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UK Builds Higher Education Capacity in Post-Conflict Regions

George Blandford, chair of UK’s civil engineering department, and Gary Gaffield, assistant provost for international partnerships, led workshops for the Iraq University Administration Support Program’s (UASP) University Management Training Course in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

UASP assists academic leaders by strengthening their foundations in university administration. This program fosters the development of higher education management capacity in the seven university partnerships that participate in the University Linkages Program (ULP), laying the groundwork for sustainable development in Iraq.

Blandford led workshops about assessment and accreditation, while Gaffield led the sessions on leadership, strategic planning and institutional relations/advancement.

“UK is becoming recognized for its understanding of not only the conditions of higher education in Iraq, but also the unusual demands placed on colleges and universities in post-conflict societies in general and in countries struggling with regional, ethnic, cultural, economic, and sectarian divisions,” Gaffield said. “UK is increasingly being sought as a partner by NGOs because of our experience and expertise in these regions.”

There are several recent examples of UK’s growing reputation as a leader in helping post-conflict societies rebuild civil society:

  • 2010 – The University of Kentucky was one of five schools selected to participate in the Iraq University Linkages Program through a partnership between the State Department and FHI 360, a nonprofit organization that focuses on health and education, as well as social and economic development in developing countries.
     
  • 2011 – George Blandford and Gary Gaffield led a session on University Partnerships in Post-Conflict Societies at the Annual NAFSA Conference.
     
  • 2011 – The Iraq Embassy invited a small number of U.S. universities to a meeting in Washington D.C. to seek their advice and assistance in launching a major scholarship program to send Iraqis to U.S. Universities. Pat Bond, senior assistant dean in UK’s Graduate School, and Gary Gaffield represented the University of Kentucky.
     
  • 2012 – The Institute of International Education (IIE) conducted a conference in Erbil, Iraq, on quality assurance, accreditation, and assessment. George Blandford was one of four presenters and led the sessions on self-studies, engineering quality assurance initiatives in Iraq, and engineering accreditation.
     
  • 2012 – UK was invited by Chemonics – a major development consulting firm headquartered in Washington D.C. – to assist in a $19.7 million contract from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for a five-year project to develop institutional capacity and independence in Indonesian higher education. 
     
  • 2012 – Gary Gaffield was invited to address a joint Iraqi-American conference in Washington D.C. on higher education cooperation between the U.S. and Iraq. The event was organized by the Embassy of Iraq.
     
  • 2012 – U.S. Department of State awarded the University of Kentucky a $1.7 million grant to partner with universities in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, through the “University Partnership in Business Administration” program.

“George Blandford has become a leader in helping rebuild Iraq’s higher education capacity,” Gaffield said. “Through his work with Kufa University’s civil engineering department, he has enabled Kufa University to become a leader in quality assurance in Iraq.”

Blandford says he would like to be a part of creating opportunity in post-conflict areas. “I hope to continue UK’s relationship with Kufa University, open opportunities to link with other universities in Iraq and bring more Iraqi students to UK. More than 30 graduate students from Iraq are conducting their research at UK. These students bring intelligence and a strong work ethic to UK’s campus.”

UASP is administrated by IREX, an international nonprofit organization that provides thought leadership and innovative programs to enable local individuals and institutions to build key elements of a vibrant society: quality education, independent media, and strong communities. To strengthen these sectors, IREX’s program activities also include a focus on conflict resolution, technology for development, gender, and youth.