Transformative leadership: the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program


“This is the first time a member in my family is pursuing a master’s degree. For me, it means responsibility towards my community, family, my country and the world. I need to make good use of the opportunity to transform and impact lives and be a good representative of Ghana.”

Dorcas Mensah, MasterCard Foundation Scholar, MSc in Africa & International Development

This September, we welcomed 12 bright and inspiring Africans to Edinburgh University through a new partnership with The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program. Over seven years, the scholarship programme will provide full tuition to 200 postgraduate (on campus and online) and undergraduate scholars from Sub-Saharan Africa with great potential but few educational opportunities.

In addition to studying full time on courses across the University – our Scholars will benefit from bespoke support and extracurricular activities including summer schools in Edinburgh and Africa, work placements, MCF global convenings, internships, and reflective programming throughout the year.

The idea of transformative leadership is woven throughout the programme.  Described by The MasterCard Foundation as ‘principled leadership’ – transformative leadership is driven by self-awareness and a deep sense of purpose to improve the lives of others.   Shaped by their diversity of life experiences before arriving in Scotland, our Scholars will return home with the tools, knowledge, experience, and most importantly – confidence to make positive and lasting change in their countries as transformative leaders.

The programme is fueled by a small team based in the International Office and Centre for African Studies. We are passionate about building a meaningful programme that not only impacts the lives of our Scholars – but also the wider University community.  We have been working to develop student and staff partnerships across the University that allow us to design, test, and iterate innovative learning opportunities – from our Edinburgh summer school and African work placements to repurposing existing opportunities such as the SLICCs and the Edinburgh Award around transformative leadership.

It’s a great example of what we as a University are capable of and I look forward to working with University partners in all kinds of capacities. Feel free to email me at with ideas.

You can hear more from our recent launch event here on Youtube.

The next cycle of scholarships are open until 30 November from our website.

Johanna Holtan

Johanna Holtan is currently the Program Manager for the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program. For the past six years, she has worked with the Students’ Association and the Institute for Academic Development to build student/staff initiatives focused on social innovation, experiential learning, and global citizenship including University’s festival of creative learning, EUSA Global, the Gather Festival and TEDx University of Edinburgh. In addition to her work with the University, Johanna is the Director of Go Jo!, a creative facilitation consultancy and Tribe Porty, a social enterprise in Portobello. She is also the co-founder of the award-winning CycleHack, TEDx Portobello, and Penny in Yo’ Pants.

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