Target Groups and Recruitment Strategies
IFP worked with 22 International Partner organizations to create program selection criteria that considered gender, race and ethnicity, religion, region of origin, economic and educational background, parents’ education and employment, physical disability, and other local barriers to education among applicants. Although these factors affected access to higher education in all IFP countries, their relative weight differed in each context. IFP International Partners worked closely with local scholars, activists, public intellectuals, and public sector representatives to develop locally meaningful definitions of “disadvantage.”
Educational opportunities are often concentrated in major urban centers and are focused on urban elites. IFP therefore developed innovative methods to reach remote and disadvantaged populations. These included:
IFP’s emphasis on equity and access to higher education as an entry threshold was in marked contrast to other international fellowship programs, and the inclusion of non-academic criteria to judge candidates’ relative merit as “transformative leaders” was also distinctive. These criteria were developed by local International Partners — first to define basic eligibility in relation to “equity and opportunity,” and then to determine individual competitiveness in regard to academic qualifications, leadership capacity, and social commitment.
IFP also enhanced its ability to attract diverse candidates by eliminating an age limit, by permitting study in a wide range of academic fields and disciplines, and by allowing Fellows to enroll in universities located in any part of the world, including those in their home country or region.
While IFP employed well-known peer review practices in selecting Fellows, these were adapted to serve local communities. IFP selection panels brought with them a high level of familiarity with local needs and conditions. Thus, they were able to assess candidates on IFP’s multiple dimensions, from equity and opportunity considerations to leadership, social engagement, academic performance, and potential. Locally constituted selection panels also enabled candidates to submit applications in their own languages.
Worldwide, IFP earned a reputation for transparency, stemming from the professional standing, integrity, and independence of the selection panels. To further safeguard against special interests, neither the Ford Foundation nor IFP program staff were permitted to serve on the panels.
Pre-Academic Training and Placement
Many fellowships require that a candidate be accepted at their chosen university before being formally accepted into the program. This type of requirement is often a significant barrier for people with limited access to higher education and insufficient knowledge and means to identify and apply to high-quality postgraduate programs.
During the one-year “Fellow-elect” period, IFP provided preparatory training and placement support for entrance into universities. Working with local providers, the program offered pre-enrollment training to Fellows-elect on an as-needed basis in areas such as computer literacy, research skills, and academic writing, as well as foreign language study. For about one-third of IFP Fellows, preparatory training continued after arrival at their host universities.
During the Fellow-elect period, selected candidates also received educational advising to help them refine their study objectives, which in turn facilitated their placement in universities. The investment in preparing Fellows for academic success is one of IFP’s most important and effective innovations.
Monitoring and Re-Entry Support
IFP’s decentralized system required International Partners to maintain contact with active Fellows regardless of their study location. This created a supplementary support system that went well beyond regular student services provided at host universities and also provided a smoother transition from the fellowship experience to Fellows’ return back home.
During the course of their study, Fellows were able to take advantage of other program benefits, such as professional enhancement, family funds, sandwich programs, and English language training. In order to renew multi-year grants, Fellows were required to provide International Partners proof that they had completed the current academic year in good standing. These reporting requirements allowed Partners to provide their Fellows with additional guidance on how best to utilize the fellowship to finish their academic programs and meet degree requirements.
Further incentives for return were built into the IFP system through Partner-provided services, including counseling for returning Fellows and information on job and study opportunities. Partners also had alumni serve as recruiters, selection panel members, and active members of country-based IFP alumni associations.