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British Council looks to revive Kuwait’s UK alumni network

By: Khaled Al-Abdulhadi

KUWIAT: The British Council is looking to revitalize its role and raise the profile of UK alumni in Kuwait, said the council’s Country Director Anthony Skinner. “I’m proposing to bring together alumni from similar specialties and support them to deliver events to reach out to other UK alumni and connect them with fresh graduates. I think it will grow our alumni and give our existing alumni ways to contribute,” said Skinner at a UK alumni meeting held Wednesday, March 15, and sponsored by the British Council.

The British council was first established in 1934, opening its first office in 1938. It’s the oldest council organization with over 100 countries and 6,000 employees globally. The council operates in three key areas: education (connecting with alumni), helping governments improve the quality of English teaching, as well as creative economy.

Skinner said he was looking to “refresh and rebalance” the council’s plans going forward. “In Kuwait, we have been doing a lot of creative economy, making the UK a main creative partner for Kuwait. We are going back to the higher education institutions to establish partnerships between private sector universities, Kuwait university and the UK.”

Skinner addressed the struggles expatriate alumni face when looking for career opportunities in Kuwait. He said he hoped the alumni network initiative would “help new graduates and give them more purpose.” “I’m hoping to have the alumni gain a bit of structure,” he said.

Ghazala Mahadik, Bath University alumnus, speaks at the British Council UK alumni event.

The education ministry, the council and the UK government are very keen to see the alumni network grow, said Skinner. “We are going, in the next 18 months, to raise the profile of UK alumni. The bigger the community the stronger we will become.”

In terms of establishing a British university in Kuwait, Skinner said it was “not impossible” but the country needs to “work” on its profile before that happens. “The population of students in Kuwait and legislation issues discourage big UK universities to come. I’m hoping to bring British universities with public and private universities to hold a joint initiative,” he said. “My role is to establish connections and networks between the UK and Kuwait, as individuals, companies, or institutions, regardless of their situation.”

Ghazala Mahadik, a chemical engineer who graduated from Bath University, told Kuwait Times: “Being a UK alumnus is prestigious and amazing. I am really honored to be here today and meet Mr Skinner. He told us about new prospects for UK alumni in Kuwait. It will be wonderful working with him and other UK Alumni for the improvement of the community.”

Mahadik said she would love to volunteer with the council’s alumni board. “Some of us who are here are driven and want to help out. We can encourage other alumni to come forward because the education that we got in the UK has given us a lot of value, and we are who we are because of that. So, it is really important for us to give back,” she said.

Kamal Al-Shirazi, a mechanical engineer and UK alumni board member, said he was looking forward to working with Skinner and helping him with his initiative to rebuild the UK alumni network. “Hopefully, we will come up with new events and ideas to guide UK alumni. This will help attract new alumni and ensure they benefit from joining the network. We are looking forward to building a bigger network.”

Shirazi said there’s need to “present the alumni programs to a broader audience especially new UK graduates and show them the benefits of joining the network and working with other UK alumni. I think it’s important to expand the alumni network so we can access more people.”

“I’m especially keen on the idea of creating subgroups (from similar specialties) which Mr Skinner mentioned. This will help graduates find an environment to which they can relate,” Shirazi said.

Skinner said any income that is generated through the teaching center operations of the British council is reinvested back into the council’s network in order to sustain the council globally. “That is why we have a teaching center because no government in the world can sustain an organization the size of the British council. We are actually a self-sustaining organization under our charitable and non-profit organization status in the UK.”

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