Leicester academics embark on pioneering leadership project with Afghan universities

Posted by pt91 at Sep 20, 2011 11:20 AM |
New British Council project provides mentors to higher education leaders
Leicester academics embark on pioneering leadership project with Afghan universities

Professor Safi of Kabul University is presented a copy of the book 'Reflections of the University of Leicester' by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Douglas Tallack (left) and Professor Mike Petterson.

Issued by British Council on 20 September 2011

Professor Michael Petterson, Department of Geology, Mr Dave Hall, Registrar and Secretary, and Dr Mark Goodwin of the University of Leicester, have begun work on a new project devised by the British Council. They will spend the next year acting as mentors to a group of higher education leaders in Afghanistan, to help them gain the vital management skills required to help them rebuild their country.

Afghan universities suffer from a chronic lack of funding, infrastructure, and staff - but the demand for higher education is huge, having grown from around a hundred students in 2001, to nearly 100,000 today. Consequently, the Afghan government asked the British Council to assist in managing the rapid growth of the sector.  Professor Petterson, Mr Hall and Dr Goodwin volunteered as three of eight UK academics to be part of the project that aims to give Afghans a chance to improve their lives, and their country.

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From a visit by Professor Safi of Kabul University. L-R: Professor Mike Petterson & Professor Safi meeting with the Vice Chancellor and Pro Vice Chancellor (International) Professor Douglas Tallack.

Professor Petterson has frequently worked in Afghanistan over the last decade, and said: "Nation building needs brilliance and selfless wisdom. These are rare in any country. Afghanistan more than almost any other country is in need of enlightened leadership. If this programme helps in even a small way it promotes peace"

The project was threatened to be derailed when the Taliban attacked the British Council office in Kabul last month. Their office was destroyed and twelve security staff were killed. However, Paul Smith, the British Council's director of Afghanistan was determined that this project should continue. Paul Smith commented: "Even after the attack we suffered in August, we are committed to maintaining our programmes and I'm very excited that this project is launching now as a prime example of how we can work successfully with the Afghan government, the Higher Education sector and young leaders. We hope it will strengthen the links between Afghanistan and the UK, and it's wonderful that the University of Leicester can be a part of it"

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Professor Mike Petterson and Professor Safi.

While sharing UK expertise abroad, the UK volunteers anticipate that they will also learn from their Afghan counterparts. Mr Hall, who visited Kabul in May this year, commented: "I am mentoring three colleagues, from the universities of Bamyan, Nangarhar and Shiekh Zaied, on projects which include developing a new research centre and enhancing the administrative skills base. Evidently, all the participants in the programme face significant challenges in taking their projects forward. I am sure, however, that their resilience and their ambition will help Afghanistan to re-establish a dynamic and inclusive university sector. We have a lot to learn from them."

The British Council is the UK's international organisation for cultural relations, aiming to create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide. Supporting the UK's higher education sector is central to the British Councils' work, and it is hoped that by developing their expertise with their Afghan counterparts, Professor Petterson, Mr Hall and Dr Goodwin will be able to share their experiences with students and colleagues in Leicester, thus aiding our understanding of life in Afghanistan as it recovers from the conflict. Professor Petterson, Mr Hall and Dr Goodwin will communicate via email and Skype with their group in Afghanistan, who represent Bamyan, Nangarhar, Shiekh Zaied and Balkh universities.

Twenty five Afghans are involved in all, and they have been matched with five other UK experts as well as Professor Petterson, Mr Hall and Dr Goodwin.


To interview Professor Michael Petterson, Mr Dave Hall or Dr Mark Goodwin or for more information please contact Tim Sowula tim.sowula@britishcouncil.org or 0207 389 4871.

Notes to Editors:

The British Council is the UK's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide. We work in over 100 countries in the arts, education and English and in 2010/11 we engaged face to face with 30 million people and reached 578 million. We have 6,800 staff worldwide. Our total turnover in 2010/11 was £693 million, of which our grant-in-aid from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was £190 million. The remainder was generated through trading activities such as English language teaching. For every £1 of taxpayer money invested we earn £2.65 in additional income. For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org


Tim Sowula  |  Press Officer

British Council 10 Spring Gardens London SW1A 2BN

+4420 7389 4871 / +447771 718 135


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