Reading chemists help spark Iraqi university back to life
Release Date 18 March 2011
The University of Reading is playing a crucial role in helping an Iraqi university restore the teaching expertise within its Chemistry Department after the building was destroyed and looted during the recent conflict.
Eight Iraqi chemists from the University of Diyala are visiting Reading during the coming year to gain teaching experience and see how successful Chemistry undergraduate and research programmes are designed and run.
The University of Diyala in Eastern Iraq was badly affected during the War and its Chemistry Department was smashed and ransacked. Almost all the senior members of staff fled the country, leaving only junior and inexperienced staff behind. There is now finance to rebuild and restock the Department but the junior staff need help and advice to do this effectively.
In a new partnership, funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) through the British Council, the University of Reading's Department of Chemistry will host their counterparts during the coming year. They will arrive in pairs, staying for a period of one month, and be provided with all the documentation and course work, as well as observe business meetings, attend lectures, lab classes and tutorials in their particular area of expertise.
Professor Laurence Harwood, Director of Enterprise within the University of Reading's Department of Chemistry, said: "We are delighted to be involved in such a worthwhile project. It is vitally important that Iraq builds up its science base in order to maximise management of its natural resources. Iraq needs scientists in all disciplines but chemists will be central to the economic recovery of the country.
"It is wonderful news that funds exist to rebuild the Department but that is only the start. Many of the remaining staff are inexperienced, some do not have PhDs. Through this partnership, staff at Diyala will benefit from Reading's expertise in teaching and research. Traditionally, Iraq's tertiary education was based on the British model and so the staff can begin to understand how this all works on the ground."
Representatives from Diyala University visited Reading last year in a fact finding mission before setting up this collaboration and a high level delegation is due to visit at the end of the month to discuss further collaboration opportunities.
Dr Karim Hassan, who gained his PhD at Reading and is Assistant Dean for Scientific Affairs at the University of Diyala, said: "We are very proud and pleased to establish this scientific collaboration programme supported by the British Council, and the backing of Professor Harwood and other senior members of Reading's Department of Chemistry. We are also proud because this is the first Diyala programme which will be delivered in partnership with a UK University which we hope will aid the rebuilding of the chemistry department."
The project is also receiving support from Jordan thanks to Professor Harwood's close ties with Yarmouk University in the north of the country. Some University of Diyala staff cannot be accommodated or are unable to travel to the UK, so an agreement has been reached that will see Diyala staff attend a half- week workshop. The training will take place at Yarmouk and will be delivered by Professor Harwood and colleagues from Reading's Department of Chemistry.
Professor Sultan Abu-Orabi, President of Yarmouk University and a chemistry colleague of Professor Harwood said: "Yarmouk University will be most willing to participate. Being one of the oldest and largest universities in Jordan, I think we have the staff and infrastructure necessary to make this kind of cooperation a success."
The project is funded via the DFID/British Council's Development Partnerships in Higher Education Programme (DelPHE) which enables higher education institutions to act as catalysts for poverty reduction and sustainable development.
Brendan McSharry, the British Council's Country Director in Iraq, said: "Over 20 years ago Iraqi higher education was regarded as the best in the region but since then it has fallen in to serious disrepair. The Reading-Diyala university partnership will undoubtedly help to restore Iraq's fortunes and provide better education and skills training for the new generation of young professionals."
At the end of March a high level delegation from Diyala will visit the University of Reading to discuss ways in which the collaboration can be extended to other subject areas.
Further press information from James Barr, University of Reading press office, 0118 378 7115
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