Revitalizing Higher Education in IraqAssessing the needs and priorities of higher education in Iraq and preparing a blueprint for its revitalization are the main objectives of a round table to be held at UNESCO Headquarters on February 22 and 23.
UNESCO Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, will open the meeting which will be attended by senior staff from the Ministry of Higher Education in Iraq and representatives from universities in Iraq and other countries, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and donor agencies.
“Iraq’s universities and technical institutes are in a dramatic situation,” said Mr Matsuura. “Some 24 years of conflict and unrest – first with Iran in the 1980s and then with the Gulf wars and the situation that has followed – have seen tens of thousands of young Iraqis killed, the exodus of many intellectuals and the virtual isolation of those who remained.
“Now, as Iraq rebuilds and reconnects with the world, a vibrant higher education system is essential for providing the expertise, knowledge and research that will form the basis for the country’s long-term growth and development. UNESCO is committed to helping the Iraqi people with this new departure and, after a long dictatorship, to laying the foundations for a democratic future.”
The Round Table will look at the current state of higher education in Iraq, define the main action areas and make recommendations for the next two years in the areas of institutional modernization, curriculum reform and renewal, research and teacher education. It will also establish the first links in a core network of partners committed to supporting its follow-up and implementation.
To kick start the process, UNESCO, in partnership with the International Fund for Higher Education in Iraq, recently delivered four containers of laboratory equipment and books to universities in Baghdad and other important regional centres, including Basrah and Mosul.
As part of this initial action, fellowships are also being awarded to 500 Iraqi researchers and university teachers allowing each of them to spend up to three months in universities abroad to update their knowledge and teaching methods, and to re-establish contact with the international academic community.