The Origin of the Institute of Environmental Studies
The origin of the Institute of Environmental Studies (IES) dates back to the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm and the subsequent call by the Arab League for Education, Cultural and Social Organization (ALECSO) that universities should address themselves to the problems of the environment. This call was responded to by Dr. M. El Tom of the Geography Department, University of Khartoum, who wrote to the Vice-Chancellor asking for the establishment of a Faculty for Environmental Studies. Growing interest in the University and outside led the Vice-Chancellor in 1975 to establish a steering committee heads by Professor M.D. El Khalifa to look into the possibility of the University creating such an institute.
The Committee considered new kinds of training at the under-graduate and post-graduate levels as well as new approaches to the organization of environmental research. This work was assisted by a valuable report sponsored by Ford Foundation and written by Dr. Ian Burton of the University of Toronto and Dr. Gordon Conway, of Imperial College, London, based on a mission to the Sudan.
The Steering Committee recommended that, for the time being, the Institute would concentrate on post-graduate training and leave an under-graduate programme to a later date. It was also felt that because the nature of environmental problems in the Sudan that the traditional disciplinary approaches by themselves were not enough and that a broad integrative inter-disciplinary outlook was needed for the new programme. It was also agreed that rather than start a completely new unit within the university, it would be better to build on existing structures and the Hydrobiological Research Unit and the Natural History Museum, of the Faculty of Science, were selected to be the nucleus of the new institute.
In April, 1978 the U of K Senate gave formal approval to the Institute of Environmental Studies’ Statute which stipulated that control would be vested in a Board and an Academic Committee. In June of that year the Ford Foundation made a generous grant to the Institute to cover the first two years of its operation. Finally, in April 1979, the Senate approved the curriculum that had been planned by the Academic Committee. During the students’ recruitment process it was decided that for the time being it would be most appropriate for the Institute to admit students who were already employed and who could bring the benefits of IES training directly to their work when they returned. In August the first group of nine post-graduate students enrolled in the Master of Science course in Environmental Studies, the first of its kind in Africa and the Arab World.