The Franklin Thomas Fellowship was established in honour of Franklin Thomas, a former President of the Ford Foundation. The fellowship is funded by monies donated by friends and colleagues of Franklin Thomas on his retirement in 1996, as well as grants from the Ford Foundation.  The purpose of the Franklin Thomas fellowship is to provide an opportunity for a South African from a historically disadvantaged background who has clerked of the Constitutional Court of South Africa to study at a well-respected American university towards a one-year graduate programme leading to a Masters of Law (LLM) degree.

The fellowship is administered by the Constitutional Court Trust (CCT), a non-profit organisation that exists to promote human rights, the rule of law, constitutionalism and judicial independence in the African region - with a special focus on the Constitutional Court of South Africa. It does so through artistic expression, legal scholarship and exchange programmes, public education and library initiatives.

Details of the fellowship

  • One fellowship will be awarded for the 2024 – 2025 academic year.
  • It will be tenable at the University of Notre Dame Law School, Michigan University Law School, OR any other university of choice in the USA (subject to motivation and approval of the CCT trustees, and full tuition waiver / additional funding being secured )
  • The fellowship award is specifically intended to cover travel and living expenses associated with studies.
  • The award is subject to the candidate meeting the relevant university’s postgraduate selection criteria and being awarded a scholarship tuition waiver1, or securing adequate funding to cover all tuition and study related costs.


Who is eligible to apply?

  • Applicants must hold South African citizenship, be from a historically disadvantaged background, and have served as a law clerk at the Constitutional Court. 
  • Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to human rights and intend to continue working in the area of human rights in South Africa.
  • Preference will be given to applicants who:
    • do not hold an LLM degree;
    • have not had the opportunity to study abroad;
    • will be no older than 35 years of age at the start of proposed studies;
    • have clerked at the Constitutional Court within the last five years.

How to apply

Applicants must send their applications by email to  by Sunday, 20 August 2023.

Applications should include the following:

  • A 1 - 2 page motivational letter on why you should be awarded the fellowship.
  • A curriculum vitae (CV) no longer than 3 pages.
  • University transcripts for all higher education qualifications.
  • One example of written work, relevant to your application, and demonstrating your ability to excel in a top tier LLM programme. The indicative length for writing samples is 2000 – 3000 words. Contextualised extracts are acceptable.
  • Letters of support from two referees. If listing a current Constitutional Court Justice as a referee, the name of the judge will suffice -  no letter is required.

Interviews of shortlisted candidates will take place at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg in October 2023.