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Queen Mary, University of London has teamed up with Microsoft and Philips to launch a competition offering to fund the winner through a Computer Science degree.

The winner of Queen Mary's programming competition will get a prize covering fees and a maintenance grant for his or her degree in Computer Science, plus a fast-track interview route to a year's work placement with Microsoft and its Graduate scheme.

The prize is subject to successful application to a three year degree in Computer Science at Queen Mary, University of London - so aspiring programmers still need to meet the minimum entry requirements for study at the University.

The Computer Science Department at Queen Mary says the Web competition is the first of its kind; however the practice of companies sponsoring promising students is relatively common, at least in the UK. Here's a recent example - an opportunity for University of Sussex IT graduates to get work and university sponsorship from American Express.

With more than £25K of prizes, including software and gadgets from Microsoft and Philips Electronics, Queen Mary's competition is aimed at 16 and 17 year-olds hoping to study Computer Science at university. Via an Internet treasure-hunt, aspiring undergraduates work through a multi-stage eliminator Web site before the final challenge - writing their own computer program.

The competition aims to find the UK's brightest, aspiring computer programmers and nurture wider participation in higher education.

Runners up will receive copies of the latest Microsoft software.

The competition kicks off at www.comp.qmul.ac.uk. It will be phased over the year, with the programming task taking place over summer 2003. The winner will be announced after interview in November 2003, ready to apply via UCAS to begin their degree at Queen Mary in September 2004.

Professor Edmund Robinson, Head of Department at Queen Mary's Computer Science Department, said: "We believe that this bursary will attract some of the best young brains out there in the field of Computer Science. The competition will test their mathematical and problem-solving skills in a way which is perhaps more relevant to their degree and future career than the usual application process. I'd be delighted if outstanding young programmers, who would not usually consider entering university, consider a degree in Computer Science as a result of our competition."

Here what Queen Mary says about its Computer Science course:

Queen Mary was one of the first universities in Britain to offer degrees in Computer Science. Since then the department has played a major part in the development of the subject, with particular strengths in parallel computing and the logical foundations of computer programming. In recent years the department has expanded and now includes staff with expertise in key areas of computing such as computer vision, software risk analysis, information retrieval and computer mediated communication. Many Queen Mary graduates in Computer Science frequently go on to work in computer programming, designing the latest software packages.

The department offers a range of courses, including BSc and MSci in Computer Science. Joint honours are available in combination with Mathematics, Business Management, Modern Languages, Linguistics and Physics. Postgraduate taught courses include MSc in Advanced Methods in Computer Science and an MSc in Information Technology.

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