Exeter links up with Libya

March 7, 2003

Colonel Gaddafi has shaken hands with Exeter University vice-chancellor Steve Smith on a deal that could bring British universities £75 million to educate the next generation of Libya's academics, writes Phil Baty.

Professor Smith met the country's leader last month to cement Exeter's role as the "lead academic adviser" to Libya's National Programme for Postgraduate Development. Four years after UN sanctions were lifted, the one-time pariah state is planning to send about 200 academics a year to Britain to study for PhDs over the next 15 years.

"This is potentially a massive development," Professor Smith said. "Britain is developing strong new links with Libya and is very interested in doing business with it. It will open up a whole new era of diplomatic relations."

Exeter has signed an outline agreement to set up the Exeter Centre for English in Tripoli, providing English language courses for students at its Academy of Graduate Studies. The wider deal - subject to final approval by Libya - is expected to see several British universities providing PhD places for Libyan academics.

Libya, with the support of the British Council, advertised for partners to help develop its universities, and officials visited Exeter, Lancaster and Warwick universities and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology earlier this year.

Tony Jones, director of the British Council office in Tripoli, said: "It's a massive opportunity. Libya is not the size of growing markets like China but it is nevertheless a growth market."

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