Warning over crisis in Islamic studies

October 31, 2003

Britain must act to avert the crisis facing Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, politicians were told this week, writes Alison Goddard.

Minority interests vital to the nation are inadvertently being starved of cash, according to Noel Brehony, president of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies. He and other society members called for funds to be earmarked to protect the subject.

Dr Brehony said: "Recent events have shown that our universities are not producing enough linguists in Arabic, Farsi and other regional languages to meet the needs of government and non-governmental organisations as well as the commercial sector. There are relatively few experts on the region available to give advice to government.

"This already bad situation will get worse. There are too few British students taking these subjects. There is a dearth of teaching posts available and too many of these are being filled by candidates from outside the UK because our system cannot produce enough of the right quality."

His colleague Carole Hillenbrand, professor of Islamic history at the University of Edinburgh and society vice-president, said: "I really only see one solution: positive discrimination in favour of Middle East studies in our own national interest."

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