Find out more about applying for the Rhodes Scholarship

Find out more about applying for the Rhodes Scholarship


18 July 2023

Historic renovation and expansion of Rhodes House completed

The Rhodes Trust, an educational charity which oversees the world-renowned Rhodes Scholarships at the University of Oxford and several other global fellowship programmes, has today completed the redevelopment of Rhodes House, following a £38 million renovation project.

The restoration of the historic Grade II* listed Rhodes House in central Oxford received planning consent in August 2020 and works started later that autumn. The redevelopment, which doubles the usable space in the House, is part of the Trust’s mission to ensure the building remains a central hub for Rhodes Scholars, members of the Trust’s partner programmes, and the wider Oxford community.

The completed renovation comes as the Trust launches a new £200m campaign to fund the largest expansion of Rhodes Scholarships in its history. This includes the goal of raising £140m to grow the number of Scholarships worldwide from 100 to 125 a year and features plans to increase the number of Scholarships per year for students from the African continent to 32 by 2028 – a key part of the Trust’s commitment to widening its applicant pool and promoting greater equity in the distribution of its Scholarships across the globe.

New Conference Centre Lightwells

Dr Elizabeth KissWarden of Rhodes House and CEO of the Rhodes Trustsaid: “The transformed Rhodes House accelerates the Trust’s ability to foster a vibrant and diverse community of outstanding Scholars and Fellows who are committed to building a better world.  Its world class facilities provide an ideal place for gathering, learning, collaborating, and sharing, and will offer improved accessibility for all as we open our doors to new local and global audiences. We are very grateful to Charles Feeney and the Atlantic Philanthropies for the 2016 landmark gift that acted as the catalyst for the entire project.”

Image left: new conference centre foyer

Flowers Overlook The Rhodes Residential Courtyard

Rhodes House now includes a new 300-capacity, state-of-the-art conference centre to host events for Scholars and wider audiences involving world leaders and distinguished speakers. The space can be separated into three smaller conference areas, and uses the latest in digital infrastructure and technology to allow audiences from around the world to participate and collaborate virtually. The gardens have also been completely redesigned by Christopher Bradley-Hole, one of the world’s most influential landscape designers.

Image right: gardens surround the new Rhodes House residential Courtyard.

Rhodes House Garden Pavilion Exterior

Paul Williams OBEPrincipal Director at Stanton Williamsthe lead design architects on the project said: "We are delighted to see the vision we developed with the Trust come to fruition. A newly choreographed sequence of spaces now unfolds seamlessly within the building, enhancing its historic features, connecting new and existing facilities and opening enticing views and routes into the magnificent surrounding gardens. This project has been about acknowledging and transcending history to unlock the potential of the building to provide an environment that can fully support the Trust's strategic vision for the future whilst preserving their historic premises in the centre of Oxford.”

Image left: new garden pavilion at Rhodes House

To mark the Trust’s 120th anniversary, this summer, Rhodes House is hosting its inaugural art exhibitions:

Rhodes House Hall Hanging Sculpture

Floating Garden

Floating Garden by Valéria Nascimento is a permanent installation in the main hall, featuring thousands of pieces of suspended porcelain representing botanical elements from the Rhodes Scholarship constituencies around the world.

Three Pictures Hanging In The Rhodes House Conference Centre Lobby

I Am Because We Are

I Am Because We Are by British contemporary artist Nicola Green: Green will showcase an immersive exhibition that celebrates the life, identity, heritage, and outstanding achievements of ten Scholars and Fellows from the Rhodes Trust community. The exhibition is designed to face the history of the Rhodes Trust through their lived experiences and consider the themes of colonialism, diasporic identity and justice. These stories have been woven into two bodies of work: a series of fabric artworks ‘Entangled Threads’ and bespoke patterned vinyls which together form the ‘Rhodes Tapestry’. Green chose to use these mediums because textiles and patterns are fundamental to our collective consciousness, common humanity and shared visual language.

The World Reimagined Globes

The World Reimagined

The World Reimagined: presenting a ‘Journey of Discovery’ by multiple artists including Zita Holbourne, Parys Gardener, and Richard Rawlins: The exhibition displays unique globes to explore the history, legacy, and future of the Transatlantic Trade in Enslaved Africans through the work of a range of artists. The World Reimagined is presenting journeys of discovery in the gardens of Rhodes House.

Pictures Hanging In The Rhodes House Lightwell

Living with the Legacy of Cecil John Rhodes

Living with the Legacy of Cecil John Rhodes by Professor Shadreck Chirikure: Rhodes House will also host a photographic exhibition on Cecil Rhodes, the Trust’s Founder, entitled ‘Cecil John Rhodes: Hero, Villain, Ruthless Exploiter or Unjustly Accused?’. Professor Chirikure uses photography to reflect on some of his conversations with the Rhodes Trust’s Legacy, Equity and Inclusion advisory groups, and how we think about the legacy of Mr Rhodes.

Speaking on the art exhibitions, Dr Kiss, added: “The Rhodes Trust’s 120th anniversary presents an important opportunity to reflect on the organisation’s past and consolidate our vision for the future. To mark this anniversary and the opening of the new Rhodes House, we have commissioned several art exhibitions to help us – and the wider community – reflect upon, and grapple with, the Trust’s legacy. We believe that we can only make real progress as an organisation by engaging fully, critically, and honestly with our history.”

The exhibitions will open to the public from Saturday 22 July, with multiple open days planned during the summer. More details on how to register are available here. The exhibitions and wider building and gardens will also be open for Oxford Open Doors on 9 September – an annual weekend where places that are not usually open to the public, are open free to celebrate heritage and culture across all walks of the city's life.

Notes to editors

Images of the new Rhodes House and can be found here: Rhodes House - Summary Media Folder Photos (

More details on each artwork and images can be found here: 120 years seen through the visual arts

Features of the new Rhodes House include:

Convening Hall With Delegates

A new 300-capacity, state-of-the-art conference centre to host events for Scholars and wider audiences involving world leaders and distinguished speakers. Created by reconfiguring existing ancillary spaces on the lower floors, the conference centre features a new double-height vaulted roof that provides generous scale and flexibility for a variety of meetings, all with natural daylight and views of the magnificent gardens beyond. The space can be separated into three smaller conference areas. The conference centre uses the latest in digital infrastructure and technology to allow audiences from around the world to participate and collaborate virtually. The high-spec, state-of-the-art audio-visual facilities include LED video walls, large format high-definition screens and joinery which conceals speakers, cameras and microphones – allowing seamless in-person and remote audience participation.

Image left: The Rhodes House Conference Centre

Rhodes House With The Gardens In Shadow

A focus on sustainability has seen the existing building services replaced with high performance modern equivalents, significantly reducing the building's carbon footprint. These technologies include combined heat and power systems, LED lighting throughout, and an air-source geothermal system that maintains thermal comfort and reduces reliance on gas and electricity sources.

Image right: sustainable planting in the Rhodes House gardens

Looking Up To He Rotunda Thorugh The Spiral Staircase

A new sculptural spiral staircase, placed in the centre of the historic Rotunda – the main entrance to Rhodes House – provides a new direct route down to the new foyer and convening centre, while offering new ways to appreciate the striking architecture of the dome above. Held by a compression ring, the new stone staircase is supported by three tensioned steel ropes. The balustrade is carved from Moleanos stone, a natural limestone from Portugal, matching the stone used in Herbert Baker’s original design.

Image left: the spiral staircase in the Rhodes House Rotunda

Rhodes House Lightwell Interior Art Exhibition

New glazed lightwells bring daylight and natural ventilation to the reconfigured lower floors. They are used as breakout spaces adjacent to the foyer and as exhibition areas for the display of public art.

Image right: Art exhibition in the Rhodes House lightwells

Rhodes House Garden Pavilion Interior

A new 50-seat glazed pavilion in the West Garden provides a tranquil place for Scholars and the public to meet and exchange ideas, immersed in a magnificent landscape setting. The pavilion’s green roof sits on a curved, structural timber frame, which sits on all-glass walls with no perimeter columns – except for the two portals for the sliding openings. The temperature is regulated by automatic solar shading blinds.

Image left: Garden Pavilion

Overlooking The Rhodes House Residential Courtyard

A new lower ground courtyard, carefully and discreetly set within the East Garden, provides 16 ensuite guest bedrooms, all opening onto a leafy communal patio echoing the materiality of Rhodes House’s East façade above. The rooms have glazed front openings to maximise natural light, and are earth sheltered with the gardens reinstated above.

Image right: The Rhodes House Residential Courtyard

Rhodes House With Grasses In The Foreground

Restoration of the existing heritage building of Rhodes House, with the East wing being converted to provide 21 ensuite bedrooms. New lifts ensure that most rooms have flat and level access. All services throughout the building have been replaced and the historic finishes gently restored. Rhodes House was originally completed in 1928.

Image left: Rhodes House and Gardens

A Fox In The Rhodes House Gardens

The Rhodes House gardens have been completely redesigned by Christopher Bradley-Hole, one of the world’s most influential landscape designers, working closely with the organisation’s Head Gardener, Neil Wigfield. Sustainability has been factored into the design, with the construction of a new drought tolerant gravel garden, the installation of sedum roofs and wildflower meadows to attract pollinators and provide diverse wildlife habitats.

Image right: the Rhodes House Gardens

Partners who were involved in the construction and reimagining of Rhodes House:

  • Mat Davies - Director of Estate, Rhodes House, Project Director
  • Stanton Williams - Lead Design Architects
  • Beard Construction – Main Contractor
  • Skelly & Couch – Building Environment & Services Engineers
  • Webb Yates Engineers – Structural and Civil Engineers
  • Bradley-Hole Schoenaich Landscape - Landscape Architects
  • Neil Wigfeld – Head Gardener, Rhodes House
  • Pendery Architecture & Heritage - Conservation Architects and Heritage Consultants
  • Emma Anderson Interiors – Rhodes House Interior Design
  • Hewshott International - AV Consultant
  • GV AV – Audio-visual installation
  • Dextrous IT Consulting – IT Consultant
  • European Electronique – Network Design and installation
  • Savills – Planning Consultant
  • Lizzie Collins at Atelier Zuleika – Art Consultant
  • Gleeds – Cost Consultant
  • CDM - Bureau Veritas
  • SOCOTEC – Approved Inspector
  • Marcus Beale Architects – Heritage Assessment
  • Sandy Brown – Acoustic Design
  • BHSLA – Landscape Design
  • Heritage Tree Services – Arboriculture
  • Arup – Fire Consultant
  • MOLA – Archaeology
  • Tricon – Catering Consultant
  • Envirochem - Asbestos Consultant

Comments from artists:

Floating Garden by Valéria Nascimento: "I was honoured to be commissioned to create a permanent large scale installation to mark 120 years of Rhodes Scholarships. Following the progressive vision of the Rhodes Trust to transform the space for its community to gather and connect, I created a piece that reflects on nature as a fundamental uniting force. With my ‘Floating Garden’ I aim to conceive a metaphor that through its botanical and ethereal presence connects people, countries and scholars."

I Am Because We Are by British contemporary artist Nicola Green: We have addressed the story of the Rhodes Trust, and the legacy of imperialism and structural racism by celebrating the achievements of Rhodes Scholars and Fellows in their full global diversity. We have worked with the Scholars to think about how their specific stories, across the diaspora, intersect with the past and the present of the Rhodes Trust, in order to reimagine our future. The Studio of Nicola Green is committed to this process of imperfect and incremental change”.

The World Reimagined: presenting a ‘Journey of Discovery’: "The World Reimagined is based on the principle that in order to move forward, we have to honestly face our past and present. We hope The World Reimagined exhibition at Rhodes House offers a meaningful space of public dialogue on the urgent question of how we shine an unflinching light on challenging parts of our history, so that together we make racial justice a reality.”

About the Rhodes Trust

The Rhodes Trust, based at the University of Oxford, is an educational charity that forges brighter futures for individuals and the world. We do this through a family of global fellowship programmes. The Rhodes Scholarship is the world’s pre-eminent graduate fellowship, bringing exceptional people of character to the University of Oxford to study. Over 8000 Rhodes Scholars, from more than 50 countries, have gone on to serve at the forefront of education, business, science, medicine, the arts, politics and beyond. Alongside visionary partners around the world, we are proud to be a global family of programmes: the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, Atlantic Institute, Schmidt Science Fellows, Rise, and Oxford Next Horizons.

Today, students from anywhere in the world can apply to the Rhodes Scholarship through specific constituencies or the Global Scholarship. The 104 Scholars in the Class of 2023 have come from 31 different countries, studying 74 distinct courses.

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