Higher Education in Iraq

Higher Education is one of the sectors that sustained serious destruction of infrastructure in 2003. Approximately 61 universities and college buildings were war damaged and 101 college buildings were looted. The damage was especially severe in laboratories, workshops and libraries.

The rehabilitation of Iraqi higher education system, already damaged by almost two decades of under-investment and isolation, is hampered by insufficient infrastructure and limited capacity in terms of planning, policy and management of higher education programmes. The gap between the educational opportunities offered by universities in Iraq and the requirements for sustainable economic development is widening. Instability and lack of security have undermined the normal academic activity in Iraqi universities and triggered an unexpected brain drain that has further undermined the educational opportunities of Iraqi students. At the institutional level, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MoHESR) needs technical support and capacity building to effectively ensure access to quality higher education system.

In February 2005, UNESCO organized in Paris a round table on the revitalization of higher education in Iraq, aimed to assess the Iraqi’s needs and priorities and to strengthen the international cooperation and intellectual dimensions of the International Fund. The participating representatives of Iraqi Higher Education, the international academic community, International Organizations, NGOs and donors agreed on eight main actions:

  1. Governance and management
  2. Curricula development, quality and accreditation
  3. Teacher training
  4. Engineering (training, professional and leadership development, meeting manpower and infrastructural needs)
  5. Medicine (training, professional and leadership development, meeting manpower and health infrastructure)
  6. Research knowledge and society (natural, human and social science)
  7. Women: leadership and Employment
  8. Distance learning and new technologies

Despite international endeavours in the reconstruction of Iraqi education system, the rehabilitation of the institutional and human capacity of Iraqi universities continues to be dramatically under-financed.

Urgent needs include the enhancement of the capacity of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in policy, planning and management of the higher education system and the necessary support to Iraqi teachers and researchers to re-establish contact with the academic world community.

UNESCO’s projects in higher education, listed on the right, provide more information about the progress UNESCO has made to date in helping revitalize and rehabilitate the higher education system.

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