This week I was invited by the Trustees of the Mansion House Scholarship Scheme to a Reception to meet the Mansion House Scholars appointed in 2015 who are now studying in the UK. The event was held at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, so I am becoming something of a recidivist as that is the second time I have been there as Master! The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, the Sheriffs and their consorts, a number of past Lord Mayors and several Aldermen were all in attendance as well as the Masters and their Clerks of the 28 Livery Companies who support the Scheme.
The Scheme exists to fund scholarships for students and young business executives from overseas to travel to the UK to study or to undertake training or work experience in the Financial Services Sector. The Scheme was established in 1998 and is administered as a Charitable Trust. It is funded primarily through donations by the Livery Companies of the City of London, although wider support from the many commercial organisations and firms who are based within the City of London is also encouraged. Over one hundred and thirty scholarships have been awarded by successive Lord Mayors, with recipients selected from over 50 countries. More than £1 million has been raised to support the Scheme.
Whilst many scholars study for Masters Degrees at British universities, some attend training courses or undertake internships with City based firms. The selection of scholars is in the personal gift of the Lord Mayor and those awarded scholarships are known as Mansion House Scholars. The award value is in the region of £5-£7,000 and is not intended to cover all costs.
Scholarships are offered in those countries which the Lord Mayor visits each year and selections are made on the advice of overseas diplomats and where appropriate, City of London representational offices. The Scheme aims to attract the brightest and best emerging leaders from the financial services sector or Government ministries in countries with strong links to the UK and in particular with the City of London.
The Scheme was founded when Sir Richard Nichols, then Lord Mayor, was particularly impressed during his overseas visits by the high regard in which the City is held by foreign business communities and by the number of students who wished to study in the UK in schools and colleges through business attachments, executive exchanges, and management training.
The Scheme is now well established and has a high reputation through out much of the world, particularly in developing countries. Bids are discussed in advance of the Lord Mayor’s visit so that awards can be made whilst the Lord Mayor is in the country along with the presentation of a Mansion House Scholar’s certificate. Identifying a suitable candidate together with the relevant course or internship can be both time consuming and challenging. Whilst in the UK the scholar will have the opportunity to attend several prestigious business events within the City. This will include attendance at one of the Lord Mayor’s series of dinners which he hosts at Mansion House for senior business leaders. The Worshipful Company of International Bankers will also host the scholars at one of their events and in addition appoint a business mentor to offer advice and guidance during their stay.
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting some of the current scholars as well as alumni of the Scheme who have carried on working here. The current scholars come from Ghana, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Peru, Kenya, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa, Burma and Malaysia. There were also Past Scholars from Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Chile, China, India, Colombia, Turkey and Nigeria. It would not surprise me if one or two of these scholars go on to become Prime Minister of their country. The whole Scheme reminded me of the soft power in which the UK leads the world.