All the United States is divided into five parts by British Act of Parliament -- for the purpose of selecting 30 top students each year for scholarships to British universities.
This year the Midwest has come out particularly well, with four young men and three young women from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Ohio awarded two- year Marshall scholarships.
This success rate is expected to encourage greater numbers to apply from schools such as the University of Kansas and Iowa State University, rather than letting Princeton, Yale, and Harvard dominate the running.
Applicants for 1981-83 scholarships need only apply by Oct. 22 -- and show consistent "high academic ability" combined with "the capability to play an active part in the life of the United Kingdom university" and "a potential to make a significant contribution to their own society."
The applicants are forewarned that "these scholarships are not intended merely to provide an opportunity for cultural enrichment by time spent in Britain; the Marshall commission expects its scholars to distinguish themselves in their British examinations."
Applicants also are expected to show a broad range of interests; in the past many have been performers in a variety of sports.
If such qualifications seems daunting -- they are. Therefore, the British Embassy in Washington and consulates in Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Atlanta work closely with faculty members who can encourage qualified but modest students to apply.
But 590 scholarships have been awarded to date, with the latest going to 20 men and 10 women from 18 schools in 19 different states.
Eric Webber from the University of Indiana, is on his way to the London School of Economics (LSE) determined to return with an advanced degree in economics and international trade. Like fellow Midwesterners, Kent Killelea, who is in his second year at LSE, and John Graham, headed for Oxford University, Mr. Webber is convinced his British degree will be a valuable part of his career training.
Christopher Saricks, an environmental systems engineer at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, went to LSE in 1970, eager to study with experts in his field. As many other Marshall scholars do, he had his all-expenses- paid scholarship extended to cover three years -- and still refers to his British lecture notes to help in his work on urban planning and transportation systems.
"Irrespective of which field you train in," he says, "the fact that you have a British degree is bound to help you in the job market here, because the British system has a reputation for being somewhat more advanced, with a greater degree of specialization."
Northwestern University law Prof. Peter Barack agrees, saying that his 1965- 67 Marshall scholarship years at Oxford University have continued to pay dividends. He found the Marshall commission in Britain (as promised) encouraged travel along with academic excellence. At Oxford, he made friends not only with British students but also with other foreign students and visited a number of them on trips to India and the Far East.
Barack notes that although Rhodes scholars may be better known because that program is older, "the oldest Marshalls are only in their mid-40s and not yet at the top of their careers." Their influence, he says, is spreading and "the full impact is yet to be seen."