On Monday 28 December, the UK has launched a new programme with Al-Azhar university, the most prestigious centre of Sunni Islamic learning, that will send Al-Azhar PhD students to top British universities.
The programme will invest in a new generation of religious leaders who are equipped to build dialogue across different cultures and religions and confront extremism.
The new scheme will identify exceptional Al-Azhar graduates with strong academic and leadership potential and give them the opportunity to complete PhD studies, focusing on theology, comparative religion and related disciplines.
Administered by the British Council in Egypt, the programme is supported by some of the very best universities in Britain, including Cambridge, Oxford, the School of African and Oriental Studies, and King’s College London. The programme is being financed by private donors and foundations. Ambassador Casson has led a fundraising drive which has so far raised almost 10 million Egyptian pounds from donors including the Commercial International Bank (CIB) Foundation. This generous funding from visionary supporter has allowed the Embassy and Al-Azhar to bring about a project which has been a joint dream for both institutions for many years.
The first scholars are expected to begin their studies at British Universities in September 2016. Applications for this 2016 round of scholarships will close on 28 January 2016. More information can be found on Alazhar website: www.azhar.eg/eg/
British Ambassador John Casson said:
I am proud that the UK will continue to play a role in helping Al-Azhar raise up a new generation of religious leaders who will deepen our understanding of Islam, reject extremism and prejudice, and instead promote the values of peace, openness, and tolerance.
As President el-Sisi has said, now more than ever we need learned and respected Islamic institutions like Al-Azhar Al-Sharif to demonstrate strong religious leadership in turbulent times.
Al-Azhar and the UK have a long history of partnership – for example, over the last eight years, the British Council have taught English to almost 1,000 Al-Azhar students.
This new programme builds on that partnership. I am proud that the UK will continue to play a role in helping Al-Azhar raise up a new generation of religious leaders who can reject extremism and prejudice, and instead promote the values of peace, openness, and tolerance.
Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayeb said:
I look forward to this project being the way to a wider academic cooperation with British universities, which will achieve Al-Azhar’s global mission in supporting peace and coexistence among nations.
The cooperation between Al-Azhar and European universities and research centres is the way to contain radicalism and terrorism, and to propagate the values of human comradeship and global fellowship.