Universities minister praises Leicester's 'path-breaking' links with Kurdistan

Posted by pt91 at May 21, 2012 10:50 AM |
University of Leicester’s association with Kurdistan highlighted by Secretary of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts
Universities minister praises Leicester's 'path-breaking' links with Kurdistan

Mr Willetts meets students at the University of Kurdistan-Hewler.

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 21 May 2012

David Willetts, Secretary of State for Universities and Science, has lauded Leicester’s links with Kurdistan as being ‘path-breaking’ during a visit to the region.

Mr Willetts, accompanied by University of Leicester Registrar David Hall, met with the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kurdistan-Hewler Professor Sherwan Baban and other senior management during a tour of universities in the region.

Dave Hall added: “This was an extremely interesting visit, during which we were able to engage in wide-ranging discussions with a number of prestigious Turkish universities and policy makers. Both Turkey and the autonomous region of Kurdistan are very keen to develop closer links between their higher education systems and UK HE, and it was evident that the UK Government is equally enthusiastic about facilitating closer collaboration.”

Earlier this year, Mr Willetts met with Dlawer Ala’Aldeen, Kurdistan’s Minister of Higher Education, to explore how UK universities can support the development of the Kurdistan scholarship programme. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has allocated $100 million per year for new PhD and Masters Programmes over the next four years and they are keen to engage with more UK universities in order to deliver it.

Mr Willetts said in January: “I am delighted that the Minister and his colleagues have chosen the UK to support their scholarship programme. It is a great reflection of how favourably our universities are viewed around the world.

“The UK is already experienced in exporting our excellent educational services to Kurdistan; in October 2011 Leicester University opened an International English Language Centre in the University of Kurdistan-Hewler and the British Council also has a base at the University of Salahaddin.

“These academic programmes that stretch across international borders offer huge benefits to all involved, and not just commercially. International engagement brings cultural benefits and the opportunities to share knowledge, research and expertise which will in turn boost our own economy.”

The University of Leicester’s English Language centre for students is located in Erbil (Hewler), the capital city of the Federal Region of Kurdistan - Iraq.

This capacity-building project between the University of Leicester and the University of Kurdistan-Hewler (UKH), in northern Iraq, will provide new opportunities for students to take English language qualifications in their home country, and in the region.   The UKH-University of Leicester International English Language Centre will equip students for courses in English at home or abroad and will be an important focus for strengthening English language speaking in the region.

The focus is on capacity-building, with a programme of development visits by staff from Leicester's highly rated English Language Teaching Unit to work with and train up lecturers in Kurdistan to build a centre that will administer qualifications and assist in improving the English language skills of the population -- an aim that the Kurdistan government sees as a key part of its modernisation programme. As opportunities arise, staff could be seconded to Kurdistan.

The UK is already the preferred destination for students from Iraqi Kurdistan wanting to study abroad. Between 70% and 80% of students awarded Kurdistan scholarships choose to study at UK universities compared with those who choose to study in France (10%) or the United States of America (7%). As the economy in Kurdistan continues to develop so does their education and skills sector creating valuable opportunities for UK education providers to deliver high quality, world class teaching.

Notes to editors

  1. Kurdistan is the semi autonomous region of north eastern Iraq.
  2. For more information contact pressoffice@le.ac.uk

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