The University of Leicester and education giant Pearson have begun a project to establish English language centres in war-torn countries.
Iraq will be the partnership’s first target, but Leicester hopes that it could reach countries including Pakistan, Libya, Afghanistan and even Syria in the future.
The first centre will be set up at the University of Kufa, which is located in Najaf, Iraq.
Dave Hall, Leicester’s registrar, explained that it would help Kufa to recruit English teachers and create a curriculum using a local manager.
The centre will start by teaching undergraduates Pearson’s English language proficiency test, PTE Academic, but Mr Hall said it could expand to take in pre-university students as well.
Leicester wanted to aid countries suffering from “devastation” or “isolation”, he explained.
“We’re going to tend to go where there’s an absence of an English language sector generally,” he explained.
“Hopefully things will stabilise in due course in Syria,” he added, allowing the establishment of a centre there.
Iraq has recently suffered an upsurge in car bombings and civilian deaths from terrorist attacks, which reportedly are at their worst level since 2008.
The security situation “does affect how much we can do on the ground”, Mr Hall acknowledged, but he said that “at the moment it’s not going to stop us developing there”.
Leicester was not expecting to make a profit from the venture, he said, but hoped that the partnership might encourage Iraqi graduates to study for master’s or doctorates at the East Midlands institution.
Pearson and Leicester were already working together on a distance learning project and Leicester’s medical school had been helping Kufa to develop its own medical curriculum, so the initiative grew out of those existing contacts, Mr Hall said.