Understanding Background & Objectives of Scholarships


Having financial difficulty in pursuing higher education? One of the ways to overcome this is to secure a scholarship or financial aid. It appears that in recent years, there are more and more scholarships for higher education. It is indeed an encouraging sign!

Have you ever thought why these organizations/universities want to offer scholarships or financial aid to you for your higher education? If applicants can have a good understanding of their background and objectives, it can enhance their chances of securing scholarships.

One of the main motivations behind offering of scholarships is to attract talents. These include leading corporations and multi-nationals as well as government and international institutions who aim to stay ahead in a competitive globalized world by attracting the best talents.

In line with this objective, courses offered under these scholarships are normally based on the types of human capital required by the organizations. Main selection criteria generally include academic excellence, leadership and social skills. Students are usually required to serve the scholarship providers upon graduation.

For some organizations, provision of scholarships is also part of corporate social responsibility or public relations exercise. For these corporations, financial need of scholarship applicants is given due considerations in the selection process. Some of the organizations also provide additional practical/career training to nurture the students, enabling them to be better prepared for the workplace.

Starting one’s career with a well-known or prominent corporation with a scholarship generally gives one an edge in career advancement in a long run.

On the other hand, research and development based organizations prioritize candidates with outstanding research achievements and generally target postgraduate candidates including post-doctoral candidates.

These scholarships are also offered based on human capital needs. Applicants are normally required to assist in research work. Scholarships received can be in the form of remuneration. Recommendation by the host university is sometimes required. These scholarships can also be in the form of co-operation projects between the universities/research institutes.

Scholarships are also used by universities and colleges to attract distinguished students, raising their education standard and prestige, thereby enhancing their image among the public and facilitate recruitment of new students. These scholarships can often be in the form of partial financial support to enable more students to benefit.

Besides, scholarship can also serve as vehicle of diplomacy, cultural exchange and for improvement of bilateral relations. Fields of study can be in areas of common interest or major international issues and targets can be those influential in the society such as the media, NGO’s, think tanks, etc. Such international scholarships sometimes require graduates to serve as ambassadors and join bilateral activities. These activities offer participants an opportunity to extend social network and to hone communication skills, in addition to serving as a social ladder to public service leadership and international diplomacy. These scholarships can be at Bachelor, Masters or Doctoral degree levels.

Some historical international scholarship providers, after gathering considerable number of graduates, form alumni associations/clubs. These clubs become the meeting point of social elite and social symbol. They can be an excellent stepping stone for an illustrious career for those who are ambitious.

On the other hand, many scholarships and bursaries are set up by philanthropic groups and individuals to help needy students from poor background, They may be established as a charity/trust/foundation. Many wealthy and successful men and women set up scholarships/bursaries in their own’ names. Scholarships and financial assistance for higher education are also affiliated to community associations, education institutions, professional associations, etc. Well-known foundations in the Chinese community such as Lee Foundation and Kuok Foundation consider family financial background as one of the key criteria in awarding scholarships. They are avenues of support for those encountering financial difficulties in the midst of their studies.

On the other hand, higher education financial assistance programmes are also established on the premise of education equality and basic human rights. Examples are financial assistance department of American private higher education institutions providing partial financial assistance to students who have been admitted, but lack financial means to pursue the course of study. Malaysia’s National Higher Education Fund and higher education loans of Koperasi Jayadiri Malaysia (KOJADI)  are national and community initiatives to make higher education more accessible and equitable.

Besides, tertiary education in many European countries is free for local and foreign students. This is based on the belief that education is basic human right,

Lastly, whether it is local or overseas, there is a bursary department in major universities. They provide financial aid/loans to needy enrolled students as part of their student service.

In conclusion, selecting scholarships, bursaries and loans can be part of career planning. Making strategic higher education planning and having an indepth understanding of the motivation behind the provision of these higher education financial support and their benefits and being able to align them with one’s ambition and needs can pave the way for a successful career.


Written by:
Ms Wee Hui Bieh, AFMSA, June. 2019

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