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Oman’s $2.5m gift to Islamic Studies

[ UniNews Vol. 12, No. 4  24 March - 7 April 2003 ]

A new Chair of Arab and Islamic Studies has been created in the University of Melbourne with a $2.5 million endowment from the Sultanate of Oman.

Arrangements were finalised last week when the Omani Minister of Higher Education, Dr Yahya Mahfoodh Al Manthri, visited the University to formally sign the agreement for The Sultan of Oman Chair in Arab and Islamic Studies.

The Minister led a delegation of Omani education officials and diplomats who met with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alan Gilbert, senior members of the University, and Mr John Eren, MLC, representing the Victorian Government.

The Minister said that in endowing the Chair at Melbourne, Oman was continuing a series of endowments to prestigious universities throughout the world. For instance, the Sultanate of Oman has also endowed chairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and at Georgetown University in the USA.

“The signing of this agreement in Australia represents a significant step forward in building a partnership between our two countries that will continue to benefit the international world of scholarship and diplomacy,” he said.

The Minister said that the Sultanate of Oman “wishes to offer enduring support to the study of Arab and Islamic culture, worldwide, to promote understanding, cooperation and peace”.

The Vice-Chancellor expressed appreciation of the “opportunity that this endowment presents to advance the understanding of the Arab and Islamic world among the people of Victoria and among Australians generally”.

“The Sultan’s endowment will allow scholars, here, in Oman and elsewhere to work together to extend the knowledge and understanding of Arab and Islamic Studies throughout Australia, and through research and scholarship to promote greater understanding between cultures across the globe,” Professor Gilbert said.

“The University has a long history of teaching Arabic and Islamic Studies, dating back to the 1960s. Those small beginnings laid the foundation for the development of one of the leading programs in Arabic and Islamic Studies in Australia. This is marked by the extensiveness of its offerings to undergraduate and postgraduate students and the richness and broad-ranging nature of its research activities.”

Melbourne now has around 300 students in Arabic and Islamic Studies. It has designed and offers the world-first on-line Master of Arts in Islamic Studies. Its academic programs are supported by the most comprehensive Arabic and Islamic Studies library collection in Australia.

The Arabic and Islamic Studies program within the Melbourne Institute of Asian Language and Societies is housed in the new purpose-built, award-winning Sidney Myer Asia Centre.

The University is also host to more than 800 Muslim students, both Australian and from overseas.

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