Students in China will soon be eligible to receive Rhodes scholarships, the Rhodes Trust announced on Monday. The first group of recipients from mainland China will be selected this year for the program, which sends students to the University of Oxford for two years of postgraduate education.
The change in eligibility rules underscores Rhodes’s desire to stay relevant in global higher education. The New York Times notes that the program is creating a platform for fund raising. But an expansion into China brings to mind concerns about whether the Communist Party there will attempt to influence the selection process.
“China has an important international role to play in the 21st century, and we wish to reflect that in the global footprint of the Rhodes Scholarships,” the warden of Rhodes House, Charles Conn, said in a news release. “The new Chinese Rhodes Scholars will contribute significantly through sharing their skills, knowledge, and energy to the class cohort, and we look forward to welcoming them to Rhodes House.”
Foreshadowing the scholarship’s expansion was the 2013 creation of Schwarzman Scholars, a program modeled on the Rhodes scholarships but at China’s Tsinghua University. Critics questioned whether that program was equipped to handle the thorny aspects of operating in China.