Britain’s Warwick University arrived at a novel way to attract a top foreign student from India. Working in conjunction with the British High Commission, Warwick offered a four-year engineering course to the winner of an Indian reality TV show called Airtel Scholar Hunt.
The program, described in a BBC-TV news feature as "a cross between The Apprentice and Mastermind," offered as its grand prize an education abroad, with an estimated worth of around 45,000 pounds sterling. Predictably, thousands of competitors applied to contend. After eight weeks of quizzes, interviews and exams, the winner was chosen. The coveted prize went to 18-year-old Arvin Aradhya, of Delhi.
Interviewed by the BBC on the Warwick campus, an obviously excited Mr. Arahdya first praised the English weather. Then he went on to say what it was that he liked most about Warwick: "the diversity." He made it clear that he was talking about academic diversity: "having all fields of learning on the same campus."
For Warwick, as important was achieving a diversity of the student population. The University’s Dr. Tony Prince called the reality-TV venture "a new and novel way to attract students" – in the case of Indian students, a group that British universities are at pains to draw, and to draw away from the competition in the United States.
The enterprise tapped into deepest aspirations the new Indian middle class for their children. An education abroad is one of the hallmarks of those aspirations, and an all-expenses-paid one was sure to fire the Indian imagination – and did
Young Mr. Aradhya’s own aspirations are, literally, "for the stars." His ambition is to be an astronaut. Given his brilliant start, and the lift his victory on Scholar Hunt has given him, there’s every reason to expect the young scholar to achieve blast-off.
Hugh Nelson is an e-learning specialist who has worked in the education industry for more than 10 years. He currently lives in Hong Kong and is a director of UniRoute, a company that runs educational websites helping students prepare and successfully apply for post-graduate studies abroad.