Gates Cambridge Scholarship

The Gates Cambridge mission is to build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others. The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, aims to achieve this mission by selecting outstanding scholars, providing them with financial and non-financial support at one of the world’s leading universities and facilitating community building at and beyond Cambridge.

Each year Gates Cambridge offers approximately 80 full-cost scholarships to outstanding applicants from countries outside the UK to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree in any subject available at the University of Cambridge.

This award does not require university endorsement. However, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship is exceptionally competitive. We strongly recommend that you work closely with NCA as you prepare your application.


National Deadline for U.S. Citizens: October 2024
National Deadline for International Students: December 2024 or January 2025, depending on when your Cambridge graduate program application is due

There are at least 225 Scholars from approximately 50 countries studying in Cambridge at any one time who pursue the full range of subjects available at the University and are spread across its departments and Colleges. Of the 80 scholarships awarded annually, approximately two-thirds will be offered to PhD students, with approximately 25 awards available in the US round and 55 available in the International round. The remaining one-third will go master’s students.

A Gates Cambridge Scholarship covers the full cost of studying at Cambridge. It also provides additional, discretionary funding.

Core components:

  • The University Composition Fee at the appropriate rate*
  • A maintenance allowance for a single student (£17,500 for 12 months at the 2020-21 rate; pro rata for courses shorter than 12 months) – for PhD scholars the award is for up to 4 years
  • One economy single airfare at both the beginning and end of the course
  • Inbound visa costs & the cost of the Immigration Health Surcharge
  • The University Composition Fee varies for different types of students; applicants should see the Graduate Studies prospectus for full details about precise amounts. Where a student from the European Union has been successful in gaining a fees award from public authorities they must accept this and the Trust will not pay these fees.

Discretionary components

  • The Trust also considers applications for several types of additional funding on a discretionary basis:
  • Academic development funding – from up to £500 to up to £2,000, dependent on the length of your course, to attend conferences and courses.
  • Family allowance – up to £10,120 for a first child and up to £4,320 for a second child (2020-21 rate). No funding is provided for a partner.
  • Fieldwork – you may apply to keep up to your normal maintenance allowance while on fieldwork as part of your PhD (the Trust does not fund other fieldwork costs as these should be funded by the University Composition Fee).
  • Maternity/Paternity funding – should you require it, you may apply to intermit your studies for up to 6 months and continue to receive your maintenance allowance during this time
  • Hardship funding – for unforeseen difficulties

Eligibility Criteria

To apply, you must be:

  • A citizen of any country outside the United Kingdom
  • Applying to pursue one of the following full-time residential courses of study at the University of Cambridge:
    • PhD
    • MSc/MLitt
    • One-year postgraduate course (with some exceptions – see the Gates Cambridge eligibility details page)

Selection Criteria

To be competitive, candidates should have:

  • Outstanding intellectual ability
  • Reasons for choice of course
  • A commitment to improving the lives of others
  • Leadership potential

Please refer to the Gates Cambridge website for a detailed list of the selection criteria.

The Gates Cambridge application is an add-on to your application to your Cambridge program. In addition to your materials required to apply for the graduate program (essays, recommendation letters), you need a set of materials tailored to the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. These include:

  • Personal Statement (approx. 500 words)
  • Research Proposal (PhD candidates only)
  • Letters of recommendation (2)
  • In the Spring, attend an NCA Learning Series session on the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. 
  • Schedule an advising appointment with Dr. Jenny Hyest through Starfish. In advance of that appointment, please:
  • Launch your online application (application opens in September)
  • Submit final application by National Deadline: October 2024.
  • Your two Gates Cambridge letters of recommendation are in addition to the letters of recommendation required by your graduate program. NCA strongly recommends that you select different recommenders who will write letters tailored to the Gates Cambridge criteria.
  • Information on this page is intended to supplement, not supplant, your own careful review of the official Gates Cambridge website. If you find any discrepancy between the two, the Gates Cambridge website takes precedence.
  • UC’s Student Code of Conduct applies to this application process. 

Though the Gates Cambridge application does not require a leadership essay per se, leadership potential is one of their core selection criteria, and we recommend that you organize your Gates Cambridge essay around your story as a leader. With this in mind, we suggest you watch our leadership webinar.

NCA has recorded a webinar full of tips to help you craft a compelling leadership narrative for your application. Please watch our 30-minute Leadership Essay Webinar (be sure to view as a Slide Show for audio narration). Closed captions are available.