Blair trip triggers overseas scholarship review

November 27, 1998

Civil servants are seeking ways of encouraging more overseas students to come to Britain.

An inter-departmental review has been launched in the wake of prime minister Tony Blair's visit to China in October.

Whitehall sources said Mr Blair was impressed by the quality of Chinese students selected for British scholarship schemes and by the mutual benefits.

"He came back wanting to see how to attract more foreign students, including through scholarship schemes," the Foreign Office said. The aim is to see how existing barriers can be removed and processes smoothed.

The review spans all government departments including the Foreign Office, the Department for Education and Employment, the Department for International Development, and the Home Office, which is responsible for visa and other immigration-related aspects.

The main scholarship schemes covered by the review include the Commonwealth scholarship and fellowship plan, which brings up to 400 students a year to the UK; the shared scholarship scheme; the British Council fellowship programme; the British Marshall scholarships for United States graduates; and the Foreign Office's flagship Chevening scholarships, targeted at "future leaders and opinion formers".

Announcements of new Chevening scholarships are a regular feature of state visits. Five were announced during the recent visit by Argentinian president Carlos Menem, and others when the Queen visited Brunei in September. In 1997-98, 1,800 new Chevening scholars began their studies in the UK at a cost of Pounds 32 million. The review is expected to be completed in the new year.

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