Links between higher education and top-class sport are to be strengthened following the National Heritage department's new sports policy.
A committee headed by Roger Bannister, former master of Pembroke College, Oxford, will look into the development of sports scholarships. There could also be academic involvement in the proposed Pounds 100 million National Lottery-funded National Sports Academy.
Sir Roger was to meet sports minister Iain Sproat MP this week to discuss the composition of his committee, which has been asked to report back next spring. Names should be announced within the next two weeks.
Four-minute-miler Sir Roger said there was no intention of replicating the controversial American system of sports scholarships. "We want to build on the best of existing practice developed by institutions like Bath and Salford. It is important that anyone who would qualify for assistance should first of all fulfil the academic requirements of the institution they are attending.
"I see no conflict between academic success and athletic participation. But we have to recognise that competitors need time and the best coaching assistance and facilities possible. " The initiative was welcomed by the British Universities Sports Association, which was already working on a scholarship scheme. Peter Rhodes, organising secretary, said: "Now is the time to consider these issues with many universities considering the structure of their academic year".