By Marcus Leach

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts met with Dlawer Ala’Aldeen, Minister of Higher Education in Kurdistan, today (Monday) to explore how UK universities can support the development of the Kurdistan scholarship programme.

The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has allocated $100 million per year for new PhD and Masters Programmes over the next four years and they are keen to engage with more UK universities in order to deliver it.

Speaking at the ‘Bridging the Knowledge Gap’ conference in London today, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said;

“I am delighted that the Minister and his colleagues have chosen the UK to support their scholarship programme. It is a great reflection of how favourably our universities are viewed around the world.

“The UK is already experienced in exporting our excellent educational services to Kurdistan; in October 2011 Leicester University opened an English Language Centre in the University of Kurdistan-Haler and the British Council also has a base at the University of Salahaddin.

“These academic programmes that stretch across international borders offer huge benefits to all involved, and not just commercially. International engagement brings cultural benefits and the opportunities to share knowledge, research and expertise which will in turn boost our own economy.”

The UK is already the preferred destination for students from Iraqi Kurdistan wanting to study abroad. Between 70% and 80% of students awarded Kurdistan scholarships choose to study at UK universities compared with those who choose to study in France (10%) or the United States of America (7%). As the economy in Kurdistan continues to develop so does their education and skills sector creating valuable opportunities for UK education providers to deliver high quality, world class teaching.

The UK is able to meet all educational resource needs from pre-school to university and beyond. Our education and skills exports are worth over £14 billion annually to the UK economy making the sector a world leader in meeting the accelerating demand for education.

The new scholarship programmes will include specialist courses in areas such social sciences, agriculture, health, archaeology and petroleum studies.

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