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Cambridge scholarship after PM's name

world Updated: Nov 22, 2007 18:54 IST

In a unique honour to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his Cambridge alma mater St John's will launch a scholarship in his name in New Delhi next week to help spot and develop potential Indian leaders in the fields of science and technology, economics and the social sciences.

The privately funded Manmohan Singh Scholarship will send three deserving, means-tested scholars every year to St John's College, Cambridge University, where a young Singh read economics and won the Wright's Prize for distinguished performance in the mid-1950s.

"There has always been an important tradition at Cambridge University of identifying, developing and nurturing leaders," said Stephen Teal, Development Director of St John's.

"There have been leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Amartya Sen and Rajiv Gandhi and, of course, Manmohan Singh. We want to continue that tradition in the areas of science and technology, economics, and social sciences," Teal told IANS.

The scholarships, sponsored by private sector giants British Petroleum, Tata and Rolls Royce, will initially fund three PhD places beginning January 2008, but seek to take the number up to at least four by 2009. The closing date for the first year's applications is the end of January 2008.

The prime minister as well as St John's Master, Prof Christopher Dobson, will attend the Nov 27 launch.

"This scheme has been named after one of our most notable alumni -- and we are very proud of our association with Dr Singh and of what he has done for India," Teal added.

The idea of the scholarship came jointly from an ex-student and an ex-master of St John's. Both wanted to help bright young Indians who could not otherwise afford to study at Cambridge.

Indian-born student Abhijit Banerjee, CEO of Immediance, the world's first online stock exchange for shares in private companies, and former master Richard Perham wrote jointly to Singh in 2004 suggesting a scholarship in his name. The proposal was developed during a meeting of St John's alumni over dinner at the prime minister's residence last year.

Subsequently, Singh visited Cambridge in autumn 2006, where he spoke fondly of his years at St John's and of the "inclusive character" of Cambridge, which had welcomed both Nehru, who had had an exclusive schooling at Harrow, as well as him.

"Before the First World War, a young man from Allahabad came up to Trinity via Harrow. After the Second War, a simple young Indian came to St John's from an obscure university in Punjab. Cambridge University embraced both," he said in a moving speech on 'inclusive globalisation'.

"It was then that we realised just how fond Dr Singh was of the place," said Teal. "We knew that the university was trying to set up ties with India, and we came up with this scheme, which is the first of its kind for PhD students."

As possibly the most academically qualified head of government in the world, Manmohan Singh is thought to be a fitting candidate after whom a scholarship that seeks to spot and grow potential leaders from among academics should be named.

"We hope it's the first step in greatly increased cooperation and collaboration between India and the UK," Teal added.