London, April 5: For a hundred years, bright Indians, all of whom somehow seemed to possess “First Class First” degrees, have been “proceeding to the UK for higher studies”.
Now, for five lucky Indians, there is a chance to do this by winning a reality television show — Scholar Hunt: Destination UK.
What is perhaps the most surprising aspect of this stunt is that the five universities that have signed up to the project are among the leading establishments in the UK, especially in the subjects selected.
Fees and living expenses, which could add up to £80,000 (Rs 68 lakh) over a four-year period at Warwick University, will all be paid on behalf of the winners.
The relevant departments at the five universities — Leeds (management), Sheffield (biomedical sciences), Middlesex (computing science), Cardiff (journalism and media) and Warwick (engineering) — have agreed to the unprecedented deal with Sunil Mittal’s Bharti Airtel and NDTV.
British universities want to attract as many foreign students as possible because, unlike local pupils, overseas entrants have to pay the full fees. The universities hope they will get the chance of promoting their attractions over several weeks to a huge television audience in India.
From the thousands who are expected to apply through online registration, there will be a shortlist of 400 considered to be good enough to be eligible for a university place. This number will be whittled down further in two stages to 20 for each subject.
Depending on how well contestants perform in various quizzes and tests during the twice-weekly programmes broadcast in July, the winners will be announced by autumn.
Television will then pursue the victors to their new lives as university students in Britain.
The British High Commission in Delhi and the British Council have given their blessings to this reality television show, which might prove to be even more gripping than Shilpa Shetty being bullied on Celebrity Big Brother.
Prices vary but fees for overseas business undergraduates at Leeds for 2007-08 are £8,900 with living costs of about £6,600.
Professor Michael Arthur, vice-chancellor of Leeds, said: “Leeds has a tradition of strong links with India, being one of the first UK universities to open an office there in 1999. We also have alliances with a number of Indian institutions, including the renowned Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. This scholarship, and the novel way it’s being run, will help Leeds raise its profile further in India and show potential students just how much the university has to offer.”
Professor Andrew Lock, the dean of the Leeds University Business School, will interview contestants who want to go to his university.