Northampton academic leading the way in enhancing Higher Education in Iraq

Date 15.03.2017

An academic from the University of Northampton has been praised for his contribution to Higher Education in his home country of Iraq, with one example being held up as a pioneer for future partnerships.

Dr Ali Al-Sherbaz, Senior Lecturer in Computing in the Faculty of Art, Science and Technology, first connected with the University of Babylon in 2012, with the successful introduction of a twinning programme in the areas of computing and nursing.

Its success and the fact that it is the first partnership of its kind with an Iraqi university, was the reason Dr Al-Sherbaz’s work was recognised by the Iraqi Minster of Higher Education, His Excellency Professor Abdul Razzaq Abdul Jaleel Al-Essa.

Dr Ali-Sherbaz said: “This unique partnership enables Iraqi students to study for two years in Babylon, followed by two years in Northampton, with the option of a further MSc year. To date, 85 Babylon students have studied here in Northampton, with the first cohort of 30 having graduated last summer, which was a great honour as the Iraqi Ambassador to the UK was present at the ceremony.

“It was such an honour to be recognised as one of the top influencers in Iraqi Higher Education and to be invited to the Iraqi Embassy in London along with fellow academics to meet the Iraqi Minster of Higher Education. The Minister already knows me through the strong partnership I have established with the University of Babylon and it was the Iraqi cultural attaché consular, Professor Hasan Alalak, who put my name forward to the Minster.”

Dr Al-Sherbaz is now working on a franchise agreement to commence in September 2017, which will see Iraqi students completing their undergraduate degrees at the University of Northampton before returning home as graduate teaching assistants able to teach the Northampton syllabus.

He commented: “This set up of this franchise will result in more Iraqi students being able to study and graduate with a University of Northampton degree, but takes away any financial or visa issues they may incur by studying in the UK.

“The partnership is not only limited to teaching and studying, but will also include research, joint PhD supervision and staff development and has the possibility to expand into other areas of joint working, such as geography, environmental sciences, English and teaching children with special educational needs.”

An English language centre has also been set up at the University of Babylon, which enables the students to take the exam online and is marked by University of Northampton lecturers.

Dr Al-Sherbaz said: “Studying in Northampton is very desirable aim for Iraqi students due to the high quality of UK degrees, which will give them an extra boost in the job market when they return home. These partnerships give the students more of an opportunity to gain their degree from the University of Northampton and it helps them to be able to liaise with tutors and lecturers within their home environment.

“I am glad that senior management at the University of Northampton gave me the opportunity to support my home country through these partnerships. I am looking forward to further strengthening the existing partnership with the University of Babylon and establishing new ones in the future.”

Professor Nick Petford, Vice Chancellor of the University of Northampton, recently visited the University of Babylon earlier this year and was able to see first-hand the excellent work that both universities have undertaken since the partnership was established.

He said: “The aim of the visit was to further strengthen the partnership by expanding into other areas of joint working, including geography and environmental sciences, English and teaching children with special educational needs. We are also in discussion with the ministry about how to promote social enterprise across the country.”