A Roadmap to Quality: MHE report

Reforming the System of Higher Education and Scientific Research in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Introduction

The Kurdistan Region has developed significantly since gaining autonomy from despotic regimes of the past. In just eighteen years, the Kurdish people were able to lay the foundation of a civilised nation despite extremely difficult circumstances compounded by a massive scarcity of resources.

In the past ten years, the Region has achieved remarkable progress in rebuilding the infrastructure while consolidating the foundations of governance. The prospect of further and faster development is now even greater due to the focus of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on investment. With the arrival of democracy in Iraq, the gates of Kurdistan are wide open to the opportunities of international free markets and foreign investments.

The Kurdistan Region will need to develop and achieve higher standards in the fields of science, technology and management. Investing in people and raising the human capacities of professional cadres is one of the top priorities of the successive governments of Kurdistan. There is no doubt that our universities and institutes of higher education and scientific research will play a major role in this task.

It is no secret that the Kurdistan Region has inherited a complicated and outdated higher educational system from the ‘old Iraq’. The higher education institutes were originally developed to suit a country with a closed market and a people with little hope of a high standard living or rapid educational advancement. In the new Iraq, reformation of higher education is now urgently required in order to harmonise the heretofore antiquated system to the needs of the Region for highly skilled professionals. The KRG has long been conscious of this fact and worked to reform the higher education system accordingly. The Fifth KRG Cabinet made a serious attempt to modernise university education through the establishment of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Erbil in order to reorganise the work of the higher education institutions. The Sixth KRG Cabinet has developed these institutions further continuing the modernisation process by supporting a holistic reform programme for higher education and scientific research. It is expected that the future KRG Cabinets will follow the same path of modernisation, and further improve the educational system. The Kurdistan Region has developed significantly since gaining autonomy from despotic regimes of the past. In just eighteen years, the Kurdish people were able to lay the foundation of a civilised nation despite extremely difficult circumstances compounded by a massive scarcity of resources.

In the past ten years, the Region has achieved remarkable progress in rebuilding the infrastructure while consolidating the foundations of governance. The prospect of further and faster development is now even greater due to the focus of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on investment. With the arrival of democracy in Iraq, the gates of Kurdistan are wide open to the opportunities of international free markets and foreign investments.

The Kurdistan Region will need to develop and achieve higher standards in the fields of science, technology and management. Investing in people and raising the human capacities of professional cadres is one of the top priorities of the successive governments of Kurdistan. There is no doubt that our universities and institutes of higher education and scientific research will play a major role in this task.

It is no secret that the Kurdistan Region has inherited a complicated and outdated higher educational system from the ‘old Iraq’. The higher education institutes were originally developed to suit a country with a closed market and a people with little hope of a high standard living or rapid educational advancement. In the new Iraq, reformation of higher education is now urgently required in order to harmonise the heretofore antiquated system to the needs of the Region for highly skilled professionals. The KRG has long been conscious of this fact and worked to reform the higher education system accordingly. The Fifth KRG Cabinet made a serious attempt to modernise university education through the establishment of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Erbil in order to reorganise the work of the higher education institutions. The Sixth KRG Cabinet has developed these institutions further continuing the modernisation process by supporting a holistic reform programme for higher education and scientific research. It is expected that the future KRG Cabinets will follow the same path of modernisation, and further improve the educational system.

New Strategy

In December, 2009, the KRG adopted a new vision and strategic plan that led to the design of a new road map for reformation of the higher education system (see Appendix P1). The mission is to achieve quality in higher education and scientific research.  

The report in hand is a summary of the strategic plan illustrating implementation on several fronts since the Sixth Cabinet took office in November, 2009. With enthusiastic support and encouragement of the President of the Region, Ministers of the Sixth Cabinet, and in particular the Prime Minister and his Deputy, these changes were initiated in earnest. The members of the Committee of Higher Education in the Parliament of the Kurdistan Region have supported the new strategy and followed up on events closely. Through the dedication and invaluable cooperation of the academic leaders, particularly members of Council of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, extraordinary milestones have been achieved.

No doubt, this strategy is just the beginning of a long process of development that would not be complete without the assistance and efforts of all the teaching staff, students and employees of the higher education institutions. The Ministry's hope is that future generations will continue on this path and achieve subsequent milestones in due course.  

The Purpose of the Report

The purpose of the report is to make the government’s vision and strategic plan for the reform of the higher education system clear to all stakeholders. The report offers clarity of the mission and the mechanisms of implementation.  It also outlines the role of the Ministry, the universities and the technical educational institutes in the implementation of the new strategy. The approach to reforming the system can be divided into the following aspects:  

  • Reforming teaching and establishing a modern Teaching Quality Assurance (TQA) system.
  • Reforming the research training of students and the research funding system to revitalise scientific research, promote innovation, and link our scientists with their counterparts in international research centres of excellence.
  • Building capacity by investing in people and infrastructure.  
  • Establishing an institutional licensing and accreditation system.
  • Reforming the management structure of the universities and the technical institutes to minimise waste and promote university independence. 
  • Reforming the administrative system to minimise bureaucracy and put students and staff first.
  • Protecting human rights, achieving social justice, and improving the learning and working environment.

The past academic year was one of system review and decision making while student and staff work remained unhampered. In the coming academic year, the reform process will be implemented and the changes will become tangible to everyone.  Additional system reforms are planned making it a decisive year for changing practice and preparing for the future.  The experience gained in the reform process will contribute to the knowledge needed to help the law-makers revise the Higher Education Law. 

Although key decisions regarding the principles of reform have been made and work has already begun to develop standards within the defined framework, it is important that the reform process be considered lively and dynamic. The process can be enhanced and enriched over time through constant dialogue. The strategic plan of reform is subject to continuous revision for the sake for improvement of the overall education system.

Throughout the process of reform, we would welcome constructive criticism from all interested or affected stakeholders.  Students, academics and other higher education employees are particularly encouraged to engage with the Ministry in healthy dialogue with the shared objective of serving the Region through continuous improvement. 

Professor Dlawer Abdul-Aziz Ala'Aldeen

Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research

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Please read/download the entire report as an eBook by clicking here