Oxford joins US initiative to revive Iraqi academe

October 10, 2003

Oxford University is part of a US-led international coalition to strengthen archaeological and environmental teaching and research at Iraq's universities after years of sanctions, neglect and repression.

Jeremy Black of Oxford's Oriental Institute is one of five academics who plan to travel to Baghdad to deliver lecture courses on the area's archaeology and history.

"I have worked in Iraq before and worked with archaeology departments," Dr Black said. "They are so demoralised now. They have no chairs in their offices, let alone books in the libraries."

He said that during the past 15 years, students had not been able to travel abroad, while several senior academics had simply disappeared. The academics plan to start the programme next autumn.

The project will receive funding of more than $4 million (£2.4 million) from the United States Agency for International Development as part of its recovery programme for Iraqi universities. It is led by the Research Foundation of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and is one of three announced by the US.

USAid said that its Higher Education and Development Programme for Iraq was one of its "most significant engagements with the university community in recent years". The universities would support the work of the Coalition Provisional Authority to strengthen the capacity of Iraqi universities, it said.

Each consortium is led by a US university. The SUNY-led consortium includes Columbia and Boston universities as well as Oxford. It will operate in partnership with Baghdad, Al Mustansiriyah, Mosul and Basra universities to modernise curricula in archaeology, Assyriology and environmental health, and update research methods in the three areas.

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