The Rhodes Scholarship, one of the world’s most sought-after and snobbish scholarships to Oxford University, is running out of money forcing the trust which runs it to issue an unprecedented appeal to its privileged alumni for help.

This is said to be the first time in its 100-year-old history that the Trust whose beneficiaries include some of the world’s most high-profile leaders, including the former U.S. President, Bill Clinton, is asking — rather than offering—assistance.

The trust is appealing to the Rhodes — as its recipients are known — to donate at least $1million each to bail it out of the crisis caused by the global financial meltdown.

The situation is believed to be so dire that Donald Markwell, the Warden of Rhodes House, is currently on a fund-raising tour of America, according to The Daily Telegraph which quoted him as telling South Africa’s Business Report that so far 15 previous scholars had responded to the appeal.

“We have been gearing up for some time to ask former Rhodes scholars for contributions and many of them are only too willing,” he said.

The Telegraph said that, according to Britain’s Charity Commission, the trust’s endowment had fallen from £160 million two years ago to £115 million because of stock market losses.

It is hoping to raise up to £100 million over the next ten years in order to remain in business.

The scholarships were established by Cecil Rhodes, founder of the erstwhile apartheid Rhodesia and the diamond company De Beers. Rhodes Scholars typically come from privileged background and, according to folklore, are selected not so much on the basis of academic excellence as on their personality and dinner table etiquettes.