Civil Society Leadership Awards

There are presently no open calls for submissions.

Civil Society Leadership Awards 2019-2020 

Scholarship Programs

Application Deadline: May 15th, 2018

Program Description

The Civil Society Leadership Awards (CSLA) provide fully-funded scholarships for master’s degree study to individuals who clearly demonstrate academic and professional excellence and a deep commitment to leading positive social change in their communities.

CSLA Award Structure

CSLA grantees will receive financial and administrative support for the following:

  • Pre-academic preparation via summer schools;
  • Program-related travel;
  • Tuition and mandatory university fees;
  • Monthly stipend for room, board, and other living expenses;
  • Accident and sickness insurance during the program;
  • Funds for educational materials and professional development;
  • Attendance at a regional Scholarship Programs conference;
  • Accommodations during the application process and the duration of the grant for applicants with disabilities.


Interested applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Demonstrate maturity, flexibility and civil society leadership potential;
  • Have a bachelor's degree awarded before May 15, 2018 and an excellent academic record;
  • Demonstrate professional experience in a relevant area;
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the language of instruction (English, German or French) at a level required for admission by host  universities;
  • Be able to participate in an intensive pre-academic summer school in July or August 2019 and start their degree program in August or September 2019;
  • Be able to receive and maintain a visa or study permit as required by the host country; and
  • Demonstrate a clear commitment to their home country or region in supporting open society development. 

Eligibility – Citizenship

Civil Society Leadership Awards are available to citizens of the following countries:

Afghanistan     Egypt                                                        Republic of Congo
Azerbaijan                                                Equatorial Guinea                                  South Sudan
Belarus     Eritrea Sudan
Cambodia   Ethiopia Syria*
China   Laos Tajikistan
Democratic Republic of Congo      Libya Turkmenistan
      Myanmar/Burma  Uzbekistan

* Please note that applicants of Syrian nationality may need to undergo additional scrutiny due to current applicable laws and regulations.

Eligibility – Field of Study

On the application you will be asked to indicate your general field of study as well as specific programs within that general field based on our  Host University Guide. Applicants must select a general field of study from those listed below. Awards are available for study in the following areas:
  • Communications, Journalism & Media 
  • Culture, History & Society
  • Development Studies
  • Economics
  • Education Management & Leadership
  • Environment & Natural Resource Management
  • Gender Studies
  • Human Rights
  • Law (including Human Rights law)
  • Politics & International Studies
  • Public Health Policy & Health Management
  • Public Administration
  • Public Policy
  • Social Work
  • Social Policy

For example:

    • Those interested in studying Climate Change or Risk and Environmental Hazard would select Environment and Natural Resource Management.
    • Those interested in studying Arts Management, Indigenous Literature, Sociology or Anthropology, select Culture, History & Society.
    • Those interested in studying Disability Rights in a legal context, select Law. Those interested in studying Disability Rights in a sociological context, select Human Rights or Social Policy.


The following fields of study are NOT eligible:

  • Business administration or management
  • Engineering
  • Foreign language teaching
  • Finance
  • Medical sciences
  • Physical sciences

The Civil Society Leadership Award does not support:

  • Dependent family members;
  • Those currently enrolled in an international Master’s degree program with support from a scholarship or fellowship; and
  • Employees involved in the administration of the Civil Society Leadership Award or their family members.

CSLA Host Universities

CSLA partners with universities worldwide to host grantees for 1- and 2-year master’s level programs. Finalists are matched with universities according to their chosen area of specialization, academic profile, and professional aspirations. Final decisions concerning host university placement are made by the program selection committee, which includes university admissions staff and faculty. CSLA and university staff will be in touch with successful candidates to communicate any additional university admission procedures that need to be completed.

Current CSLA host university partnerships include institutions in Europe, the UK, the US and some parts of Asia. For a full list of our current host universities, please review our Host University Guide.

Selection Process

Competition for the Civil Society Leadership Awards is open and merit-based. Selection is based on an applicant’s fit with the program’s objectives as well as the graduate admissions criteria of the participating universities. Academic excellence, professional aptitude, leadership potential in the field of specialization, proven commitment to open society values, and appropriate language proficiency are all important factors in evaluation.

All eligible applicants will be reviewed by an international selection committee. The proposed field of study should be logical for the goals expressed, and the application itself should be organized and complete. Compelling candidates will be interviewed by a selection committee comprised of university representatives, CSLA staff, and partner organization representatives, such as the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Selection & Notification Cycle 

Stage 1: After May 15, 2018 your application will be reviewed by CSLA staff and international experts to assess your eligibility, competitive potential, and fit with the goals of the program. 

Ineligible and uncompetitive applicants will be notified of their status in late June. 

Those continuing will be sent out for external review and notified of their status in September 2018: those who are reviewed favorably will become Semi-Finalists and be invited to an interview.

Semi-Finalists must ensure that CSLA receives two (2) recommendation letters by the time of the interviews.  For further details, see How to Apply.

Stage 2: Interviews of semi-finalists will be held in person (if possible) or via Skype/telephone in late September/October.  Travel for in-person interviews will be arranged through local partners; costs associated with international travel and accommodations for the interview will be covered by CSLA. CSLA staff will help coordinate any necessary test registration and payments.

Interview results will be reviewed at a final selection meeting in November 2018.  You will be informed via e-mail by January 2019 if you have been selected as a CSLA finalist and are under consideration for placement at a CSLA host university.

Stage 3: Placement of CSLA finalists at host universities takes place from January through April, and is managed by CSLA staff.  Finalists who fail to obtain an adequate language test score, or fail to gain admission at a CSLA host university, or obtain admission but fail to do so within the CSLA staff-led placement process, will not receive an award, but are welcome to re-apply in the next CSLA competition. 

Stage 4: Once CSLA staff have a confirmed placement for you at a CSLA host university, you will receive a grant letter to sign and return to CSLA staff.  At that point you will be a CSLA grantee.

Saving & Editing Your Application 

Once you have registered on Submittable and opened an application, you can save your work and return to it later. You may edit your application on Submittable until the deadline (May 15, 2018), even if you have already submitted.  After May 15, 2018, the system will be locked and your application will be unavailable to you. After the application deadline (May 15, 2018) has passed, you will not be able to edit it further. Please read the How to Apply document carefully to ensure you have met all application requirements before the May 15 deadline. 

Equal Opportunity

Scholarship Programs are committed to equal opportunity, and exercise that policy in relation to all admissions processes. The CSLA program does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.

Unsuccessful Applications

Please note that decisions made by CSLA staff are final. If your application is unsuccessful at any stage in the selection process, we shall notify you by the email address you included in your Submittable account. In the event that we do not have an email address for you, we will send try to contact you via phone and finally, if we are unable to reach you, via letter.

Civil Society Leadership Awards