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November 2016 update from the MRF


Another extremely active, important and challenging year for the MRF will soon come to a close. This is my final Executive Director’s Update for 2016. My team and I thank all our stakeholders for helping the Foundation to record a further period of significant growth in our Scholarships programme, even in an inordinately complex higher education environment. Growth in the programme will continue apace in 2017, when we expect to have as many as 80 Mandela Rhodes Scholars in residence in either their first or second years. (We have come a very long way since 2005, when there were 8 in residence!)

 Completion Workshop for the Class of 2016

This year’s Completion Workshop – the largest ever – was held in Cape Town in late August and early September. MRF Programme Director Judy Sikuza reports that ‘the Completion Workshop focussed on the MRF principle of entrepreneurship, with the encouragement of innovation and creativity aimed towards the betterment of society and Africa’s place in the world. The programme featured high calibre speakers such as Parminder Vir OBE, CEO of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, Dame Judith Macgregor, British High Commissioner to South Africa, and Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana, CEO of The Cape Town Partnership.’ In addition, MR alumni and staff gave inputs to the stimulating and successful programme in which I was privileged to participate as usual as Executive Director.

Selection of the Class of 2017

The marathon MRF Applications & Selection programme is complete, with final interviews having taken place in Cape Town and Johannesburg in October. Details of the Class of 2017 that has been selected will be published shortly on our website The MRF team is still finalising acceptances and working on the statistics represented by our newest class, but I can at this stage share with you that we expect it to number above 50, and that there will be firsts with Scholars from several ‘new’ African countries, in terms of them having successful candidates for the first time. Please do keep an eye on the website with regard to these exciting developments.

Update on the Leverhulme Mandela Rhodes Doctoral Scholarships

With workshops and selections completed, we are now turning our attention to the technicalities of finalising the selection process for the extremely exciting new Leverhulme Mandela Rhodes Doctoral Scholarships opportunity. We plan to announce the formal call for applications early next year, and assure those many Scholars who expressed interest that we will alert you as soon as the selection process is ready to get under way.

And finally …

  • I am proud to let you know that Mandela Rhodes Scholar Julia Cloete (SA & UCT 2005) will be assisting in overseeing the planning of an African Youth Leadership Development Portal in co-operation with the Mandela Institute of Development Studies (MINDS), and the Graça Machel Trust. Many Scholars expressed interest in the important initiative and will hopefully be involved.
  • From the MR Building in Cape Town, our warm wishes for a safe, restful festive season.

Announcement: Major new awards open to the Mandela Rhodes Alumni



Dear Mandela Rhodes Scholar

I share with you today some wonderful and historic news for the Mandela Rhodes family.

After extensive discussions, The Leverhulme Trust – one of the earliest and most significant supporters of the Mandela Rhodes Scholarships programme – has decided to fund additional MRF academic awards, above and beyond their gifts to the existing Scholarships programme.

·         The new awards will be for doctoral study in the United Kingdom

·         They will be competed for exclusively by Mandela Rhodes Scholar alumni

·         They will be known as Leverhulme Mandela Rhodes Doctoral Scholarships

Giving formal confirmation of The Leverhulme Trust’s decision, Trust Director Professor Gordon Marshall said that awardees will be nominated by The Mandela Rhodes Foundation following a selection process that is yet to be finalised.

In the inaugural year, two Leverhulme Mandela Rhodes Doctoral Scholarships will be made available. The programme will then be reviewed annually.

Each new Doctoral Scholarship will support an eligible MR Scholar at a recognised institution of higher education in the UK, and will cover the agreed costs of fees, maintenance and research.

It is important for prospective applicants to note the following statement by Professor Marshall, which is wholly endorsed by the MRF in terms of our own founding principles as approved by our late Patron Mr Nelson Mandela, and the Board of the MRF. He writes: ‘The Leverhulme Trust Board would like to reiterate its aspiration that awardees should be strongly encouraged to make their future contributions on the African continent.’

It is our hope that the necessary structures and processes can be put in place in time for a call for applications in early 2017, with the first Leverhulme Mandela Rhodes Doctoral Scholars taking up their awards in the course of that year.


In the meantime, if Mandela Rhodes Scholars wish to register their interest in principle, address a short message to me at and we will note your latest details.

August 2016 update from the MRF


Big news: Doctoral scholarships opportunity for Mandela Rhodes Scholars announced

In a decision that demonstrates not only its extraordinary generosity, but also great confidence in the quality of the Mandela Rhodes Scholarships programme and in the calibre of our Scholars, The Leverhulme Trust is to fund new scholarships for doctoral study in the UK.  Read more

April 2016 update from the MRF

The astonishing growth in the number of expressions of interest in the Mandela Rhodes Scholarships is continuing this year, and with a vengeance! As of today, more than 8000 (eight thousand) potential applicants had registered on our website – and that with still a week to go before we close off this initial stage of the process for selecting the Class of 2017. (Last year’s number was a then-record 5500.)

Read more

February 2016 update from the MRF

Since my last update in December, I am pleased to report that The Mandela Rhodes Foundation has enjoyed a great, if extremely busy, start to 2016. Highlights from our first month-and-a-bit:

·         Without question the major events of the year so far have been the Introductory Workshops for the Class of 2016. The significance of that sentence is, of course, the use of the plural for ‘events’ and ‘Workshops’. For the first time in the history of the MRF the Class in residence now operates in two groups because we have grown our Mandela Rhodes Scholarships numbers so successfully.

The MRF team put enormous thought into how to achieve this without ever losing the intimacy and personalisation of the MR experience, and we were aware that we would need to be very attentive to possible unintended consequences of the expansion and logistical changes. I’m delighted to say that under the inspirational leadership of our Programme Director and MRS Judy Sikuza, the new format was a triumph – though an exhausting two-week marathon for our team!

The wonderful Class of 2016 outdid itself and the levels of excitement and engagement were exceptional. The Class is as always extremely diverse in every way; this year the number of Scholars from African countries other than South Africa were in a (small) majority for the first time. In addition to the traditional Introductory Workshop events, programmes, and site visits, the new Scholars were privileged to be exposed to personal life story accounts and leadership master classes from former Unilever and Reuters Chair and key MRF supporter Niall FitzGerald and, for the second group, US Consul General, Ambassador Teddy Taylor. Of course the social times and Creative Jam evenings maintained the very high standards of previous years … all in all, unforgettable.

·         Once the 2016 Scholars were safely back on their campuses, we were able to convene a very important internal MRF review of our Applications & Selections process. We looked back (in wonder) at 2015, especially to the conversion to online applications, the huge surge in numbers of expressions of interest, and the delivery of a truly superb process. But we went much deeper, identifying matters big and small that can help to make this year’s process (only weeks away now, incredibly enough) even better. All staff always give their all to the integrity and excellence of the process: thank you colleagues.

… And finally

Cape-based Scholars were invited to join us at the British High Commission before the opening of Parliament, and it was good to celebrate our bilateral success story. Other news of interest is that our tireless Chair, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, is on a writing sabbatical until April (he’s finishing a new book), and I am also head-down working on a narrative history of the Mandela Rhodes story. Warm regards and good wishes from Cape Town to the Mandela Rhodes family.

2007 Mandela Rhodes Scholar makes history

A dream comes true for The Mandela Rhodes Foundation and its founding Executive Director Shaun Johnson, today. Judy Sikuza (South Africa & NMMU 2007) joins the MRF as its full-time Programme Director, with responsibility for the flagship Mandela Rhodes Scholarships programme. Read more

August 2015 update from the MRF

The Mid-Year Workshop on reconciliation

Our Programme Director Judy Sikuza, backed up by the MRF team, facilitated the Mid-Year Workshop from 15-19 July. Her main takeout is that it was a great success, while “both emotionally and intellectually taxing, as the group wrestled with complex issues. Speakers included anti-Apartheid icon Ahmed Kathrada, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, Professor Ben Cousins, Shaun Johnson, and alumni contributors Buhle Zuma (SA & UCT, 2007), Cynthia Ayeza (SA & UP, 2008), Hapiloe Maranyane (SA & UCT, 2009) and Kenechukwu Ikebuaku (Nigeria & UWC, 2014).” Feedback from participants is that it was unforgettable – and extremely draining. (Mandela Rhodes Scholars from earlier Classes will relate to that, I’m sure!) Read more

May 2015 update from the MRF

Nominations about to open for the Class of 2016 – all electronically

Today, Friday May 1, is a big day in the development of The Mandela Rhodes Foundation and its flagship Scholarships programme. After months of work led by Judy and Ernst, we are ready to open applications for the Class of 2016. All candidates will apply electronically via the Embark system, through a link on our website. We will keep the MRF family informed of progress between now and the closing date on 15 June. Hold thumbs for a smooth journey. Read more