of its work in the Asia-Pacific region and a broader report on the impact of Commonwealth Scholarships in four priority policy areas: Governance, International Relations, Social Inequalities and Human Rights, and Conflict Resolution/Humanitarian Assistance.  The reports conclude that the scholarships are making a positive contribution to their objectives in particular the second report argues that scholarships in all areas a making a contribution to good governance.

Two comments. These reports were released to coincide with the  The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia at the end of October- so emphasizing the positive impacts of Commonwealth activities is not surprising.

The methodology of the reports is a survey of programme alumni. In looking at scholarship programmes this is typical.  The problem is that is that it is almost guaranteed to produce positive evaluations.  To really assess impact you would need to compare with a control group of non-scholarship recipients and find a way to evaluate ‘impact’ that doesn’t rely on self reporting – both of these steps are possible but complex and expensive and it’s understandable that scholarship organizations would rather spend their money on extra students.  From the point of view of assessing the public diplomacy impact of study in the UK self-reporting might actually be a perfectly good way of evaluating impact.



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