Britain rallies to Iraqi cause

February 6, 2004

The isolation felt by academics at Iraqi universities will ease next week when 12 deans and other managers arrive in Birmingham for the first of a series of training programmes for administrators.

A nominee from the Iraqi ministry of higher education is to join administrators from Baghdad, Al-Nahrain and Basra universities, the Baghdad University of Technology and the Islamic University.

It is the first such training programme to get off the ground after more than 20 UK universities responded to a British Council request to play an active role.

Iraqi academics working in Britain hope that growing cooperation will repair the effects of isolation that began even before the first Gulf war and the imposition of United Nations sanctions.

Presidents of 12 Iraqi universities, who attended a symposium in London last week, have been touring universities in the north west, including Liverpool John Moores and Salford.

Adrian Chadwick, British Council director in Iraq, told the symposium:

"Iraq has scientists and academics of the highest calibre. Provided urgently with opportunities to reconnect with the outside academic world and the tools to teach, Iraqi academics will take care of the rest."

A distance PhD programme is envisaged, and delegations will attend the London Book Fair next month and the Association of University Administrators conference in April. Almost 25 tonnes of books and journals have been shipped for distribution to universities, including Basra where the library was almost destroyed.

Martin Daltry, the council's deputy director in Iraq, said: "The security situation is of concern and shapes what we can do."

Abbas Al-Hussaini, of the University of Westminster's School of Architecture and secretary of the Iraq Higher Education Organising Committee, said that the de-Baathification process meant that it was now safe for British universities to cooperate with Iraqi institutions.

Details: www.wmin.ac.uk/iraq-he

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