Most students, when thinking of pursuing further studies abroad, think of the United States of America. But scholarships and assistantships for study in the US are drying up while the ordeal of getting a visa to enter the US (even after securing admission and a scholarship) is a nightmare that many Indian students will vouch for.
For such students seeking to study abroad but wary of the US, there is the United Kingdom that has been in the forefront of education, and continues to be so. While welcoming bright young students for further studies, a big advantage of the US is that a master's takes only one year as opposed to two in the US.
And now, for those students who would like to pursue a doctoral program in any one of the more than 20 top-rated universities in the UK, the British government has set up the Dorothy Hodgkin Postgraduate Awards.
The scheme gives scholarships ranging from £25,000 a year to £75,000 a year to cover tuition fees and 1maintenance expenses.
The scholarships are available for a period of three to four years, for studies in science, engineering, medicine, social sciences, and technology.
The awards are targeted mainly at students from India and China, although the eligibility criteria include students from Hong Kong, Russia, and other developing nations.
The scheme is envisages that an industrial sponsor and a UK research council will jointly fund each scholarship. The industrial sponsors for the pilot scheme include BP, GlaxoSmithKline, Scottish Power, and Vodafone, and the research councils include the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils; Engineering & Physical Science Research Council; Economic & Social Research Council; Medical Research Council; Natural Environment Research Council; and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council. EPSRC will administer the scheme on behalf of the Office of Science and Technology.
Students who receive the awards would be granted visas that permit them to stay for one full year after they complete the programme. In fact, the UK government wishes that the awardees would work in the UK for some time -- but there is no bond or condition in this regard. They may return to their mother countries immediately after completing their studies.
The first batch of 130 students under the scheme is expected to start their study programmes in October 2004. The number of awardees would eventually go up to 800 or 1000.
The Dorothy Hodgkin Award will be advertised under the 'Research Councils UK' banner. Students who want to apply for a DHPA have to contact any one of the 24 UK universities approved under it.
Interested students may check out the web site http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/hodgkin/
They may also contact Diane Howard, DHPA Manager; Telephone: +44-1793-444419; Email: email@example.com
Sir David King, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK government and the man behind the DHPA, told rediff.com that the scholarship was started because of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's desire to strengthen the relationship of the UK with India and China.
"India and China are our major targets," he said, "We have always had close relationship with India but now we understand that in science and technology, India has been developing a close relationship with the United States. We would like to bring the traditional relationship back, particularly in science and technology. We think we have much to offer Indian scientists. The PhD program is to stimulate the interaction at the highest level. So we are looking for absolutely top quality students from India and China to come to Britain for the PhD awards."
Stressing the concern for quality, Sir David added, "The overriding criterion of the scheme is excellence, and the DHPA scholars should be easily recognisable as the 'best of the best'." He also wanted to assure students that only those universities with high research and training standards have been selected for placement of DHPA scholars.
"We want every student who comes to the UK to have an excellent environment for research. We can guarantee that," he said.
Sir David denied that the scholarship was to woo Indian and Chinese to the UK at a time when young Britons are moving away from the sciences. But he admitted that they expect 5 to10 percent of the students to stay back in the UK and continue their research. "If they want to stay on, they can and come back later," he remarked.
So what does the UK gain from the PhD awards? "By choosing India's best students, (we expect) they will contribute to the development of science in Britain during their PhDs, and we will get the benefit. When they come back to India, the benefit will be for India. We also gain when they come back to India and continue the contacts with the UK. This means, these people interact with the British scientists constantly. That's what we want to have: relationships."
Maybe it is time for Indian graduates seeking to study further to look beyond the US of A.