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Iraqis arrive on a factfinding mission

Top academics from Iraq are visiting construction sites in Northern Ireland to find out more about rebuilding the economy and infrastructure of their country following years of conflict.

It has also emerged that the Baghdad Institute of Technology is seeking a formal twinning relationship with the Northern Regional College (NRC).

The institution, which has campuses across Northern Ireland, including Coleraine and Newtownabbey, is hosting a two-week fact-finding visit by Professor Dr Mudhaffar Sadiq Hassan Al-Zuhairy, dean of the Baghdad Institute of Technology and Mazin Taha Hammid Al-Kuttan, assistant professor at the highly acclaimed Technical Institute Mosul.

The Iraqi academics will be spending time with staff and students to find out more about post-conflict construction and planning.

The two academics will be joined in the second half of their visit to Northern Ireland by Professor Dr Mahmood Abdulhussain, president of the Foundation of Technical Education and Ministry of Higher Education, Baghdad and Dr Kawthar, president of the Erbil Foundation of Technical Education in a Kurdish region.

The visiting team will be taken to a number of facilities within the NRC campus including the Built Environment School and will also be meeting industrial, school and community partners in the area as well as civic leaders.

Dr Mudhaffar said that the two countries have a lot to learn from each other and that he is looking forward to forging stronger links with Northern Ireland.

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"We are here to learn as much as possible from NRC which closely reflects our ethos of technical and engineering education," he said.

"As a country, Iraq is particularly interested in strengthening its sense of citizenship and our task as academics is to plan the educational and development programmes which are essential to the successful reconstruction of a post war society."

NRC director and chief executive Trevor Neilands said he was extremely proud that the college had been chosen as a centre of educational excellence for the visitors.