Last month, Dr Robert Blackwood represented Modern Languages & Cultures on the scoping visit to Iran undertaken by the University’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Dr Blackwood was part of the group, participating in discussions on behalf of the School of Histories, Languages & Cultures, for which he was academic lead for internationalisation until the start of February. The week-long visit centred on Tehran and Shiraz, with a brief stopover on Kish Island, in the Persian Gulf.
In the light of the lifting of sanctions against Iran, the visit was designed to establish the first links between the University of Liverpool and higher education institutions in Iran. Although there are some colleagues in the Faculty who have personal contacts with researchers in Iran, this visit sought to meet with respresentatives of research centres and university departments to identify the first steps in formalising collaborations.
The University of Liverpool delegation met with individuals from a number of universities based in Tehran and Shiraz, with discussions ranging across the disciplines within the Faculty in Liverpool. These included the potential for close collaborations in the area of financial mathematics, training and exchanges in archaeology, and projects in linguistics.
The trip to Kish Island was of particular interest since many Iranian universities have satellite campuses on this island in the Persian Gulf; visitors to Kish Island do not need a visa, meaning that it is more straightforward to meet with Iranian colleagues (especially at short notice).
For future planning, of particular interest to Modern Languages & Cultures is the possibility of hosting PhD fellowships for Iranian students. Iranian PhD students traditionally spend a period of their research degree away from their home campus, and increasing numbers look to take up opportunities abroad, where they can work with individuals in their field, experience a different system of higher education, and expand their network.
As well as a series of meetings, the delegation were able to see a little of Iran, and sample some aspects of Persian culture and cuisine. A particular highlight for the group was the visit to Persepolis, the capital of the Achaemenid Empire some 2500 years ago.