Essay Award 2021 – Judges

The judging panel for the 2021 Elizabeth Symons and Philip Bassett Essay Award is as follows:

Elizabeth White MA MSc FRSA. Elizabeth is the Director British Council Egypt and comes from a small village in Cumbria in the north of England. She studied English Literature at Oxford. She has an MSc from Edinburgh in Applied Linguistics, and worked for Edinburgh University on education development projects overseas before joining the British Council in 1993. Her first posting was in Kazakhstan, where she set up the British Council’s first office in what was then a new sovereign state. Her second post in the British Council was Director St Petersburg. In 2004 she took up her first posting in MENA working first in Yemen and then in Syria. Elizabeth worked in Syria for three years before the conflict began, and while the office was kept open for the first year of the troubles. In 2012 she moved to Beirut developing work with the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon. She arrived in Egypt in 2018, as the British Council celebrated its 80th anniversary in Egypt, the oldest overseas office in the network. She is intensely proud to be the first woman director in Cairo in these 80 years. Her interests include music, theatre, painting, climbing and fell-walking, and good conversation in many languages.

Monira A Abu El-Ata, PhD, CE, MIET. Dr Monira is a Chartered Engineer with over 40 years of experience as a leading researcher, teacher and manager in industry, university education, human capital development and the research sectors. Throughout her career, she has covered many aspects of electronic engineering, telecommunications and information technology, with emphasis on developing the skills and experience of generations of young, capable engineers and technology professionals. A member of the Institute of Engineering & Technology; she was active in leading the Institution’s activities in Switzerland and was elected a member of the IET Council. She has presented frequently in business, educational and industry conferences, forums and seminars. During her tenure as Member of the Council of the Institute of Engineering and Technology ‘The IET’, she studied and championed ‘Sustainability and Sustainable Development’ with emphasis on their importance in engineering education for ’21st century Engineers’. As well as chairing the Swiss IET board, she continued to advise the IET on creating a sustainability policy and a new standard for the renewal of engineering courses to be based on sustainable development approach.

Sarah Chant. Sarah writes: “State educated in the 60s and 70s, although I studied Latin at O’ Level, I did not really discover ancient civilisations until it came to applying for university. Facing opposition from my father and my school, I applied to study Classical Civilisation at Bristol University. After gaining my place, I took a year off and worked as an au pair in Paris and on a cruise ship which was touring the Mediterranean. Amongst other sites, I visited Troy and Carthage and spent a day in Alexandria! To date, this has been my only visit to Egypt. In 1984, I went to Cardiff to complete a PGCE in Classical Civilisation and Latin and began my thirty-two year career as a Classics teacher in six state schools – four of which had a high proportion of students from deprived backgrounds. It was a pleasure introducing these students to the world of the ancient Greeks and Romans. My last post was Head of College VI at Riddlesdown Collegiate in south London. It was during this time that I became involved with the British Egyptian Society. We were privileged to be invited to several events that undoubtably raised the aspirations of the sixth form students and introduced them to many different aspects of modern Egypt. I held an annual Classics day and at least one of those days concentrated on ancient Egypt.”

Dr Hassan Elbahtimy. Dr Hassan is a Senior Lecturer at the War Studies Department in King’s College London (United Kingdom) and affiliate researcher at Sciences Po (France). He is also trustee and a member of the Executive Committee of the British International Studies Association (BISA). He holds a PhD from King’s College London in 2013 and has published extensively on international politics and arms control issues including in Foreign Affairs, Journal of Strategic Studies, Security Studies and the Nonproliferation Review among others. In 2019, his research was awarded the McElveny Grand Prize by the Nonproliferation Review Journal. Dr Elbahtimy is an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the UK and is director for the Masters programme Science and International Security at King’s College London.

John McHugo. John graduated in Arabic from Oxford University in 1973 then studied Islamic History at the American University in Cairo during 1973-5. He was in Cairo during the October 1973 war and the reopening of the Suez Canal. After two further years of postgraduate work in Islamic studies back at Oxford, he became a lawyer and a partner in a City of London law firm which specialised in legal work in the Middle East. His legal interests included public international law and the interface between English and Arabic legal texts, especially treaties and legislation. He spent several months a year in Cairo during the period 2001-6 as the liaison partner for his firm’s branch office there. During this period he was a board member of the British Egyptian Business Association (BEBA). On taking early retirement in 2007, he began writing books about the history of the Middle East and its relationship with the West. He is the author of A Concise History of the Arabs, Syria: A Recent History and A Concise History of Sunnis and Shi’is. He is also a board member of the British Egyptian Society.

Dr Hussein Omar.

Noel Rands, Secretary of the British Egyptian Society will act as administrator for the Award.