Chiranthi Senanayake named in Top 50 shortlist for $ 100 k Global Student Prize

Wednesday, 15 September 2021 00:32 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Organisers double value of award from $ 50 k to $ 100 k due to the extraordinary quality of applications
  • If prize won she will use funds to carry out a vocational education project for unemployed female household heads in Sri Lanka

Chiranthi Senanayake


Sri Lankan Chiranthi Senanayake, a 26-year-old LLM student in International Economic Law, Justice and Development at Birkbeck, University of London, has been included in the top 50 shortlist for the Global Student Prize 2021, a new $ 100,000 award to be given to one exceptional student that has made a real impact on learning, the lives of their peers and on society beyond.

Chiranthi, shortlisted for the Global Student Prize 2021, was selected from over 3,500 nominations and applications from 94 countries around the world. 

The Varkey Foundation launched the Global Student Prize earlier this year, a sister award to its $ 1 million Global Teacher Prize, to create a powerful new platform that shines a light on the efforts of extraordinary students everywhere who, together, are reshaping our world for the better. The prize is open to all students who are at least 16 years old and enrolled in an academic institution or training and skills program. Part time students as well as students enrolled in online courses are also eligible for the prize.

Together, the Global Student Prize and the Global Teacher Prize will tell inspirational stories from both sides of education. The prizes will shine a spotlight on the great work teachers do in preparing young people for the future and the amazing promise some of the brightest students are showing in their learning and far beyond. has partnered with the Varkey Foundation to create the new Global Student Prize. Head Lila Thomas said: “In this age of COVID, students like Chiranthi have shown great courage to keep studying and keep fighting for a better future despite huge obstacles. The Global Student Prize has been launched to shine a light on their stories and listen to their voices. After all, it is their dreams, their insights and their creativity that will help solve some of the greatest questions humanity has ever faced.

“Our finalists this year have a made a huge impact in areas from the environment to equality and justice, from health and wellbeing to education and skills, from youth empowerment to ending poverty.

“We were so inspired by the achievements of these extraordinary students throughout the world that applied for the inaugural Global Student Prize that Chegg chose to double the value of the prize to $ 100,000.”

Varkey Foundation founder Sunny Varkey said: “Congratulations to Chiranthi for reaching the final 50. Her story clearly highlights the importance of education in tackling the great challenges ahead – from climate change to growing inequality to global pandemics. It is only by prioritising education that we can safeguard all our tomorrows. Education is the key to facing the future with confidence.”

Chiranthi Senanayake, is an LLM student in International Economic Law, Justice and Development at Birkbeck, University of London, and the recipient of the prestigious Chevening Scholarship from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). 

As an undergraduate, Chiranthi studied three separate degree courses in parallel at leading tertiary institutions. At the same time, she established the Youth Legal Professionals Association of Sri Lanka (YLPASL) – an association of law students and Attorneys-at-Law under 40 years of age who seek to protect the rule of law and promote an ethical legal practice. Alongside her academic and legal activity, Chiranthi, who comes from Colombo, Sri Lanka, is interested in mainstreaming Youth Empowerment Incubation as an alternative approach to youth development. If she wins the Global Student Prize, she will use the funds to carry out a vocational education project for unemployed female household heads in Sri Lanka.

 Applications and nominations for this year’s student and teacher prizes opened on Tuesday 2 February and closed on Sunday 16 May. Students who applied for the Global Student Prize are being assessed on their academic achievement, impact on their peers, how they make a difference in their community and beyond, how they overcome the odds to achieve, how they demonstrate creativity and innovation, and how they operate as global citizens.  

Following the announcement, the top 10 finalists of both the Global Student Prize and the Global Teacher Prize will be announced in October this year. The winners of both prizes will be chosen from the respective top 10 finalists by the Global Student Prize Academy and the Global Teacher Prize Academy, made up of prominent individuals. The winners are due to be announced at an awards ceremony in Paris in November.  

If students or teachers were nominated, the person nominating them was asked to write a brief description online explaining why. The student or teacher being nominated was then sent an email letting them know they had been nominated and inviting them to apply for the prize.  Applicants were able to apply in English, Mandarin, Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.