Marshall Scholarship

Marshall Scholarship
The official logo of the Marshall Scholarship is a blended image of the UK and US flags.
A portrait of George C. Marshall, for whom the scholarships are named.

The Marshall Scholarship, a postgraduate scholarships available to Americans, was created by the Parliament of the United Kingdom when the Marshall Aid Commemoration Act was passed in 1953. The scholarships serve as a living gift to the United States of America in recognition of the post-World War II European Recovery Plan, commonly known as the Marshall Plan. The first class of Marshall Scholars, who began academic study in the fall of 1954, consisted of eight men and four women selected from a pool of 700 applicants. Currently, there are approximately 1,500[1] Marshall Scholar alumni, most of whom reside in the United States.

Marshall Scholarships[2] provide students with two fully funded years of study, with a possible third-year extension, at any university in the United Kingdom and applicable to any field of study. Approximately 40 Scholars are selected each year. The majority of Scholars choose to attend either Oxford, Cambridge, London School of Economics, or one of the other major London institutions, but Scholars have attended a wide range of universities throughout the UK, many of which are ranked[3][4] among the best in the world. In addition to pure academic pursuits, the program serves to provide future leaders of America with insight into the "British ideals and way of life" and to strengthen the "unique relationship" that exists between the United States and the United Kingdom. Each year, approximately four percent of university-endorsed applicants receive the scholarship, and applicants must have a GPA of 3.7 or higher to be eligible.


Overview of the scholarships

Selection criteria

The published objectives of the Marshall Scholarships are outlined as follows:

  1. To enable intellectually distinguished young Americans, their country's future leaders, to study in the UK.
  2. To help scholars gain an understanding and appreciation of contemporary Britain.
  3. To contribute to the advancement of knowledge in science, technology, the humanities and social sciences and the creative arts at Britain's centres of academic excellence.
  4. To motivate scholars to act as ambassadors from the USA to the UK and vice versa throughout their lives thus strengthening British American understanding.
  5. To promote the personal and academic fulfilment of each scholar.

With these objectives in mind, selection criteria have been established to select roughly 40 Scholars each year from an extremely competitive pool of America's top undergraduate students. The selection process is coordinated through the eight major British embassy/consulate regions in the United States (Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.). Selection committees in each region, consisting of former Scholars and other distinguished individuals, receive university-endorsed applications (including personal statements and essays) which are used to select a short list of candidates for interviews. Approximately one-sixth of endorsed applicants are interviewed. Each committee then interviews each of the regional finalists prior to making the final decisions on the year's awards. Although most of the responsibility for selecting the recipients is in the hands of the committees, a few formal guidelines have been outlined in the official selection criteria, most notably:

"As future leaders, with a lasting understanding of British society, Marshall Scholars will strengthen the enduring relationship between the British and American peoples, their governments and their institutions. Marshall Scholars are talented, independent and wide-ranging in their interests, and their time as Scholars will enhance their intellectual and personal growth. Their direct engagement with Britain through its best academic programmes will contribute to their ultimate personal success."


"In appointing Scholars the selectors will look for distinction of intellect and character as evidenced both by their scholastic attainments and by their other activities and achievements. Preference will be given to candidates who display a potential to make a significant contribution to their own society. Selectors will also look for strong motivation and seriousness of purpose, including the presentation of a specific and realistic academic programme."

Impact of the scholarships

In a letter[5] to the first class of Marshall Scholars, George Marshall echoed his own words in initially presenting his ideas for European recovery by saying, "A close accord between our two countries is essential to the good of mankind in this turbulent world of today, and that is not possible without an intimate understanding of each other. These scholarships point the way to the continuation and growth of the understanding which found its necessity in the terrible struggle of the war years."

Now, over 50 years after the British Parliament created the program, the Marshall Scholarships have had a clear impact on the world, and in particular the special relationship that exists between the US and the UK. Marshall Scholars can now be found among many high-profile groups, including prominent CEOs, Supreme Court justices, members of Congress, Presidential Cabinets members, university presidents, Pulitzer Prize winning authors, and leaders in a wide range of academic and professional disciplines.

Notable Marshall Scholars


  • Distribution of Scholars: For the 2006-07 academic year, there were 100 Marshall Scholars in residence at British universities[6] including those who were selected for the classes of 2004, 2005 and 2006. During this time, there were 36 Scholars at Oxford University, 20 at Cambridge University, 19 at London-based institutions, and the remaining Scholars attended several other universities throughout the UK. Of these 100 Scholars, 63 were studying Arts and Social Sciences while 37 were studying Science, Engineering or Mathematics. Of the 37 new Scholars[7] named in 2008, the undergraduate source universities[8] were private (50%), public (40%) and service academies (10%).
Rank of States (1954-2007).
  • Allocation of Scholars: During the period 1954 - 2007, multivariate analyses indicate[9] that the most successful states in the Marshall competition were California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Georgia, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The least successful states were Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia and Hawaii. The ranking is based on a weighted average including (1) number of Scholars from the state, (2) Scholars per state population, (3) number of colleges in the state with Scholars, and (4) number of colleges in the state exceeding median Scholars per school based on nationwide data. The most successful[10] source universities, based simply on the numbers of Scholars produced since 1954, are Harvard University, MIT, Princeton University, Yale University and Stanford University.
  • Comparison to Rhodes Scholarships: Although the Marshall Scholarships share much in common with the Rhodes Scholarships (restricted to Oxford University), the major difference is a Marshall Scholar's freedom to attend any UK university, including the ability to attend a different university each year during a Scholar's tenure. Also, since its inception, the Marshall Scholarship has been open to both men and women, while the Rhodes Scholarship only became open to women beginning in 1977 following the passage of the British Sex Discrimination Act in 1975.
  • Traveling to the UK: In the early years of the Marshall Scholarship, it was common for new Scholars to travel together to the UK via cruise ship, but now Scholars are usually flown to London from Washington, D.C. following a welcome program with top US and UK government and diplomatic officials.
  • Marshall Medals: As part of the celebrations[11] for the 50th Anniversary of the Marshall Scholarships, Marshall Medals were awarded to a group of distinguished Americans in recognition of their contributions to US/UK relations. The recipients were Justice Stephen Breyer (1959 Marshall Scholar), Dr. Ray Dolby (1957 Marshall Scholar), Thomas L. Friedman (1975 Marshall Scholar), President Nannerl Keohane (1961 Marshall Scholar), Christopher Makins, Senator George J. Mitchell, and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.


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