IIE Networker - Spring 2013 - (Page 45)

SUPPORTING HIGHER EDUCATION IN POSTCONFLICT AND TRANSITION COUNTRIES Higher Education and Development through Cultural Relations: the British Council’s Model By Alexandra Dimsdale THE BRITISH COUNCIL, the UK’s leading cultural relations body, was set up in 1934 against a background of turbulence in Europe, to create educational opportunities and build trust between the people of the UK and other countries. Today, the organization employs some 7,000 staff in 110 countries around the world, fostering ‘people to people’ connections in the arts, education and society, and English. Many of the countries where we work have a significant overlap between higher education and development. Developing economies need skilled young people, and young people need well-run universities offering courses that will help them find good jobs. In much of the world, our higher education programmes and projects are about capacity building—both of people and of institutions. Some of our programs, like Developing Partnerships in Higher Education (DelPHE), focus on international partnerships between universities in the United Kingdom and 22 countries across Africa and Asia. Funded by the UK government’s Department for International Development and managed by the British Council, the DelPHE program invests in partnerships between higher education institutions, which work together to support countries to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals. These goals include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality and promoting gender equality. Each partnership directly responds to at least one of these goals. The program empowers the partner universities, through cross-regional collaboration and ownership of their projects. Of the 200 partnerships, 68 were multilateral, involving at least three institutions, and 22 were South-South partnerships, with no developed world partner involved. The ultimate aim of the program is to empower universities to act as catalysts for sustainable development. It was set up to be flexible and respond to demand—so that partnership objectives were developed in areas that would directly benefit the partner countries. Post-conflict countries have specific higher education needs, as they attempt to recover and pick up the pieces. In Iraq, years of war devastated universities, leaving them under-resourced and isolated from the global academic community. DelPHE-Iraq, which ran from September 2009 to March 2012, brought together Iraqi universities with their counterparts in the UK and the United States, to help modernize Iraq’s higher education system and equip talented Iraqi students with the skills they need to rebuild their country. DelPHE-Iraq funded 35 partnerships, including a partnership between the forensic science teams at De Montfort University in the UK and Karbala University in Iraq, to address the skills shortage in Iraq. Forensic science is vital to a strong justice system, helping to solve crimes and identify criminals and victims. The program developed a training centre in Karbala and a modern forensic science curriculum with new learning and teaching strategies, to create a pool of Iraqi qualified forensic scientists and contribute to rebuilding a stable society. Both universities benefited from the partnership. Developing economies need skilled young people, and young people need well-run universities offering courses that will help them find good jobs. American universities were also involved in DelPHE-Iraq, with New York University (NYU) teaming up with Duhok University in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Center for Global Affairs at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies and the University of Duhok’s Peace and Conflict Studies program conducted a two-year program to enhance the capacity of ten Iraqi instructors to teach about peacebuilding and conflict resolution theories and practices. In Afghanistan, another country whose higher education institutions have been damaged by conflict, the British Council runs a project to build professional leadership capacity among Afghan academics. The need for this kind of program is urgent. According to the World Bank, the number of students enrolled in higher education institutions in Afghanistan rose nearly tenfold from 4,000 in 2001 to 37,000 in 2007. This year, it is estimated that over a million students will be eligible to enter higher education, but the country’s universities face huge challenges, including physical facilities, out of date curricula, low skilled faculty, and a lack of strategic institutional level planning. The British Council’s Partners in Academic Learning project, which launched in May 2011, develops management and leadership skills among 25 next-generation leaders in Afghan universities—those who will rise to become university leaders in the coming years. The Afghan academics were matched with UK mentors, and held regular telephone calls, email and Skype conversations, in which they discussed practical strategies to meet their particular development needs. Two face-to-face workshops on leadership, management and administration skills were held in Dubai (for security reasons) in January and March 2012. The project was not without challenges: there was often a language barrier, and poor internet connectivity meant that Skype conversations could be frustratingly disrupted. But the Afghan participants have given overwhelmingly positive feedback. An academic from Kabul University said “for me, the most valuable aspects of the program are the direct contact with the mentor, and discussing the ongoing tasks we were involved with in our work.” One thing that these projects have in common is that they approach development through a two-way lens. Universities in developing countries may gain the expertise of those in the UK, but the British partners also benefit from the exchange. ■ Alexandra Dimsdale is manager, press and communications at the British Council in the United States. 45 http://www.iie.org/iienetworker

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IIE Networker - Spring 2013

A Message from Allan E. Goodman
2013 IIE Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education
IIENetworker Minister of Education Interview Series
Higher Education and Diff erent Notions of Development
Advancing Development Through International Partnerships
Developing a Gender Studies Program in Georgia
Higher Education and Community Development
The University of Cologne’s Capacity-Building Project in Myanmar
Promoting International Development by Collaborating with Industry
International Development and Higher Education
Harnessing the Power of Women with Disabilities
Community College Global Partnerships Bring Local Benefi ts
Building vs. Being
Higher Education and Development through Cultural Relations
The Institute of International Education’s Work in Iraq and Myanmar
Re-Envisioning Internationalization
Advertisers Index

IIE Networker - Spring 2013