BRITAIN'S University of Birmingham is to launch a generous new Hong Kong postgraduate scholarship scheme. The University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Michael Thompson, said the scheme had been established in recognition of Hong Kong students' contribution to the academic life of the university and to 'strengthen even further the long standing and close links between Hong Kong and the university'. Starting next year, the scholarships will be available annually for the next six years. They include three one-year scholarships for students taking master's courses. The scholarships will cover full fees plus an additional GBP5,000 (HK$59,400) for living expenses. One three-year scholarship will also be offered to a Hong Kong student undertaking research for a doctorate. The total value of the scholarship will be $500,000 over three years. Professor Thompson said the PhD scholarship was exclusively for Chinese University of Hong Kong graduates seeking to undertake research in science or engineering. 'The scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit, and the scheme will be administered by the Student Financial Assistance Agency of the Hong Kong Education Department,' he said. Funds for the scholarships have been contributed through a fund-raising campaign supported by the university's friends and alumni in Hong Kong. The university recently commissioned an independent survey in the territory on the criteria sought by students here when choosing an overseas university to further their studies. Out of the more than 200 respondents, more than 50 per cent put the provision of quality education and the reputation of the university at the top of the list. Excluding Oxford and Cambridge, respondents ranked the University of Birmingham as one of the top three universities of choice. There are currently more than 140 students from Hong Kong studying at the University of Birmingham and about 1,000 alumni of the university working in the territory, with many of them in senior positions.