MaltaToday | 16 July 2008 | De Marco and statesmen protest end to Commonwealth scholarships

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NEWS | Wednesday, 16 July 2008

De Marco and statesmen protest end to Commonwealth scholarships

Matthew Vella

Former President Guido De Marco has joined the likes of the Commonwealth’s former secretary-general Don McKinnon and intellectual Germaine Greer, to protest a decision to stop Commonwealth funding of scholars from various nations.
Approaching the 50th anniversary of the Scholarship and Fellowship Plan which since 1959 has benefited more than 25,000 people, De Marco, chair of the Commonwealth Foundation, joined 55 other former statesmen, academics and intellectuals to draw the attention to the decision to stop funding.
The British government has decided to stop funding scholars from Australia, the Bahamas, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Cyprus, Malta, New Zealand and Singapore. After 2009 the plan in the United Kingdom will only finance scholars from nations eligible for assistance within Britain’s aid budget.
“Without forewarning or consultation, a programme of educational co-operation and exchange founded on academic merit and scholarly parity becomes purely an instrument of aid, based on economic inequalities,” the signatories wrote in a letter to the Times of London.
“The Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan is one of the great success stories of postwar international partnership, benefiting so far more than 25,000 individuals. Many of these have gone on to positions of great influence in their own countries or globally. Few if any schemes in higher education have been better monitored and evaluated. The whole Commonwealth will gain from enabling this tried and tested programme to benefit future generations as fully as their predecessors.”
With Commonwealth ministers due to review the plan next year in Kuala Lumpur, the signatories appealed to the British government “not to prejudge this process by taking a unilateral step that significantly damages the plan and undermines Commonwealth educational partnership.”
The signatories included former prime ministers Malcolm Fraser and Paul Martin of Australia and Canada respectively, former Commonwealth secretary-generals Shridath Ramphal, Emeka Anyaoku and Don McKinnon, and writer and intellectual Germaine Greer, City University’s vice-chancellor Malcolm Gillies, and economist Lino Briguglio from the University of Malta.

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