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The government has announced a new science scholarship scheme, backed by £100m, to attract top scientists to work in the UK, the BBC reports.

The Rhodes-type scholarship comes in an atmosphere of increasing concern for the future of science in the UK. The numbers of students taking science subjects at university has failed to keep step with the increases in other disciplines, and as money follows student numbers, many science departments are at risk of closure.

This month, Reading University announced that its physics department will no longer be accepting new students, and will be shut down no later than 2010.

However, the government argues that the scheme will raise the profile of British science.

Trade secretary, Alistair "eyebrows" Darling, is to say: "Science has been one of Britain's best-kept secrets. I want to change that. To be the best you need to work with the best. This new scheme aims to attract the best in science to Britain. It will push our world class science base further and help give us a business edge."

The Department for Trade and Industry points to the success of a similar scheme in Germany, the Humbholt Foundation. That scheme has produced over 20,000 scientists and 35 Nobel Prize winners, the DTI added.

The British scheme will be run by the Royal Society. ®

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