By British Council in Azerbaijan

29 January 2020 - 13:17

Ulkar Sattarova, Vice-Rector of the Azerbaijan University of Architecture and Construction, shares her story about how partnerships with the UK universities can empower the faculty and graduates in higher education.

I started working with the British Council in Azerbaijan five years ago, both as a representative of my university and a passionate enthusiast in good education and teaching.

The diversity of activities brought by the UK to our country was impressive: exhibitions by young creators, performances led by disabled artists, festivals and various university-led projects. After starting out as an observer, I realised that cooperation and partnerships are the way forward – and they can take the work we do in my university forward.

Learning and working with the UK

In 2016, I was selected to be a part of the team which went on a study tour to the University of Leicester. I was thrilled to be part of this tour to the UK and the university ended up to be a fantastic choice for the visit – we came back to Baku full of positive impressions. Soon after, building upon our ongoing partnership with the University of Leicester, we were able to apply and later receive the Creative Spark programme grant for our universities.

You can’t imagine how happy my young team and I were! It ended up being a tremendous success – we were able to bring a comprehensive enterprise skills training packages to our students, kick-start an English learning programme through the first Creative Spark English Club in Azerbaijan, and much more.

Creative endeavours

The first big UK-Azerbaijan programme we are currently involved in is the Creative Spark – which encompasses the entire higher education system in Azerbaijan – and supports our students to develop entrepreneurial skills and learning – getting the skillsets they need to prepare for the world of business and work.

The second is the Higher Education for Employability programme. The goal of this programme for me is to contribute to policymaking, which will support the existing higher education landscape in Azerbaijan and further empower our graduates.

While working with the British Council – both locally and regionally – I realised that their people are big fans of the work they do. Actually, working with the British Council is not work – but rather a mission for our country and communities: educators, students, disabled people, and arts lovers who want to get support.

Working with the British Council is not work - but rather a mission for our country and communities: educators, students, disabled people, and arts lovers who want to get support.

On the road to recognition

Partnerships are certainly the key to success and one of my university’s main performance indicators is international accreditation. Just last month, we were accredited by RIBA (The Royal Institute of British Architects), the respected professional membership society in the field of architecture.

Azerbaijan University of Architecture and Construction is now the first university from a Commonwealth of Independent States country to be accredited by this body, which is a big boost to our Architecture Faculty. We now join the ranks of prominent architecture education institutions in the UK – the University of Cambridge, London School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art, and many more.

This accreditation has brought a whole slate of changes that ultimately made our teaching, textbooks, curricula, and even logistics, better. We made significant changes – one of them is incorporating technology in learning and every step of the curriculum design process.

This is also a big step for our graduates whose education is now formally recognised in the UK and the European Union. This is a great success, we worked hard to achieve it and we made it. Cooperation with the UK is a wonderful boost for our graduates who will hopefully continue the centuries-old history and cultural tradition of architecture in our country.

About the programme:

Creative Spark is a five-year initiative to support international university and institutional partnerships to develop enterprise skills and creative economy across seven countries in Central Asia, South Caucasus and Ukraine through UK support.

In order to support higher education reform and respond to unemployment rates in these seven countries, we will use the UK’s experience to help develop enterprise education. This way we will support over 10,000 students and young entrepreneurs in the first year of the programme.