Professor Tim Niblock.

High accolade bestowed on Middle Eastern expert

The Annual Arab-British Culture and Society awards have honoured University of Exeter’s Middle East expert, Professor Tim Niblock with an award rarely given to academics.

The prestigious award celebrates those who have made an outstanding contribution to the British public’s knowledge and understanding of the life, society and culture of the Arab people.

As former Director of the University’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, and energetic contributor to the Institute even after his official retirement, Professor Niblock was acknowledged for his work as a writer on the Arab world, and teacher of generations of UK and international students specialising in the Middle East.

Under Professor Niblock’s expert supervision a huge number of successful PhDs have emerged and a large majority of professors working in Middle East Politics in the UK are his former students. The impact of this has added to shaping, challenging and enhancing the image and understanding of Arab countries in the West. Professor Niblock is extraordinarily well connected and can practically walk into any embassy of an Arab or Islamic country and find former students. Something similar is true in key universities, ministries and organisations across the Middle East. His advice is frequently sought by the government institutions in the UK and across Europe.

Professor Niblock said of the distinguished award, ‘It is rewarding to be able to assist in moulding and remoulding attitudes to the Arab region and laying a basis for enhancing understanding between Britain and Arab countries. The award is important to me, because it is the first time any academic has reached the ten person shortlist for the awards, let alone be one of the three who were given a special commendation. I also see this as indicating appreciation of the wider activity of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies.’

Over a forty year period Professor Niblock has made a major contribution to research in his field. Apart from more than 100 papers at international conferences around the world, for both academic and policy making audiences, he has written or edited 21 books and over 60 articles and chapters. His work on the politics of the Gulf has been a key reference point since the 1980s, culminating in his most recent acclaimed volumes on Saudi Arabia (2007-2008), as have his writings on Sudan, Iraq, and on the question of so-called ‘pariah states’.

The Arab-British Culture and Society award also specially commended Raja Shehadeh, a Palestinian author of accessible books on the life in the West Bank and IB Tauris, a publisher of academic books on the Arab and Islamic worlds.

Academic reputation apart, it is the personal affection and respect of so many alumni and colleagues around the world that really highlights Tim’s achievement.

Several of his former students, along with the University of Exeter, wanted a way to honour Tim’s contribution to the University and to so many of his students’ and colleagues’ lives.

We are doing this by starting a scholarship fund in his name and that of his beloved wife, Rida, who passed away in 2002. The Tim & Rida Niblock Scholarship Fund is being set up to encourage and enable, at Tim’s request, more students to stay at, or come to, Exeter to undertake Masters-level study in any Middle East or Islamic Studies subject at the Institute of Arab & Islamic Studies.

Each year, the Fund will either enable a Masters student from Sudan to study at Exeter, or it will pay the full course fees of a Masters student domiciled in the UK or the EU. We welcome gifts of all sizes, as the very smallest to the largest contribute to the success of the Fund.

For more information about how to make a gift, please contact Suzie Bannerman on + 44(0)1392 269011 or email

Date: 16 June 2009

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