The three-day UK visit by the Chinese Premier, Li Keqiang is being marked at the University of Birmingham today with a renewal of its China doctoral scholarship scheme, run in conjunction with the China Scholarship Council (CSC).
The University of Birmingham has hosted Li Siguang Scholars since 2011, with 18 students currently undertaking PhDs in subjects as diverse as Biology, Mechanical Engineering and Public Administration. The scheme is open to all fields and named in honour of Li Siguang, one of Birmingham’s most famous Chinese graduates. The University is currently offering four PhD scholarships for students for 2014 entry, which are awarded, on a competitive basis, for three years of study and include tuition fees and living costs.
CSC is the Chinese Ministry of Education’s non-profit organisation that provides student financial aid to Chinese citizens and foreigners to study abroad or to study in China respectively. The renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding between the two institutions will be signed by Dr Liu Jinghui, Secretary-General at CSC and Professor Malcolm Press, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer at the University of Birmingham. Also present will be Li Hong, Director of European Affairs at the China Scholarship Council.
The University of Birmingham has a long history of engagement with China, welcoming its first students from China in 1907. Since then, the University has provided education for more than 7,000 Chinese scholars, as well as opening representative offices in Beijing and Shanghai.
In addition to the scholarship, the University has also announced the Li Siguang Publication Prize in the scientist’s honour. The annual award is given to the best jointly published paper between the University of Birmingham and Chinese collaborative partners and aims to encourage deeper and wider collaborations with China.
Li Siguang is one of the best-known scientists in China, with a record of important discoveries as an academic. In geological circles, J S Lee (as he was known in publications) was one of the scholars whose work inspired the theory of plate dynamics and a fuller understanding of how the continents and oceans move around the planet.
In terms of his contribution to his country, he was behind the discovery of much of China’s oil and gas reserves. He was a pioneer in predicting earthquakes, a trailblazer in establishing the geological history of China and an acute discoverer of new resources.
Born in Huanggang, Hubei Province in 1889 Li Siguang arrived in Birmingham in 1914 to study in the University of Birmingham’s School of Mining. Li Siguang received his BSc in 1917 and his MSc in 1918. Having then spent several years researching geology in China, Li Siguang returned to the University of Birmingham for his doctorate, which was awarded in 1931. Subsequently his daughter studied for an MSc in Metallurgy Physics, graduating in 1948.
Li Siguang went on to become Professor at Peking University. He then progressed to become an academician, a lifetime highest honour for Chinese scholars, and Vice-President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, along with other prestigious positions such as Minister for Geology and President of the Chinese Society for Science and Technology. He died in 1971, but his achievements are still being recognised today, with the Chinese Academy of Sciences acknowledging its debt to his work by arranging in 2009 for a minor planet to be named Li Siguang in his honour.
Speaking about the agreement renewal between the University and CSC, Professor Malcolm Press, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer at the University of Birmingham said:
“The University of Birmingham is delighted to continue offering our Li Siguang Scholarships in partnership with the China Scholarship Council. We will be working closely with CSC to promote the scholarships to outstanding research students, as well as welcoming other CSC sponsored students to come and study at Birmingham.
We have a long history of engaging with Chinese partners and two years ago established our China Institute to further facilitate this. The University highly values its collaboration with CSC and hopes to see it continue in the future.”