Last week (4-5 April) The Rt Hon David Willetts MP – UK Minister for Universities and Science – visited Erbil in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and brought with him a delegation of 12 senior representatives from UK Higher and Further Education. The delegation included three University Vice Chancellors and the Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges.
The Minister arrived on the eve of a government transition and met with both outgoing and incoming KRG Ministers of Higher Education – Dr Dlawar Ala’Aldeen and Dr Ali Saeed. He also met with a dozen incoming/outgoing Ministers at a reception held on 4th April in the presence of some 140 guests from the public and private sector.
The Ministerial visit coincided with a UK Education Tour to Erbil which saw a further 12 UK Universities in the Kurdistan Region, giving a total of more than 20 UK universities and colleges represented in the city. This offered a unique opportunity for Kurdish students and university officials alike to develop contacts and build for the future.
On the first day Minister Willets and the Minsters of Higher Education – Dr Dlawar Ala’Aldeen and Dr Ali Saeed – held a Knowledge Exchange Seminar with UK and Kurdish Universities, with over 70 delegates attending. Themes that emerged were a range of possibilities for collaboration between UK and KR universities: the need for high quality English language provision in the KR; supporting KR universities in provision of accreditation, external degrees and quality assurance; opportunities for UK universities to establish campuses in KR; and student and academic exchanges.
Chris Bowers, the British Consul General in Erbil said:
“So far, some one thousand six hundred students have left Kurdistan Region to study in the UK in the past year or so – a bright future awaits them. For much of its recent history the Kurdistan Region was isolated and cut off from the international academic community. That is a thing of the past. Over the last year, there has been a real flowering of international academic exchanges with the UK. We are proud that so many Kurdish students have chosen to study in the UK. We think they have made a great decision – UK is a world leader in higher education and a great place to live and work.”
Minister Willetts ended his trip with a photo opportunity with Ms Talar Faiq (Director of the Erbil International Airport) and spoke about the successful business collaboration between UK (Scott Wilson) and Turkish (Mykol) companies in designing (UK) and constructing (Turkey) the new Airport building which was officially opened in April 2011.
(Source: Foreign and Commonwealth Office)