From education to employment

Royal Agricultural University professor to be Deputy Rector at new agriculture university in Tashkent

students stood in group

A senior agriculture professor at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) is headed to Uzbekistan to help develop the newly established International Agriculture University in the country’s capital Tashkent.

Professor of Agriculture Nicola Cannon, who has worked at the Cirencester-based university for more than 20 years and was part of the team which worked to set up the new university in Uzbekistan last year, took up her new role, a secondment from the RAU, in June and will move to Tashkent for the start of the new academic year in September.

The new University, which opened its doors last September and has just completed its first academic year, already has more than 500 students, all on full scholarships from the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, on its courses.

Nicola said:

“It is a real honour to have been a part of this whole process and to have now been asked to take on the role of Deputy Rector. This new university offers students the opportunity to learn skills through independent learning and will give them the ability to consolidate and evaluate their learning to further their country’s agriculture sector in these challenging times.

“Uzbekistan is very hot and dry in the summertime and is already increasingly vulnerable to changes in climate which leads to real challenges in terms of water use and food security. I am excited to get going as I know I can make a real difference, not only in terms of agricultural education but also helping them on the ground with their agricultural practices.”

After initial discussions in 2020, the Uzbekistan Ministry of Agriculture selected the RAU as its partner to establish the new International Agriculture University (IAU) in 2021 and a delegation from the country’s Ministry of Agriculture visited the RAU that November.

Following months of planning, the IAU was established in May 2022 and an official Partnership Agreement, formalising the relationship between the two institutions, was signed by RAU Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter McCaffery and Mr Jamshid Khodjaev, Uzbekistan’s Minister of Agriculture, the following month.

The aim of the new University is to lead the reform of higher education in agriculture in Uzbekistan and secure international recognition for agriculture’s role in the country’s transitional economy and society.

The partnership gives IAU students an equivalent educational experience to that of students at the RAU by franchising some of the RAU’s existing degree programmes with students accessing a blend of face to face and online lectures and resources.

As the new university grows, new degrees and modules will be developed to suit Uzbekistan’s conditions and its international trade ambitions.

Having spent the summer at home in the UK, Nicola leaves for Tashkent at the start of September and, aside from a break over Christmas, will remain there until April 2024.

She added: “In Uzbekistan, formal education ends at the age of 17 so last year the IAU had mainly foundation year students and a few first years but, in this coming academic year, there will be new foundation year students, more first years, and also some starting their second year.

“The main purpose of my role is to help the IAU with its systems and the quality of its courses, as it transitions into the additional levels of teaching, as well as to inspire research within the academic staff. It’s a very exciting time for the IAU and the RAU and I am thrilled to be able to be a part of it.

“I will also be doing some teaching myself and colleagues from various disciplines at the RAU will come out from time to time to help with other aspects of developing a new university. For example, the RAU has a thriving and very active Student Union and I know the IAU is keen to see if it can set up something similar.”

Professor Munira Aminova, Rector of IAU, said:

“I am delighted to be welcoming Nicola to our growing IAU family. She will add significant value, both as a member of our Executive Council for strategic and management decisions as well as an integral part of our academic team. As an academic she will focus on continuous quality assurance, as well as contribute to enhancing the student experience.

“Nicola has already spent two weeks in Tashkent and we realized that we are very much aligned in our thinking and priorities related to student well-being and engagement, quality assurance, and wider outreach. I am sure she will spend excellent time here and I am certain that her contribution to the development of IAU at this early stage will be invaluable.   

“IAU is very international, with colleagues from Spain, Poland, Nigeria, Russia, India, Pakistan, Canada, Greece, Mexico, and others. However, Nicola is going to be the first full-time member from the UK in our team. She will comfortably land into our expat group and I am sure she will enjoy life in Tashkent. We are looking forward to welcoming her in September.”

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