History of the Trust                                                                   

The Trust was set up in 1919 by Sir Ernest Cassel, the distinguished financier and philanthropist, with a capital of £500,000.  Herbert Asquith, Arthur Balfour and Lord Haldane were among the first Trustees.

The original aims of the Trust were the support of adult education, the higher education of women and the teaching of 'commerce' at university level.  Substantial capital grants were made initially to women's colleges at Oxford and Cambridge and to London University for the endowment of Chairs at the LSE.  When Edwina Mountbatten became a Trustee in 1948, the Trust's interests began to turn increasingly towards the Commonwealth, particularly in the field of higher education, with financial help being offered to Commonwealth students in the United Kingdom.  On her death in 1960, these grants were named the Edwina Mountbatten Memorial Grants.  In the same year, her daughter, Lady Brabourne (now Countess Mountbatten of Burma) became a Trustee and was Chairman of the Trustees from 1969 until 2005.


The grants to Commonwealth students encountering unforeseen financial difficulty, in their final year, were renamed the Mountbatten Memorial Grants following the assassination of Earl Mountbatten by the IRA in 1979.  At one time they accounted for nearly three quarters of the Trust's annual expenditure on grants.  The 'block grant' scheme was adopted in 1983, whereby currently ten universities receive an annual grant, which they disburse on the Trust's behalf. This scheme was terminated in 2014 and provision is now made through the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland's Churches International Hardship Fund to make grants to students from developing Commonwealth countries who are suffering un-forseen financial difficulty until the Trust's major strategic review in 2018, when the last awards under this scheme were made. 


Similarly, in 1983, the British Academy took over the responsibility for the awards and administration of the Trust's overseas research grants in the language, literature, and civilisation of other countries. These grants were known as the Mountbatten Memorial Post Doctoral Travel Grants; these awards ceased in 2017.


A Mountbatten Memorial Award was instituted in 1984 at Christ's College, Cambridge (Earl Mountbatten's almer mata) towards the support of an outstanding Commonwealth postgraduate student, chosen by the Master and Fellows. 

Further commitment to this was made in July 2014 in partnership with Christ's College and the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust. A grant of £5,000 from the Sir Ernest Cassel Educational Trust will now fund part of a scholarship for a single student of outstanding ability who would not otherwise be able to study in the UK. The last recipient of this award is now mid-way through their studies.

To mark the Centenary Year of the Trust, Trustees agreed in 2018 to spend out the Trust's assets, investing in the education of girls and women in low income, developing countries. This funding programme will consist of a small number of grants in the region of £300-£500k and once these have been expended and evaluated, the Trust will close.