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PhD Fellowship

Postgraduate Training Fellowships for Women Scientists from Sub-Saharan Africa and Least Developed Countries (LDC) at Centres of Excellence in the South

The Fellowship is offered to women scientists to pursue postgraduate research in a field of the natural sciences. The next call for applications will open in 2017.

This fellowship programme is for female students from Sub-Saharan Africa or Least Developed Countries (LDCs) who wish to pursue postgraduate training leading to a doctorate degree at a centre of excellence in the South outside their own country.

  1. Please read the following information carefully before applying.
  2. Only women scientists from Sub-Saharan Africa and/or one of the Least Developed Countries can apply.
  3. Host institutions must be located in a developing country.
  4. Applications that are incomplete or illegible cannot be considered. Please make sure all the requested enclosures are submitted together with your application.


With funds generously provided by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), OWSD has instituted a fellowship programme for female students from Sub-Saharan Africa and Least Developed Countries (LDCs), who wish to pursue postgraduate training leading to a PhD, at centres of excellence in the South (developing countries), outside their own country.

The general purpose of the scheme is to contribute to the emergence of a new generation of women leaders in science and technology, and to promote their effective participation in the scientific and technological development of their countries.

The specific aims of the scheme are:

  • To improve access to educational and training opportunities in science and technology for young and talented women graduates from Sub-Saharan Africa and LDCs.
  • To increase the scientific productivity and creativity of women scientists in Sub-Saharan Africa and LDCs.
  • To empower a new generation of talented women to assume a leadership role in science and technology and their application to sustainable development.


The scheme provides fellowships to young female students from Sub-Saharan African countries and/or LDCs, to enable them to pursue postgraduate studies leading to PhD degrees at centres of excellence (renowned research institutions/universities). The institute must be in a developing country other than the applicant's home country.

The fellowship is offered to carry out postgraduate research in the natural, engineering and information technology sciences. Each fellowship will be offered for up to three years and will cover the following:

  • Travel to and from the host institute;                                          
  • A monthly allowance to cover accommodation and meals while in the host country;
  • Study fees (including tuition and registration fees);
  • Visa expenses;     
  • A yearly medical insurance contribution;
  • A lump sum allowance to attend international conferences during the period of the fellowship;
  • On a competitive basis, attending of scientific communication and proposal writing workshop; and
  • On a competitive basis, attending the Fifth OWSD General Assembly and International Conference scheduled for 2016.

An applicant who has already registered or who wishes to register as a PhD student at her home institute can choose a sandwich option, whereby part of the research programme is undertaken at a host institute in another developing country. In this case the fellowship provides support (travel, accommodation and living expenses) only while at the host institution. The minimum period abroad is six months. The fellowship does not provide support while the applicant is at the home institute.

Alternatively, an applicant can enroll as a full-time research student at an institution outside her country, in this case the fellowship will provide support (travel, accommodation and living expenses) for 3 years.

The host institution will be expected to provide the necessary facilities such as tuition, training, supervision, laboratory supplies etc.

Accompanying persons are not eligible for support.

Host Institution

This is a South-South fellowship scheme, promoting scientific exchange among young researchers from developing countries. While applicants must come from a more restricted list of least developed countries (see list below), host institutes can be located in any developing country.

Host institutes should be proven centres of scientific excellence in the applicants' chosen field. A list of recommended institutes is available here. Institutes not on the OWSD list will also be considered if there are supporting letters and recommendations.

Applicants should select up to three host institutes outside their home country that are centres of scientific excellence in the chosen study field. The three host choices must be located in different countries (e.g. three host choices all located in South Africa would not be eligible).

N.B. To be considered for selection, applicants must provide a preliminary acceptance letter from at least one host institute (sample available in the Fellowship Application Form below). The letter should be preferably supported by a letter of committment from the prospective host supervisor.



  • Open to qualified women science graduates from countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Least Developed Countries (see list below).
  • If applicants are over 40 years of age, they should include a brief explanation of why their research career has been delayed.
  • The minimum qualification is an MSc degree (or equivalent), or an outstanding BSc honours degree in the natural sciences, engineering or information technology disciplines (see list below).
  • Host institutions must be located in a developing country. This must be a different country from the applicant's home country.
  • Applicants must provide a preliminary acceptance letter from at least one host institute. The letter must be prepared based on the sample on page 10 and be signed by the head of department, potential host supervisor or postgraduate studies coordinator.
  • The application will be evaluated more favourably if the preliminary acceptance letter is supported by a letter of commitment from the prospective host supervisor, describing why the host institute is appropriate for the subject of study and confirming the supervisor’s interest in working with the student.
  • Students from eligible countries already enrolled on a PhD programme in their home country can apply for the sandwich option. This gives them access to expertise and resources that might not be available at the home institute.
  • Applicants already on site in the host country will not be considered eligible since this implies that they have already secured sufficient funding for their studies.
  • The applicant must be willing to return to her own country after completion of the fellowship.
  • Accompanying persons are not eligible for support.

Eligible Scientific Fields:

Agricultural Sciences; Structural, Cell and Molecular Biology; Biological Systems and Organisms; Medical and Health Sciences; Neurosciences; Chemical Sciences; Engineering Sciences; Information Technology; Astronomy, Space and Earth Sciences; Mathematical Sciences; Physics

Please note that applications from students in the Basic (or 'pure') Sciences, such as Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry are encouraged.

Eligible Countries*:

Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros Islands, Congo Dem. Rep., Congo Rep., Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Kenya, Kiribati, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Niger, Réunion, Rwanda, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tuvalu, Uganda, Uganda, Western Sahara, Vanuatu, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

* The list is in alphabetical order and includes all Least Developed Countries (LDC) and ALL sub-Saharan African countries. The LDC countries are defined by The United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and the Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS).


The fellowships are highly competitive, and selection is based on scientific competence and merit. Candidates’ publications and the quality of their project proposals are given particular attention.

The applications will be reviewed by a panel of eminent scientists, appointed by the Executive Board of OWSD.

The Selection Committee’s decision is final and without appeal. It cannot be contested or subject to explanation or justification.


  • Applicants should complete all parts of the Fellowship Application Form (see below) and enclose the preliminary acceptance letter from a host institute preferably supported by the letter of commitment from the chosen host supervisor, and copies of all university degree certificates and university-issued transcripts, which should include grades and courses taken.
  • If the applicant is registered for a doctorate degree at an institute in her home country and wishes to pursue part of her research at another institution under a “sandwich programme”, a letter of recommendation from the home institute supervisor must be enclosed. In addition, a “No objection certificate” from the home institute must be submitted (see details in the Fellowship Application Form below).
  • Applicants must also submit a project proposal for their proposed PhD programme: the project proposal should include a cost breakdown of laboratory consumables (bench fees), if applicable as well as an appropriate timeline. Please note however, that the OWSD fellowship does not cover bench fees – these should be provided by the host institute. In the case of sandwich option applicants, the outline must make it clear which parts of the work will be carried out at the host institute.
    The research proposal is the most important part of the application. Applicants are invited to study carefully the sample provided in the Fellowship Application Form and ensure that their proposal is well structured and clear. Applicants should seek advice from experts in their field. There are also many websites describing how to write a good research proposal.
  • Two SIGNED reference letters from senior scientists familiar with the applicant’s studies must be provided. These should clearly describe the applicant’s ability to undertake a PhD on the proposed topic. Standardized institutional letters will not be evaluated favourably. Reference letters must be on letter-headed paper or with an institutional stamp, SIGNED and sent as attachments via email by the applicant directly with the rest of the application or by the referee. In this case, the subject line of the email must contain: OWSD/PG/candidate’s surname. Only signed reference letters can be accepted. For sandwich applicants: the two referees must be in addition to the PhD home supervisor.
  • Applications must meet the Eligibility criteria.
  • Applications must be clearly typewritten in English.
  • Applications must be completed in all parts. All applications will be pre-screened for formal requirements. They will only be acknowledged once processed.
    Only complete applications will be assessed.
    Incomplete applications will NOT be accepted.

Applications should be submitted by email only to

The next call for PhD fellowship applications will open in 2017.