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Marshall Scholarships for LLM & PG law students

Marshall scholarshipsThere are plenty of excellent funding options available for international students who wish to study a Master of Laws or other postgraduate law program in the UK and a Marshall Scholarship is one that is worth considering if you are a student from the United States. Eligible students from the US applying for a Marshall Scholarship must have an excellent academic record, a robust understanding of their proposed subject area and ambassadorial qualities. In return for an outstanding application, the scholarship covers most of the costs of studying their LLM program or postgraduate law course in the UK.

What are Marshall Scholarships?

Marshall Scholarships are for US postgraduate students – known as graduate students in the US – to study at any British university in almost any subject area including law. We have created a bespoke course search tool to enable potential Marshall Scholars to find eligible LLM programs and other postgraduate law courses – as well eligible PG programs in all other subject areas – this is hosted on the Marshall Scholarships website. The aim is to grow UK/US cooperation by developing future American leaders’ cultural understanding of the UK. The Marshall Scholarships are prestigious and students are extremely academically successful with many former Marshall Scholars going onto leadership roles across many parts of US business, public life, society, and of course the field of law. Because of the highly competitive nature of the scholarship, those who come from prestigious US universities dominate the scholarships that are awarded. Marshall Scholars are encouraged to apply to a broad range of universities throughout the UK – and our bespoke course search is a great way to find the right course to apply for.

There are around 50 Marshall Scholarships awarded each year and they are a substantial financial contribution to international study for US students and include tuition fees, book grants, living costs, daily travel expenses. For outstanding students with a dependent spouse, the Marshall Scholarships often contributes to their costs as well. There are two types of Marshall Scholarships – a one-year Marshall Scholarship and a two-year Marshall Scholarship. The one-year Marshall Scholarship covers one full year in the UK and cannot be extended. However, the two-year Marshall Scholarship can be extended for a third year, this is only when there is additional funding available that year and the student has an exceptional academic record. Marshall Scholars wishing for an additional third year of funding must be pursuing a PhD at Oxford or Cambridge University. The scholarships are awarded by the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission and the funding comes mostly from the British Government. This funding from the British Government reflects the value that they place on ensuring that future leaders of the US will have an understanding and appreciation of British institutions and culture.


History of Marshall Scholarships

Marshall Scholarships were established by the British Government in the 1950s as a thank you to the American people for the support and funding given by the US Government to Europe after the Second World War. The Economic Recovery Plan – known as the Marshall Plan – provided Europe with economic support in the years after the war. Both the Marshall Plan and the Marshall Scholarships are named after General George C Marshall who was the creator of the European Economic Recovery Plan. The idea for the scholarships came from Sir Roger Mellor Makins, who had an American wife and it was initially only a scholarship for six postgraduate students to attend the University of Cambridge. Other ideas to commemorate the Marshall Plan had been to offer a copy of the Magna Carta to the US or to provide chandeliers to the recently refurbished White House. The scholarship program was quickly opened up for students to attend any UK university rather than being restricted only to Cambridge, and in fact nowadays applicants to the Marshall Scholarships are encouraged to consider a wide range of UK universities for their postgraduate studies.

The Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission was established by an Act of Parliament in July 1953 and the Marshall Scholarships program as we are now familiar with was established. The Marshall Scholarships aim to develop and improve Anglo-American relationships in perpetuity by educating the future leaders of the US at UK universities. In the first year of the Marshall Scholarships, the Commission had over 700 applications and awarded 12 scholarships. When the 12 scholars arrived in the UK they were met by a group of journalists wishing to interview them about their plans. The first students studied in London, Bristol, Manchester, Glasgow, Oxford and Cambridge and they studied both postgraduate and second undergraduate degrees. For the first years of the scholarships, the vast majority of the alumni of the program went onto a career in academia. This resulted in the selection criteria being changed by adding leadership and ambassadorial potential to the already existing academic excellence required of applicants. The aim was to encourage a wider group of students to apply with a diverse range of interests. Alumni of the program have gone onto a variety of careers including being leaders of major corporations, as well as artists and entrepreneurs. The number of annual scholarships has slowly increased from the original 12 offered. In 1960 it was increased to 24, by 1970 it was 30, in 1991 there were 40 scholarships awarded and by 2019 it was 48. Now the Marshall Scholarships program attempts to reflect modern American society in the students who are awarded scholarships.

Marshall Scholars with legal leanings

Over the years – and as the selection criteria was adapted – there have been a number of Marshall Scholars that have studied law at their chosen UK university, or gone on to excel in a prominent legal position in the US following their studies in the UK. Prestigious legal roles followed by Marshall Scholars include two Supreme Court Justices; Deans of Yale Law School and Stanford Law School; and a Deputy/Acting Attorney General.

This table illustrates what some of the more prominent law-related Marshall Scholars studied and went on to achieve in their careers:

Marshall Scholars

Who is eligible to become a Marshall Scholar?

All applicants to Marshall Scholarship must be US citizens when they apply for the scholarship. Students must have completed their undergraduate degree in the US and cannot have attended a UK school for A-Levels or GCSE examinations. Academic excellence is an important part of the application and students must have a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.7. The Marshall Scholarship does not accept rounded GPAs and students cannot have studied an undergraduate degree or the equivalent in the UK. For applications in 2021 students must have graduated from their first undergraduate degree after April 2018.

What PG law courses are eligible for Marshall Scholarships?

There are some restrictions on the subject area that can be studied and our bespoke course search – which is hosted on the Marshall Scholarships website – enables students to search all eligible courses to help them apply for a scholarship. Marshall Scholars cannot study programs that are longer than the one or two years, nor can the program of study result in a professional qualification. Distance learning courses in any format are excluded as are any program of study that involves a significant period away from the university. Marshall Scholars can study a course that is offered jointly between two institutions as long as both universities are in the UK. Look at our bespoke course search to see if you can find an eligible course – and if it is an LLM that you are interested in studying, make sure you type this into the search box to see what your options are. There are currently over 800 eligible Master of Laws programs eligible to study at UK law schools as a Marshall Scholar!

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What are the criteria to gain a Marshall Scholarship?

The three equal criteria that are assessed as part of the application to the Marshall Scholarship – these are:

  • Academic Merit
  • Leadership Potential
  • Ambassadorial Potential

 Academic Merit

For Academic Merit, students must have a GPA of at least 3.7 and provide a well-written study proposal, that has clearly been given plenty of consideration and free of jargon. They must also show that they have a good understanding of their proposed subject area and a thorough knowledge of their potential academic supervisor's work. The student must provide a compelling reason why they have selected a specific British university to study at and supply three excellent recommendations from people that know them well.

 Leadership Potential

For Leadership Potential, students must show that they can deliver the results that they aim for and provide evidence of their strength of purpose through their extra-curricular activities. They must also provide evidence of their creative thinking and problem-solving abilities. Finally, they must demonstrate that they are self-aware by explaining their contributions to society and how they have created change.

Ambassadorial Potential

For the Ambassadorial Potential criteria, students have to show that they already have knowledge of UK/US relations and which parts of the relationship between the countries are relevant to their planned area of study. Students must have ongoing extra-curricular activities that are easily transferable to the UK and show that they have the potential to develop relationships with their UK counterparts. Networking and building relationships with others is another vital part of the Ambassadorial Potential criteria, and students must show their skills during the application and interview process. Finally, students must be self-confident and provide evidence that they can seize opportunities when they arise.

How do you apply for a Marshall Scholarship?

Applications for Marshall Scholarships open each year, usually in early June, and are completed online. In the first instance, students choose their PG program and apply through their undergraduate university or institution, who then access their application and decide if they will support or endorse the application. If your institution decides to endorse your application, then they will submit it to the Marshall Scholarship program. The Marshall Scholarship program splits the US into eight regions and there is no restriction on the number of applicants from each region.

Associate Professor of Law and Political Science at University of Houston Law Center, Zachary D Kaufman, was recently appointed by the UK Government to the Marshall Scholar Regional Selection Committee for Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Professor Kaufman is very committed to the Marshall Scholarship program and was himself a Marshall Scholar at Oxford University, where he received a PhD in International Relations. In addition to this new role on the Marshall Scholarship Regional Selection Committee, Professor Kaufman also serves on the Executive Committee of the Association of Marshall Scholars’ Board of Directors. Speaking about his own experience as a Marshall Scholar, he says, “The Marshall Scholarship was a transformative experience in my life, for which I am deeply grateful.” Professor Kaufman is delighted with his new role in helping shape the future with the Marshall Scholarship selection process, he exlplains, “It is an immense honor to select the next generation of Marshall Scholars.”

Each institution can only submit 24 applications to the Marshall Scholarship in any one year. Your university may have its own deadlines that you will need to meet, but the Marshall Scholarship program deadline for application is usually the end of September. The applications are accessed and successful candidates are then invited to the next stage, which is an interview. The region you apply through is where your interview will be held, however, currently interviews are held online in November, this may return to in-person interviews in the future. When students submit their online application they have a choice of the two regions to choose from, so if in-person interviews return the region you choose is important if your application progresses to the interview stage. The Marshall Scholarship have plenty of advice on what to expect in the interviews, but you should prepare with practice interviews and be ready to show an excellent understanding of your proposed plan of study in the UK.

How many students apply each year?

Every year around 900-1,000 outstanding US students apply for a Marshall Scholarship and progressing to the interview stage should be considered an achievement in itself as proportionally few students gain a scholarship. Each institution that submits endorsed applications will itself receive many applications to the Marshall Scholarship. Awards are split fairly evenly between men and women, but applications from women are starting to overtake those from male students.

Marshall Scholar Applicants


Benefits of being a Marshall Scholar

Apart from the obvious financial benefits – with the average funding award for students of around £38,000 per year – there are lots of other benefits to being a Marshall Scholar. By making it through the selection process and being offered a scholarship shows that you are one of the brightest students of your cohort with a future potential that is recognised by the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission members. Once you start your journey as a Marshall Scholar you will also have the benefit of the experience of understanding another country by living there and the chance to visit other parts of the UK, Ireland and continental Europe. While you are a Marshall Scholar in the UK you will have lots of opportunities to meet with your fellow scholars both in-person and online. Additionally, you are part of an exclusive group of Marshall Scholar alumni who include many influential leaders in the US. This could open up a whole world of career opportunities upon your return to the United States once you have finished your studies, and could be particulary valuable if you are aiming high on the legal career path.

Other careers for Marshall Scholars

As well as opening the doors to a world of opportunity in the world of law, being a Marshall Scholar is also a great springboard to a whole plethera of exciting career options. From Pulitzer Prize winners to congresswomen and astronauts, this table shows what a selection of Marshall Scholars ended up doing once they’d finished their postgraduate studies in the UK.

Marshall Scholars Careers


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