The class of Scholars is selected each year from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Jamaica and Commonwealth Caribbean, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, SJLP region (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine), Southern Africa (including South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, and Swaziland), United Arab Emirates, United States, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. This year we have 96 Rhodes Scholars which is a significant increase on recent years. The new countries added for 2017 are Israel, Malaysia, and the SJLP region (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine). In the Class of 2018 we will also be introducing a Rhodes Scholarship for West Africa.
Four criteria are used in the selection of Scholars:
- Literary and scholastic attainments
- Energy to use one's talents to the full, for example through achievement in areas such as sports, music, debate, dance, theatre, and artistic pursuits, particularly where teamwork is involved
- Truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy for and protection of the weak, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship
- Moral force of character and instincts to lead, and to take an interest in one's fellow beings.
Rhodes Scholarship selection committees around the world sought young women and men of outstanding intellect, character, leadership, and commitment to service. The Rhodes Scholarships support students who demonstrate a strong propensity to emerge as 'leaders for the world’s future'. Talented young people from varying backgrounds continue to be awarded for their scholastic achievements and leadership potential.
This year the Scholars selected from America represents a broadening of diversity along gender, religious and racial dimensions. Nick Kristof (Oregon & Magdalen 1981), columnist at the New York Times, powerfully described the 2017 American Scholars-elect cohort: "At a time of a backlash against diversity, of fears of immigration, it's worth looking at the young people selected for Rhodes Scholarships. The 32 Rhodes Scholars were selected by 16 different committees, each unaware of the others' choices, with no consideration other than merit — just the best of the best. They constitute a reminder that diversity and immigration aren't threats but sources of strength. And these young people are our country's future." There were also many new US universities and non-Ivy League schools represented amongst the group, with eight institutions that had never before had a student win a Rhodes Scholarship.
The Australian National Secretary, Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington also remarked on a greater range of applicants: "Applications doubled this year, and the diversity of the pool has seen marked improvement. More universities are applying; more applicants are from rural and regional backgrounds or from Non-English speaking heritage; more applicants are disclosing a disability; more tell us with pride about their gender identity; more universities are represented, including Australians studying overseas."
The new Scholarships for 2017 - Israel, Malaysia, and the SJLP region (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine) - all saw a strong pool of applicants and some very impressive finalists. Particularly moving was an interview with Hashem Abu Shama after he had been selected in which he explained: “When I told my parents that I might have a chance to go to Oxford, they were almost in tears. Many parents outside the U.S. know Harvard and Oxford by name and to think I would make it from my Palestinian refugee camp of Arroub to Oxford is truly incredible.”
At Oxford, the oldest university in the English-speaking world, Rhodes Scholars join just over 20,000 students from more than 140 countries currently studying at the University, and are enriched by the stimulating and rigorous education and the vibrant cultural and community life.