British Institute for the Study of Iraq Visiting Iraqi Scholarships 2018, UK

Publish Date: Dec 15, 2017

Deadline: Feb 01, 2018

Visiting Iraqi Scholarships

The Visiting Scholarship process is currently being revised. Updates on the programme will be provided shortly.

The Significance of the Programme 
In Iraq, the cumulative effect of conflict means there is currently a desperate lack of resources and funding to properly train, equip and sustain professionals working in the fields of cultural heritage and conservation. During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, resources were consistently channelled away from the cultural sector, and the Gulf War (1990-1), followed by twelve years of punitive sanctions on Iraqi cultural institutions, curtailed Iraq’s contact with the rest of the world.  

This constant upheaval, with its continuous disruptive effect on social, political and economic life, as well as concomitant, endemic corruption, has had a devastating effect on Iraqi academia, as well as on Iraq’s cultural heritage sites and their security. Even now, fourteen years after the 2003 war, funding and resources are consistently funnelled away from higher education, and the state of public services and education in Iraq remains critical.

This is where BISI sees an opportunity to offer support, through it sophisticated networks and opportunities, to colleagues in Iraq who would otherwise struggle to make the progress in their field that is currently under such threat, with potentially devastating consequences for the cultural heritage of Iraq. The BISI’s Visiting Scholarship Programme, with its centralised management and exclusive focus on Iraq and those disciplines most at risk, is well equipped to skirt the one-size-fits-all approach to programmes of study. Instead, the programme offers bespoke opportunities to visiting scholars, taking into account their specific needs, and working to create a tailored programme of study that will be of critical benefit. It also enables each scholar to develop strong professional relationships with UK based colleagues, who assist and mentor the scholars during their time in the UK, and act as a point of contact for them post-visit. 

Programme Structure 

Although every visiting scholar’s experience is unique, the ultimate governing objective in every case is to reconnect Iraqi academics with the latest ideas and developments in their field. BISI focusses as much as possible on the potential for development of the scholar in question, and widens its focus to include both early and mid-career scholars, precisely because it is these individuals who face the most serious dearth of opportunity in Iraq, and who consequently present a great vulnerability for the future of their academic fields. Applications to the programme are advertised via a public call across all of BISI’s networks, including UK universities with relevant contacts in Iraqi higher education and other appropriate institutions. Successful applicants are selected annually by BISI’s Fieldwork and Research Committee, who match them with appropriate UK host academics. 

The majority of scholars’ visits to the UK last for a duration of two months, and BISI arranges a bespoke programme of training, work shadowing, mentoring and, if necessary, tuition in the English language, for each scholar during their visit. These placements have included training at the British Museum, work placements at the Glasgow and Fitzwilliam Museums, research visits at the universities of both Oxford and Cambridge, and attendance at conferences of international importance. 

BISI organises and provides funds for the travel, visas, and accommodation of each of the scholars, and provides them with cameras and computers, a British mobile phone and a daily allowance for the duration of their research trip.   


Dr Saber Ahmed Saber

Head of the Department of Excavations and Investigations at the Sulaimaniyah Directorate of Antiquities. 

BISI Visiting Scholar 2013 

BISI funded the research visit to London of Saber Ahmed Saber for a three-month period between January-March 2013. Saber worked with UCL’s Dr Mark Altaweel to translate archaeological reports of excavations in Kurdistan into English

There were many sites have been excavated in Iraqi Kurdistan, which have not been published or properly documented. With these publications, Saber and Dr Altaweel aimed to make known the importance of these archaeological finds in the Western world.

“I wanted to bring my work from local to international publishing. Many archaeologists have to work without technology, and I wanted to work with European archaeologists and learn from their methods.

In the time of Saddam, archaeological work rarely happened in Kurdistan because Saddam wanted to destroy Kurdish culture and the history of all minorities. English is a very powerful language in the world and a way to share the exciting work happening in my country to a wide audience. Through the Visiting Scholars Programme, I was able to access resources and meet people who opened new doors for me, enabling me to improve my work and make continuing contact with European universities.”

Salwa Tawfeeq 
PhD Researcher, Baghdad University  
BISI Visiting Scholar 2015 

BISI supported Salwa Tawfeeq to spend four weeks of her Visiting Scholarship at the University of Oxford. With the help of academic mentors, arranged by BISI, she was able to prepare for a research project on the history, archaeology and architecture of several ancient mausoleums and religious shrines in Iraq.  

 “I was initially inspired to apply to the BISI’s Visiting Scholars Programme because of the lack of good bibliographies, libraries, and academic interaction and supervision in Iraq. The Visiting Scholars Programme designed for me was excellent; a unique experience. It gave me the opportunity to positively interact with a renowned academic circle, to benefit from the available resources, get the best academic supervision and participate in academic activities, all of which were not only designed for boosting my academic knowledge, but were key factors in the building of academic ties and information sharing. I also learned the basics of a new language, which helped me a lot in my studies.  

The outcome of my visit is a comprehensive study published in an Academic Journal of Baghdad University in late December 2015.  It is a great achievement for me, and I am very proud of it - it is the first of its kind published in an Arab Academic Journal in the English Language.   I owe thanks and gratitude to The British Institute for the Study of Iraq for their constant help, active and successful communication that put my dream into a reality.” 

Abather Saadoon  
PhD Researcher and Archaeologist, Baghdad University 
BISI Visiting Scholar 2015 

Abather Saadoon spent 2 months working with the Dr Mark Weeden at SOAS on the completion of his PhD project. He met with leading Assyriologists, Archaeologists and Geologists from across the UK to discuss his findings and to exchange expertise. His scholarship provided an assessment of the ancient geographical nature of Tell al-Wilayah such as the pathways of watercourses, and new analysis on this subject in Iraqi academia. 

The scholarship also had further positive repercussions: last summer Abather informed BISI that he had successfully defended the PhD on which his scholarship was based.

“I would like to express my deep thanks to all the members of the BISI Council for granting me this invaluable opportunity. I really appreciate their help and support as this scholarship was so vital to my PhD project.


BISI offers 2 to 3 scholarships each year to enable Iraqi scholars and cultural heritage professionals to engage in research, training and collaborative projects in the UK.

Projects should focus on the history, society and culture of Iraq from the earliest times until the present. We welcome applications from scholars involved in the following fields: anthropology, archaeology, history, geography, languages and other areas in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

All applicants must be currently based in Iraq and should demonstrate how a scholarship in the UK will strengthen the research and cultural heritage environment in Iraq. Priority is given to Iraqi scholars who already have a working relationship with a UK institution or academic.
Visiting Iraqi Scholarships 

These scholarships allow scholars to:

  • spend up to two months in the UK;
  • undertake a specific research or training project;
  • build relations with scholars in the UK;
  • participate in a suitable programme designed for each recipient;
  • and to work with a mentor arranged by BISI.

These scholarships cover:

  • institutional fees (e.g. university access and library usage but not tuition fees);
  • housing (usually with a family) and a daily allowance for living expenses (per diem);
  • all travel expenses, including visas;
  • and emergency travel insurance.

These scholarships will not:

  • pay any salary expenses;
  • fund any full time university courses;
  • pay for any routine dental or medical expenses.


Annual Deadline
1 February. Candidates will be informed of decisions by early July. 

Eligibility: Leave of Absence
Formal leave of absence from the scholar’s own institution or employer is required before an award is made; a copy of the permission for a leave of absence should be sent to BISI. 

Eligibility: English Language Ability
BISI reserves the right to request scholars to take English Languages tests to ensure that the English language ability of successful applicants is of a satisfactory standard. Scholars must be able to converse and understand English to a working level. 

Eligibility: Past scholars 

Under normal circumstances, past BISI scholars are ineligible for further awards in the years immediately following their scholarships.  

Application Forms

Please complete an application form and return it to the Administrator at The application requires a short description of the project and the purpose of your visit to the UK. Applicants should nominate an academic to supervise their scholarship in the UK and name the institution where they would like their scholarship to be based. 

Terms and Conditions

Prior to visiting the UK, scholars must apply for a UK Visa; applications must be submitted three months before the visit and will require you to take your identity documents for checking at a Visa Application Centre in Iraq.

Scholars are expected to be able to work and travel independently in the UK. We reserve the right to withdraw any scholarships that have not been taken up within one year of notification of the awards.

For more information please click "Further Official Information" below.

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