STANFORD University wants to establish a highly selective scholarship programme similar to Oxford's Rhodes Scholarship, to train the next generation of Asian leaders. The US university's programme is still in the planning stages but already has an endowment of US$7 million (about $54 million), according to a newspaper report. 'It is absolutely critical that the leaders of the future can communicate with the greatest of ease, and I see Stanford playing a role in bringing that about,' Stanford president Gerhard Casper said. Stanford - the West Coast's most prestigious private university - has long been involved in Asia through overseas campuses and volunteer projects. And more than half of the university's foreign students come from Asia, mostly China, Taiwan and Japan. Involvement in Asia is more important than ever because it is changing so quickly - economically, politically and socially - that its own colleges and universities cannot keep up, says political science professor Dan Okimoto. 'Universities in the 21st century will have to be international universities serving a collective good, not simply a national good,' he said. 'By establishing this programme, we can both advance our own mission as an international university and contribute to the collective good.' Stanford officials want the programme to involve up to 30 of the best Asian scholars from all fields. Only scholars 32 years old or younger with bachelor's degrees and the highest academic qualifications and leadership qualities would be chosen. In addition to graduate studies, the two-year programme would include participation in public forums, seminars and other activities. For now it has only the working title of Asia-Pacific Scholars programme, Professor Okimoto says. Three Stanford representatives will visit Taipei and Seoul this month to measure interest among businesses and government leaders. Mr Casper plans to visit Asia again next year. Oxford's prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, established 90 years ago, is a two-year programme that recruits about 100 students from English-speaking nations to expand their views of the world. US President Bill Clinton is one of the best-known Rhodes scholars.