The Centre will bring together researchers from both universities, to work on research in the fields of sustainability, crop production and food security monitoring, geographic information systems and water resources, amongst others. The Centre will also contribute to the development of degree course curricula and best practice in teaching within Soran University. The Centre will be housed in the new Faculty of Science building at Soran University, located in the Zagros Mountains – the largest mountain range in Iran and Iraq.
Professor Heiko Balzter, Director of the University of Leicester’s Centre for Landscape and Climate Research, said: “This is a hugely important bilateral agreement. Soran University is a new University in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, which is rapidly developing now that the long history of armed conflicts in the region is over.
“From our side, we are committed to supporting University staff and students in Soran in their professional development. Our aim is to build mentoring partnerships between staff, deliver block courses locally to contribute to higher education in the region, to deliver staff development activities, and to develop joint research projects together.”
The objective of the Centre is to create a world-class research environment with a focus on the development of sustainable natural resources. One issue the Centre hopes to tackle directly is the challenge Kurdistan faces in effectively managing its natural resource infrastructure – in particular the management of water supply and quality against the background of rapid development of the region’s infrastructure and tourism facilities.
A split PhD scheme has also been agreed. PhD students from Soran can spend one year of initial research training at Leicester and complete their PhD in Soran whilst being jointly supervised by members of staff from both organisations throughout the PhD. The degree is awarded by Soran University. Such split PhDs are a priority for the Ministry of Higher Education in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Ultimately, it is the intention of both partners to expand the scope of the collaboration to a partnership in other subject areas including English, Archaeology, Cultural Heritage Management and Molecular Biosciences.