Routledge/Round Table Commonwealth Studentship Awards

The Studentships

The PhD studentships provide support for research projects on Commonwealth related themes.

Two studentships are available each year, to the value of £5,500 GBP each:

  • One for students registered at UK universities
  • One for students registered at universities in other Commonwealth countries

Proposed research must:

  • relate to the Commonwealth as a whole or to any Commonwealth-wide institution or organisation, or
  • have a strong Commonwealth comparative aspect, or
  • be of relevance to a Commonwealth country other than the UK.

For example, a research project comparing LGBT rights in South Africa and Uganda would be eligible, as would a project on the reform of colonial-era anti-LGBT legislation in India, but a project on the role of Stonewall in advocating for LGBT rights in the UK would not.

Applications are welcomed from a broad range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, but preference may be given to disciplines usually covered by the Round Table journal, including (but not exclusively) politics, international relations, economics, international history, geography, law, development studies, and area studies.

The studentships are funded by The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs and the journal’s publisher, Routledge, in association with the ACU.


The first studentship is open to registered PhD students from UK universities, although not necessarily UK citizens.

The second is open to registered PhD students from ACU member universities [] in Commonwealth counties other than the UK, and to Chevening and Commonwealth Scholarship alumni who are PhD students at any Commonwealth university outside the UK.


As part of the studentship, applicants are required to identify and work with a mentor at a university in a Commonwealth country [] other than that in which they are based. This should be an expert in a subject linked to the applicant’s subject of research, who will be able to provide support and advice during the studentship. Before applying, applicants are encouraged to informally approach at least one potential mentor and, if their application is successful, will then be required to obtain a letter of support from their mentor to agree to the mentorship before their studentship is confirmed.

The role of the mentor

The mentor will be expected to hold a minimum of two virtual meetings with the student during the period of the studentship. They will be expected to be in contact with the student by email to share their experiences in their relevant field, provide advice around publishing, events and trends in their field, and to challenge and empower the student to consider new ways of thinking.

The mentor will also be expected to contribute to either the podcast or the article and will be paid an honorarium of £500 GBP, payable at the end of the studentship. Mentors must read and abide by the mentor code of conduct guidelines.

Post-studentship requirements

Successful applicants will be required to submit, no more than twelve months after the take-up of the award, an article of between 4,000 and 6,000 words based on their research, for consideration for publication in the Round Table journal. Successful applicants will also be required to make a podcast on their research, for publication on the journal’s website.


Deadline for applications: 23:59 GMT on 31 July 2022

Announcement of winners: September 2022

Take-up of awards: 1 November 2022 to July 2023

 How to apply

Applications should be submitted by 23:59 GMT on 31 July 2022 via the online application form.

As part of the application, you should submit:

  • A CV
  • A studentship plan, outlining:

– The work you plan to carry out during the studentship, in non-technical language
– The likely impact of your studentship work, and how it will advance knowledge in your field and contribute to greater understanding of    the Commonwealth
– The planned outcomes and outputs of the studentship

  • Letters of support from two referees, one academic (preferably your PhD/DPhil supervisor) and one personal.

Winners of the 2021-22 awards

The winner of the 2021-22 award for a PhD student registered at a member university of the ACU outside the UK is Elza D’Cruz.

Elza D’Cruz

Elza is a doctoral candidate at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), based at the Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design and Technology, India. She has a Bachelor’s in Architecture from the University of Kerala (2003) and a Master’s in Urban Design from R. V. College of Architecture, Bangalore (2010). In May 2021 she was selected as a participant for the Dumbarton Oaks Garden and Landscape Studies workshop on public landscapes and public health.

Elza’s PhD research looks at the public garden as a space of negotiation between the colonial and the local in Bangalore under British rule. She plans to use the Routledge/Round Table Commonwealth Studentship to investigate how the colonial circulation of plants and garden ideas to Bangalore, from other parts of the British Empire, such as Australia, shaped the public garden practice in Bangalore and the connections these gardens had to a progressive and healthy Mysore State between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. She also intends to investigate the nature of agency of the local – people and land – in the making of these landscapes by recording the oral histories of local gardening communities and the mapping of gardens.

One of Elza’s post-studentship aims is to produce a research piece for The Round Table on how the situated history of the public gardens in Bangalore connects to the global history of colonial garden exchanges, with a critical understanding of the notions of public health and gardens in formerly colonized societies.

The winner of the 2021-22 award for a PhD student registered at a university in the UK has chosen to defer the award.


Winners of the 2020-21 awards

The winner of the 2020-21 award for a PhD student registered at a member university of the ACU outside the UK is Navida Bachan.

Navida Bachan

Navida is studying for a PhD in Governance at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad. She holds a BSc in Economics and an MSc in Development Statistics with a specialization in Social and Demographic Statistics, both from UWI. In 2017 she was the recipient of the Jack Harewood award for most outstanding student on the MSc in Development Statistics programme. She spent a semester at the University of Alberta as a visiting graduate student, expanding her knowledge of mixed-methods research for her PhD whilst enhancing her skills through International House’s Global Leadership Development programme.

Navida’s PhD research investigates health system governance and its impact on the performance of health systems within the context of Trinidad and Tobago, and in relation to the United Kingdom. Navida has a special interest in the tenets of participatory governance in the health sector, and how it has been applied in Commonwealth contexts that have facilitated improved health outcomes for populations. Her professional work as a researcher in the Trinidad and Tobago health sector, both at the national and sub-national levels, has contributed significantly to her insights about health system governance and its link to health system performance, and subsequently healthcare delivery.

Navida will be using the Routledge/Round Table Commonwealth Studentship award towards understanding key governance components within the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. Specifically, her study of the NHS will begin with a review of key legislation, and culminate in interviews with health officials. She envisions her findings being translated into policy measures that contribute towards the overall strengthening of the Trinidad and Tobago health system as well as those of developing countries more generally.

The winner of the 2020-21 award for a PhD student registered at a university in the UK is Rob Cullum.

Rob Cullum

Rob is currently a PhD researcher at Aberystwyth University’s International Politics Department. He graduated from Monash University with an honours degree in History, and subsequently undertook a Master’s degree in Strategic Studies at the Australian National University, where he was the 2016 Robert O’Neill scholar. He interned with the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore, where he worked on the Shangri-La Dialogue and undertook a research project on Singaporean strategic dynamics in relation to the US-China strategic rivalry. He has also worked for the Australian government.

Rob’s current research focuses on the naval response to climate change in the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States, seeking to understand how organisational forces shape each navy’s response.

Rob is using the Routledge/Round Table Commonwealth Studentship award to fund several purposes. His main aim will be to produce a research piece for The Round Table comparing Britain and Australia’s military and humanitarian activities among small island states in the Caribbean and the South Pacific. If the international health situation permits, he will also pursue fieldwork in the US to help better set the context for this piece and for his PhD work, through interviewing naval officials and experts.

Read Rob’s research article on Comparing Australian/South Pacific and UK/Caribbean relations here.


Winners of the 2019-20 awards

The winner of the 2019-20 award for a PhD student registered at a member university of the ACU outside the UK was Nurulhuda Zakariya.

Nurulhuda Zakariya

Nurulhuda is a judicial officer in Malaysia by profession and currently a full-time PhD student at the University of Malaya. She graduated from International Islamic University Malaysia in August 2008 with an LLB (Hons), and, as a Chevening scholar, took an LLM in Comparative and International Dispute Resolution from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). She also holds a Diploma in Islamic Banking and Finance Arbitration from the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a Certificate of Mediation from Royal Roads University.

Nurulhuda’s PhD research focuses on judicial independence within the context of the subordinate judiciary and specifically the magistracy, examining legal concepts and judicial independence principles, and their application in the Malaysian magistrates’ courts as compared with the Indian and UK magistracies.

She still intends to use the Routledge/Round Table award to fund a visiting research studentship at QMUL, under the guidance of a host supervisor, Professor Kate Malleson. During this time, as well as accessing library and other materials and attending seminars and conferences, she hopes to conduct direct observation sessions in a UK magistrates’ court in order to gain a better first-hand understanding of the magisterial concept and judicial administration as developed and practised in the UK. She also hopes to conduct semi-structured interviews with relevant academics based in the UK, UK district judges, and magistrates, and set up engagement sessions with relevant agencies such as the Ministry of Justice, Courts and Tribunals Judiciary, and Judicial Appointments Commission.

Read Nurulhuda’s research article on The Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA) Brisbane Declaration: a brief assessment of magisterial independence in Malaysia here.

Sukhgeet Kaur

The winner of the 2019-20 award for a PhD student registered at a university in the UK was Sukhgeet Kaur, currently a student in the Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge.

Sukhgeet took a BA (Hons) and a Master’s degree in Economics from Panjab University, Chandigarh, funded by scholarships, later also winning a Dharam Hinduja ODA scholarship to complete an MPhil degree in Development Studies at the University of Cambridge. More recently she has earned an LLB degree and completed a Public Policy course at the University of California, Berkeley, sponsored by the Government of India.

A civil servant by profession, Sukhgeet belongs to Group A service of the Indian Administrative Service and Allied Services in the Government of India. She is currently posted to the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), a premier Government of India think tank. At NITI Aayog, she has dealt with project appraisal of important ministries, industrial policy and trade strategy, and agricultural marketing and price policies. In her previous assignment at the Ministry of External Affairs, she handled India’s bilateral relations with important partners in South Asia and South-East Asia and investment trade promotion policies.

Sukhgeet was selected by the Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India, for partial funding for her PhD research at the University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on policy interventions to ameliorate the economic shocks faced by Indian farmers. Farmers in Punjab and Haryana contribute substantially to food stocks, yet face acute distress. The subject has wider significance as farmers across the Global South face vulnerability and there is an urgent need to investigate new policy interventions.


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