On a trip to China, Tony Blair learnt a valuable lesson about the value of the overseas student market when he met the mayor of Shanghai, who was educated in Britain. Students who study abroad make strong bonds with the host country that often last a lifetime. If they go on to reach positions of influence in their own countries, so much the better. Foreign study promotes goodwill and enables people of different nationalities to understand one another.
So, the Prime Minister will be pleased that a sizeable chunk of the money raised in Britain to help the families of victims of the 11 September attacks is going on a £2m university scholarship scheme. Launched in New York by Lord Levene, the former Lord Mayor of London, the scholarships will give the offspring of victims of 11 September the chance of a lifetime. "We have enough money to meet the cost of 70 full-time students taking three-year British degrees," says Lord Levene. "The money will cover tuition, travel, living expenses, the lot."
Although many of the details have yet to be worked out, Judy Powell, the British Council's director of higher education, is hoping that the scholarships will carry the cachet of a Rhodes or a Fulbright scholarship. She is also hoping that the money will concentrate on those young people who would not otherwise have the means to study at a university abroad.
Altogether, the World Trade Centre Disaster Fund, set up to raise money from the British public and financial community as an expression of sympathy and economic support, raised around £4m. Some of that money has gone on contributions to the school education of victims' children, many of whom are at private Catholic schools in New York. The rest went on grants to the British families who lost parents. With some justification, Lord Levene is proud that the money raised is being spent without delay on helping the families.
Meanwhile, the British Council is launching its own five-year programme called Connecting Futures in the wake of 11 September to build understanding between young people from different cultural backgrounds. Focusing on 10 countries with Muslim populations – Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Nigeria and the Palestinian Territories – it aims to put their young people in touch with British youth.
There will be new school links and youth exchanges, sports and arts projects and 70 major conferences. "We will try to challenge people on both sides to look at why people live different ways of life," said a spokesman.
Anyone who had a parent or guardian who died in the 11 September attacks may register interest on the British Council's US website, www.studyintheuk.org.
The awards are for full-time study, leading to a first degree at any UK university. Awards will be made on a first-come, first-served basis
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