Friday, 13 March 2015

BUIC-IBBC Conference: academic engagement with Iraq – sharing knowledge and building links

British Council organised the BUIC - IBBC conference through collaboration with, the British Universities Iraq Consortium (BUIC) and the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC), drew an audience of over 60 delegates to London on 13th March, to discuss opportunities for academic engagement, sharing knowledge and building links between Iraq and the UK. 

Recent events have reminded us that the complex nature of global change can catapult a country’s HE system into difficulties, leaving it to operate under the exceptional hardship of a borderless emergency. The result invariably leaves Higher Education institutions isolated, with diminished capacity to regenerate due to broken or fragmented international links. 

How can partnerships in Higher Education help the international HE community make a rapid and effective response to help maintain academic and research relationships between the UK and Iraq? What methods or approaches might work in such scenarios, where it is vital for international contacts to be nurtured? How can institutions and students be supported through times where ‘normal exchanges’ are no longer possible? These were just some of the questions which stimulated the debate during the day.

The tone for the day was set by opening remarks by Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne - Executive Chairman, IBBC, Amir Ramzan - Country Director, British Council Iraq, Professor Mousa Al Mousawi - Cultural Attaché, Embassy of the Republic of Iraq, Dr. Salah Hadi Al Fatlawi – Director General of Scholarships and Cultural Relations, Alastair Niven, - Associate Director, IBBC, and Wendy Jordan – Director BUIC, who collectively framed both the challenges and opportunities.

The sessions aimed to build an evidence base to pursue further funding for joint research, foster relationships for further collaboration, and explore setting up interest groups in subject areas for knowledge exchange and to stimulate ideas. 

The delegates shared experience in promoting UK-Iraqi collaboration and received presentations from the British Council, BUIC, IBBC, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, a number of UK higher education institutions and government representatives. It showcased examples of current research being carried out between Iraqi and UK universities, much of which was initiated through the British Council led DelPHE-Iraq project (£3M,2009-12), which created 35 partnerships aiming to partner with Iraq’s HE sector and restore its international academic ties. A highlight of the day was the two panel discussions looking at the role of higher education in conflict resolution and how higher education contributes to the economy, which drew in excellent contributions from the delegates.

The British Council is uniquely placed to operate in countries where there is physical danger and high security arrangements that impose restrictions on movement and limit direct contact with and between national and international partners and stakeholders.

The main outcome from the event was a shared commitment from British Council, BUIC and IBBC to move forward in creating through partnership, a horizon shifting opportunity for us to define the contextual environments in which innovation can grow in establishing new links and co-operation between the UK and Iraq. 

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We work in over 100 countries worldwide to build engagement and trust for the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between people.