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University Challenge meets The Apprentice in TV competition for UK scholarships

Thousands of Indian teenagers are expected to compete for a University of Leeds scholarship in a new reality show about to hit TV screens across the sub-continent.

The show – Airtel Scholar Hunt: destination UK – will offer fully paid scholarships to five UK universities, including a three year undergraduate programme in management at Leeds University Business School (LUBS) – a prize worth more than £45,000 in total.

University of Leeds Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Arthur, 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.”

The programme has been devised by India's leading television broadcaster New Delhi Television (NDTV) and is sponsored by Airtel, the largest GSM mobile service operator in India. The British High Commission in India and the British Council have also given the programme their backing.

The would-be scholars will face a series of challenges over the five competition stages, including a subject exam, an interview, quizzes and competitive tasks to test their skills and aptitude. There are strict eligibility criteria for contestants, to ensure that the University’s entrance requirements are met.

The tests are being designed by academics from Leeds University Business School and Edexcel. Representatives from LUBS, including the Dean, Professor Andrew Lock, will interview contestants, while University Vice Chancellor, Professor Michael Arthur expects to present the winner with the scholarship in August. The contest for each university and subject will be televised and shown across the whole of India and abroad. It will also be available in the UK on BSkyB.

Over seventy students from India are currently studying at LUBS, most of them on postgraduate courses. Professor Andrew Lock said: “We talk to a lot of Indian students wanting to study at LUBS, but most can only consider postgraduate study which requires funding for one year.

“This scholarship will cover fees and living expenses for the full three years of an undergraduate degree, with the winning scholar also having the option of an additional year in a salaried industrial placement if they wish.”

Demand for LUBS graduates is high, particularly from the finance and accounting sectors. LUBS Indian graduates have gone on to employment in a wide range of companies in the UK, India and the Far East, including PricewaterhouseCoopers, DELL, Citibank and Gulf Oil.

Sadhvi Dhawan, President of Leeds’ Indian Student Association, said: "The UK is a popular study destination and its business management courses are in high demand. With Leeds having such a good reputation in India, to have a fully paid undergraduate scholarship available is a great prize and I think this will be a very popular competition. The association is there to support the whole of the Indian community at the university and we will look forward to meeting the eventual winner!"

Online registration at to take part in the Scholar Hunt opens in the last week of April. The channel expects thousands of potential scholars to apply.

Says the programme producer Arun Thapar of NDTV: “We’re really pleased to be forging this link with UK universities through the Scholar Hunt. Our aim is to mix academic excellence and the competitive spirit to create an intelligent, thought-provoking show. The Airtel Scholar Hunt will tap into the growing aspiration among Indians to study overseas and will be exactly the kind of programme that suits NDTV’s well-informed audience: modern, aspiring Indians, with an expanded world view and the ambition to make the most of their lives.”

Sara Avery | alfa
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