BY GEMMA BIANCHI SLATER
AZERI OBSERVER EDITOR
The British School in Baku (BSB) is considered as one of the most prestigious and reputable schools in Azerbaijan. Not only is it proud to deliver a sought after British education for its school-age students, it is now able to offer the NCUK (Northern Consortium United Kingdom) programme, which is considered a student’s best route to an international university, designed specifically to help them not only to study abroad, but to give them the tools they need to prepare for study outside of their home country – enabling them to be both psychologically and academically ready.
Since its inception in May 2019, the NCUK programme has been an exciting new addition to the school’s repertoire of international education, along with the global standard Cambridge international curriculum. Accredited by the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC), the United Kingdom’s designated national agency for the recognition of international qualifications, the NCUK programme equips all students from BSB with the best possible start in life – universally accepted credentials that will launch their career on a global scale.
Mr Samir Valiyev, one of BSB’s Board of Governors’ Member advised, “Since BSB was established in 2007, we are committed to providing the best possible education to our students, as is our President Ilham Aliyev, who’s attention to education is of fundamental importance to the policy of our government. We are therefore especially proud the NCUK chose BSB, as the only school in Azerbaijan to offer this resourceful programme to our country’s future leaders.”
Azeri Observer spoke with members of BSB’s staff members, who work exclusively with the NCUK programme:
Mr Khanlar Mammadov, NCUK Baku University Liaison Officer:
Q: Tell us about your day to day relationship with the students and how you help them prepare for university abroad in the UK and Europe.
A: Choosing a University is perhaps one of the most important decisions a person makes during his or her student life. One of my duties is to help the students with this decision. In order to do so, I have to get to know them on a personal level. Their preferences like weather, size of the city, housing and transportation are all very important. So before advising them, I meet with the students during our special one-to-one and group sessions. I also talk with their teachers to understand what they prefer, programme-wise; some might prefer more theory to practice than the other. Depending on this we can choose different universities, since the same bachelors in different universities can be structured differently. To help our students prepare for the challenges abroad, we hold seminars twice a month, on how to manage their finances, cover their insurance needs, where and how to get important documents, etc.
Q: What advice do you provide the students to understand and appreciate the differences between the British culture compared to the Azeri culture?
A: Having studied in the UK, both Ms. Samra and I have gone through various challenges of student life. From what I have seen, I would say that traditional British culture has quite a lot of aspects that are similar to Azeri. The way people treat their elders, how they express their feelings and emotions, etc. To get the students acquainted with the culture, traditions and the way things ‘work’ in the UK, every week we invite different but interesting people who share their experience of living, studying and working abroad. So far we have had a UCL alumna and the British Ambassador talk to our students.
Samra Valiyeva, NCUK Baku Administrative Manager
Q: How many students at BSB do you have leaving for British or European universities under the NCUK programme, at the end of the school year this summer?
A: We currently have 13 students who are part of the NCUK programme. 5 of them have already received offers to pursue their higher education at the top universities in the UK, while others are expected to be admitted to top universities in Europe and around the world. We are very proud of this achievement, considering the fact that this is the first year of NCUK Baku centre’s operations. There is already a lot of interest for next year’s programme and we are excited to welcome a higher number of students in the upcoming years. The NCUK programme is the perfect pathway for students in Azerbaijan to higher education in some of the top universities both in the UK and around the world.
Q: What is the follow-up plan for the students who will leave for university abroad, to determine their durability and performance with life after they have left Azerbaijan?
A: We understand that students may find it tough, adjusting to a new country and university life. Thus, we are ready to support them every step of the way. We plan to have constant follow-ups with students to see how they are doing and if they need any assistance.
Ms Caroline Flynn, BSB Secondary Principal and NCUK Baku Academic Manager:
Q: Since its inception in May 2019, what can you advise us of the NCUK programme and the benefits it brings to BSB in terms of its international status?
A: The benefit of the NCUK programme, or the ‘linchpin’ that makes it so vital, is that through the EAP (English for Academic Purposes) programme students begin to learn the skills and knowledge, essential for succeeding at top British Universities. As the current A-Level system in the UK does not offer such a foundation, this provides our students with a unique opportunity to be ahead of even the best students the UK has to offer. Through a focused programme of study skills, critical thinking and linguistic analysis, coupled with in-depth subject specific content, our students are prepared and equipped for the full rigors of University in a British context.
We are the only centre who offer the NCUK programme, not just in this country but the surrounding Azerbaijan region as well; the closest being Uzbekistan. This makes us part of an elite group in this area of the world.
Q: What can you tell us about the scholarship competition BSB is offering to the Year 11 students, and the requirements to win this prestigious offering?
A: We are passionate about the NCUK programme and want to open the opportunity for this exceptional course to students across Baku. This year we are proud and excited to offer our first scholarships to students from local and international schools across the city. Anyone aged between 16-17 with English level equivalent to IELTS 5.5, wishing to enter the Year 12 NCUK programme in September 2020, can apply.
The deadline for admission is 30 March 2020 and candidates will be invited for general assessment on 4 April 2020; they will then be invited to a stream specific assessment where they must achieve an average score of 80% to be considered for either the Science, Engineering or Business scholarship. Finally, there will be a panel interview where students will be invited for an informal consultation. Please contact the school for further details!
Mr John Brewer, CEO of NCUK:
Q: As CEO of NCUK, what are your wishes for 2020 in terms of the progress made with NCUK’s visibility throughout the rest of the world?
A.: One of my main ambitions is that we (NCUK) must be seen as almost an indispensable partner not just for UK universities but also for universities and Study Center’s overseas. So for me that’s all about ensuring that we are providing a high quality range of products, that we are growing sensibly and strategically, not just randomly. My main priorities for 2020 are to produce a new corporate strategy for NCUK, which outlines our vision for the future, as well as overseeing the enhancement of our digital capacity, and our move to new offices in Manchester.
Q: What is your personal relationship with BSB and how well do you think the programme is performing?
A.: British School in Baku and NCUK have collaborated to create NCUK Baku, an exciting new venture that establishes NCUK in Azerbaijan for the first time. Previously, any Azeri students who wanted to study an NCUK qualification would have to study out of their home country before progressing to university, whereas now, this new partnership allows Azeri students to study the NCUK International Foundation Year in Baku – a more convenient and cost effective option. British School in Baku are a very strong school with a history of students progressing to universities overseas, so I am looking forward to welcoming the students to a wide range of degree programmes at our NCUK universities this year. I also feel a personal link with NCUK Baku since they became an NCUK partner during my first week as CEO, so I hope that we can both develop a long and rewarding partnership with NCUK for many years to come!