14 July 2008

Award-winning poet and former University of Queensland student Jaya Savige has been awarded a 2008 Gates Cambridge Scholarship for his leadership potential and sustained academic achievement in the literary arts.

The full-cost scholarship, which is valued at $110,000 and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, allows outstanding students from around the globe to pursue postgraduate study at the University of Cambridge.

Mr Savige, who was 1 of 6 Australians to receive the scholarship among the 100 scholar intake for 2008, will commence a PhD in English in April 2009, while immersing himself in the institution’s intellectual and creative tradition.

"One of the things I most look forward to is engaging with the vibrant community of scholars at the university, from the professors to the postgraduate and undergraduate students," Mr Savige said.

"As a student scholar and writer of poetry, I’m particularly thrilled that I’ll be walking the corridors of Christ’s College, once home to the likes of Charles Darwin and the great English poet John Milton (author of Paradise Lost)."

Mr Savige’s admittance was no small feat, as panels in Australia and India considered approximately 135 candidates, and presented PhD scholarships to a shortlist of 35.

The University of Cambridge has welcomed 28 Gates Cambridge Scholars from Australian institutions since the program began in 2001, four of which have come from UQ.

Mr Savige, whose literary accomplishments include the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry for his first collection of poems, entitled Latecomers (University of Queensland Press 2005), and the University Medal for his honours thesis, developed a desire to study at Cambridge after his maiden visit in 2007.

"Seeing the tree under which Newton supposedly postulated the existence of gravity, the pub in which Watson and Crick sketched the double helix structure of DNA on a napkin, the parks in which the great poets, from Milton, Marlowe and Coleridge to Plath and Hughes, once sat and read… I had that rare feeling in my bones that this was a place in which I could live and study," Mr Savige said.

Famous for being the preferred institute of the Royal Family and for its distinguished tradition in the humanities and arts, the university will provide the backdrop for Mr Savige’s studies, which will focus on the work of Australia’s most famous living poet Les Murray.

Media: Melanie Sullivan at UQ Communications (0439 366 001)