With its professional academic status and motivated students, Higher Education in Iraq survived war turmoil and thirteen years of international sanctions mainly because it was well-settled and regulated under legislation Number 40, issued on March 22 1988.
Right after the 2003 American invasion and occupation of the country, and in coordination with the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Iraqi Survey Group (ISG) started its search for an allegedly “secret” WMD program. They interviewed (and sometimes detained) Iraqi scientists and academics.
The occupation authority considered most pre-war research capabilities were military-based. That wasn’t an accurate evaluation; almost all Higher Education research was civilian.
During the years of isolation, scientists and academics developed innovative techniques and acquired skilled alternative procedures to technical challenges. Unfortunately, such achievements were lost after the war under segregational rules like the De-Baathification act and sectarian practices that included Higher Education.
In such a sphere, the USG allocated funds for what it called Iraq Science Redirection. Most of the funded programs were concentrated on areas of education related to political change rather than Science and Technology.
However, the conduct of the post-war rebuilding plans was below the planners’ expectations, probably due to insecurity, incompetent leadership, and unsustained funding.
ترجع بداية التعليم العالي في العراق الى عام 1908 حين تاسست كلية القانون في بغداد وتأسست بعدها الكلية الطبية الملكية العراقية في 1927 تلاها كليات مختلفه أخرى بشكل منفرد دُمجت ببطء تحت اسم جامعة بغداد في عام 1957 وكانت نواة لوزارة التعليم العالي والبحث العلمي، التي انفصلت عن وزارة التربية والتعليم في عام 1970.
في الثاني من آب (أغسطس) عام 1990″ العراق غزا الكويت” ورداً على ذلك، فرض مجلس الأمن التابع للأمم المتحدة عليه عقوبات غير مسبوقه وكان قرار الأمم المتحدة رقم 661 الصادر في 6 أب 1990 هو الأسرع والأول من بين هذه الإجراءات العقابية حيث حظر كافة الواردات والصادرات مع هامش ضيق جداً من الإعفاءات للأغذية والأدوية.
كان قطاع التعليم من بين ضحايا الحصار الدَوليّ الشامل الذي استمر لمدة ثلاثة عشر عاماً وانتهى بغزو مشابه : “أمريكا غزت العراق” ولم يردّ مجلس الأمن هذه المرّة!
تصف هذه الدراسه هيكل الوزارة والجامعات العراقية وأنشطتها خلال فترة الحصار الدَولي وبعد الغزو والاحتلال الأمريكي عام 2003 مباشرة.
Organisational Structure 4
Academic Regulations 5
Post-War impacts 6
The scope of Higher Education 9
The Scientific Research Commission (SRC) 12
A lost opportunity 16
Information Resources 17
Interaction with other sectors 21
Special Programs 22
Scientific competitions 23
Academic dilemmas 25
International engagement 26
Iraq’s modern Higher Education sector dates back to 1908 when a college of Law was established in Baghdad, followed by several individual colleges, gradually merged into the University of Baghdad in 1957. It was the core of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, which split from the Ministry of Education in 1970.
On August 2, 1990, “Iraq invaded Kuwait“. In response, the United Nations Security Council moved to unprecedented scope and severity of sanctions imposed on the country. The U.N. Resolution 661 on August 6, 1990, was the fastest and the first of these measures, prohibiting all imports and all exports with Iraq, with only the narrowest exemptions for food and medicine.
The education sector was among the victims of the sanctions. The embargo continued for thirteen years and ended with “America invaded Iraq”!
This article describes the structure, activities, and nature of coordination of the Iraq Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research during the sanctions and immediately after the 2003 American invasion.
The Ministry of Higher Education is Iraq’s governing body of tertiary education and scientific Research. It is predominantly regulated by Legislation Number 40, issued by the Iraqi ruling authority on March 1988; most of its proceedings are still active. Chapter one of the Legislation describes the aims and duties of the
Ministry and includes 30 regulating articles, the third of which covers the overall planning, implementation, supervising and coordinating the plans of the University. The fourth article describes theorganization of the Ministry offices, which were subjected to minorchanges in later years.
In addition to the core Department of Administration and Finance,there were four other general directorates at the Ministry headquarters; Department of Planning and Studies, Research and Development, Supervision and Scientific Evaluation, and Scholarships and Cultural Affairs.
After the 2003 war, the office of Integrity Commissioner was added. Still, three positions for Ministers’ deputies were created to fulfil the new sectarian demands. There were 19 public Universities under the umbrella of thethe Ministry of Higher Education in 2003, including Eight University-level institutions in the capital, Baghdad. These are: the University of Baghdad, Al-Mustansiryia University, University of Technology, the Islamic University, Technical Education Commission, the Iraqi Medical Board, Commission for Computers and Information Technology, and Saddam University (was attached to the presidency office, renamed after the war Al-Nahrain University under the Ministry). There were also five in the Kurdistan autonomous region in the north. However, the number expanded after the war to 35 public and 45 private universities.
Chapter Two of the Legislation also contained articles describing the general organizational structure of the universities. Each is directed by a president and composed of colleges, institutes and research centres. Colleges and institutes are led by deans and usually comprise several Departments.
The University Council is the highest authority headed by the president. It comprises the deans of the colleges, whereas the College Council is run by the dean and comprises the heads of the scientific Departments.
The thirty articles in chapter Two detailed the University personnel’s regulations, code of conduct, and administrational duties.
Chapter 3 is dedicated to the “Technical Education Commission”. It comprises institutions that award the Diploma degree (two years of study after high school). Technical Colleges were later established, which award BSc degrees to high school graduates after four years of study. Four regional Technical Universities later (in 2014) replaced the Technical Education Commission.
Earlier regulatory legislation issued on November 10, 1976, described the University academics and staff comprehensively.
The entry-level position on academic staff is the position of Assistant Lecturer, with a qualification of an MSc degree.
The minimum requirement for a Lecturer position is a PhD degree or MSc plus three years of academic experience, including at least two scientific publications.
The Lecturer may be promoted to Assistant Professor after four years of academic performance, with a minimum of three scientific publications.
Requirements for a full professorship are another five to six years of academic duties plus publications, three of which should be evaluated as original work.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, Iraq sent thousands of students for PhD and MSc degrees abroad, mainly to the U.S., U.K., and Europe, supporting their education through governmental scholarships and paid study leaves. The plan proved to be an excellent future investment, notably two decades later when the international sanctions were imposed. Although many Western-educated academics left the country during the challenging sanction period, thousands stayed, carried on their duties, and made available their expertise to survive the scientific restrictions.
Also, during the 1970s, another admirable plan for building youth resources called The Eradication of Illiteracy, supervised by the Supreme Council of the National Campaign for Compulsory Literacy of Iraq took place. The project won the UNESCO Nadezhda Krupskaya literacy prize in 1979. The program paved the way for continuous learning up to Higher Education. Sadly, the literacy rate declined during the sanctions and the next war. Based on data published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics in 2016, the youth Illiteracy rate reached about 18% of the population between the ages of 15 to 24 years.
Despite the challenging situations before the war, the Iraqi Youth and their mentors were resilient enough to survive, but the war aggression led to sectarianism, a process that, once begun, generated many complicated problems.
Immediately after the cessation of the military operations and the start of the occupation by America and its allies in April 2003, wide-scale looting plagued the country. The new occupiers allowed it to distract the expected resistance or at least postpone it. That worked as it did in the previous two occupations by the British (in 1917 and 1941).
Like all public divisions and departments, Higher Education institutions suffered extensive lootings that destroyed their infrastructure.
Instead of upgrading the scientific capabilities as was hoped, restoring what had been looted or destroyed was the priority to resume education.
Restoration was partially possible with the extraordinary efforts of academics, staff, and students. The crippled Higher Education slowly went through its healing process.
A draft plan (of unknown source) published in the Al-Sabah public newspaper on 25/3/2006 proposed a short and long-term target to upgrade Higher Education, presumably without the new trend of political interferences.
The plan emphasized the importance of regulating the Higher Education environment to implement and prioritize roads to overcome all challenges. It refers to societal damage, lost development opportunities, and literacy deterioration.
The plan considers the importance of establishing a legal base that maintains Iraq’s educational heritage and the rapid changes Iraqi society faces.
It is essential to secure the legal independence of public and private Higher Education institutions to play a creative role. Granting legal and practical autonomous administration would also ensure freedom of thought and University independence in matters of responsibilities and expenses.
Higher Education must be more responsive to recent economic and cultural differences. It should support civil society principles, protect the environment, and improve public health and nutrition.
The plan document of apparently foreign origin refers to developing civilian capabilities as if only military ones existed! This was suspect, or at least misleading.
Also, as if it wasn’t usual practice before the war, the document calls upon the Higher Education system to be a resource for and easily accessible by the government and other institutions to obtain documented information needed by decision-makers
It envisioned a system ensuring free discussion and criticism of local, national and international issues.
The published plan took into consideration the relevance of the Higher Education response to national objectives. Academics would be involved. It was also essential to train middle-ranking professionals to continually expand their knowledge and acquire new skills to support the needs of the Iraqi economy. Successful employment had to be creative. For that to happen, there needed to be a solid professional relationship and continuous interaction with society at large, and to pass laws to make the plan effective.
The deployment of cultural education should not be based only on funding issues, or quantitative aspects, or figures, but should include and deepen the principles of decentralization, independence and academic freedom.
The policy must find its way through competing forces such as:
- Modernization versus preservation of cultural heritage,
- Moving toward international universities versus commitment to national ones,
- Individual development versus social equality,
- Searching for knowledge as merit in return for direct social service,
- Offering general skills versus specialized skills,
- Responding to the current job system versus regulation of the work environment,
- Offering comprehensive versus specialized training.
Despite the difficulty in solving these issues, the plan prefers using the term Global Higher Education as an umbrella for the programs and activities characterized by their holistic nature.
Other factors to take into consideration are exchanges among students and staff, foreign languages, international, joint and comparative studies, etc.
Globalization implies an increased need for higher education. Curricula must be reformed to include human rights, democracy and the environment. This is a Western feature reflected in the document.
The scope of Higher Education
Part one of the plan is based on a series of questions to define its scope:
- Institutional Building [Syllabuses]?
-What will Higher Education encompass?
-Who will decide the basic structure of Higher Education?
-What type of institutions will be under its flag?
-What values will govern the syllabuses and changes applied to them?
-What values will govern the regulation of educational bodies and
fields of specialisation?
-What is the required balance between governmental authority
and the academic institutions?
-What are the principles on which the administration will be decided at the national level?
-How will the shape of the administration and leadership be
designed at the institutional level?
-What will be the administration and structure of the research
- Regulation, attraction and training of scientific professionals
-Who will be in charge of creating, transforming and administering
jobs at the research centres?
-How to plan the attraction of scientific professionals
-How will it be possible to administer environmental improvement for the staff?
-How will the staff be promoted and evaluated?
-How will the qualifications and competency of professionals be
-How will the training and evaluation be conducted for administrative and technical staff?
- Admissions and student support
-What will be the social and economic impact on Higher Education?
– What is the best selection method for the students and its value?
-What kind of services are needed for the students?
– What is required to help students focus on their studies?
- Quality of Education
-What will be the relationship between teaching and research?
-What will be the future of the teaching programs?
-What will be the credit hours system and evaluation?
-What are the required qualifications to obtain a degree, and how
will the concept of training programs be developed?
-How will a system for quality assurance and scientific recognition
-What will be the principles of granting licenses to foreign
-What are the requirements for buildings, equipment, dormitories,
and sports facilities?
-What are the design and safety requirements for the buildings?
-How will an effective maintenance system be established?
- Funding of Higher Education
Who will fund Iraqi Higher Education? Can the current status be reformed? How can allocation funding be improved?
Part two of the plan details projects that require related actions, such as reconstructing the destroyed buildings, including the Ministry’s headquarters, personnel development, equipment maintenance, library and technical support etc.
It is essential to ensure the re-adoption of the University Law and establish an evaluation centre. It also encourages the expansion of student admissions, scholarship programs, university twinning, Iraqi Expatriate involvement, coordination with education systems in regional countries and establishing an inter-universities communication system.
The plan ended without considering what already existed and what had been achieved during the past decades. It did not identify strong and weak aspects to make the necessary modifications. Its vision was to start a new Ministry again, whereas Legislation Number 40, issued in 1988, effectively adopted most of the post-war plan recommendations.
The research half of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research’s activity, i.e. the Research, which was largely ignored in the post-war plan, was well regulated by the pre-war guiding principles. The latest of these guidelines was the Iraq Council of Minister’s legislation No. 1/ 1995 of Scientific Research Centers in the Ministry of Higher Education (issued on 19/3/1995).
The Scientific Research Commission (SRC)
In 1989 the well-organised Scientific Research “Council” was unfairly dissolved by the government. It was attached to the Council of Ministers as an autonomous entity, and its president held a ministerial position, which gave the establishment the needed authority to implement its programs.
There were eight centres of excellence attached to the “Council“:
- Biological Research Centre
- Agricultural and Water Resources Centre
- Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology Research Centre
- Parapsychology Research Centre
- Solar Energy Research Centre
- Astronomy Research Centre
- Building and Construction Research Centre
- Electronics and Artificial Intelligence
The location of the “Council” in the Al-Jadiriya suburb next to Baghdad University’s main compound facilitated scientific cooperation between the two organisations.
However, following the dissolution of the “Council“, its high-calibre scientists either retired or transferred to universities and the Military Industrialisation Commission (MIC).
Some of the centres were wholly taken over by the MIC.
Alternatively, Iraqi universities had individual research centres. The 1995 legislation established the Scientific Research “Commission” (SRC) within the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research to regulate and coordinate these centres.
The SRC assembled a network with the research centres (R.C.) and research units (R.U.) in all Iraqi universities and has an advisory role on scientific plans, capabilities, and scientists’ data.
SRC Act requires that it has the final recommendation to the Minister of Higher Education on establishing new centres and dissolving or merging existing ones. It reviews the annual research plans and authorizes or modifies them.
The Research Centres (R.C.) are attached to the president of the University for administrative purposes but are supervised by SRC from a technical point of view.
The Research Units (R.U.) within some colleges in a university are attached to the dean of the college but also supervised by the SRC. Scientific and administrational requirements for establishing an R.U. are less than those for R.C., e.g., the number of researchers, space, pieces of equipment, library, building etc.
Before the 2003 war, the SRC organised four annual conferences where each of the 75 centres and units it supervises presented its scientific activity.
The two tables below (in Arabic) show the distribution of the centres and units in all Iraqi universities, covering science and humanities consecutively.
SRC could obtain a reasonable fund in 2002 from the Ministry of Planning to cover the research plans.
After the war, the new ministry revived the SRC and tried to initiate its activity. It was not easy, for its archive was burned, and it had to collect documents from members of the Steering Committee.
The other problem was that the new administrations of the universities were unfamiliar with the organizational regulation of the Research Centres. That led to the wrong decision to abolish some.
The new ministry didn’t fully appreciate the importance of R.C.s and R.US and perceived them as of secondary importance.
However, the research fund initiated in 2002 was pursued and revived. The Ministry established a joint committee between its Department of Research and Development (DRD) and the SRC. The committee was called Scientific Research Fund Committee (SRFC). It established guidelines and called for research proposals through all universities.
The allocated fund by the Ministry of Planning was 3.5 billion Iraqi dinars (I.D.) over three years (equal to approximately $3 Million). The SRFC received hundreds of proposals in different scientific, humanities and social studies from university researchers.
The following numbers of proposals were contracted after evaluation to ensure rapid distribution of the small funds:
In the year 2004: 291 contracts worth 200 million I.D.
In the year 2005: 93 contracts (340 million I.D.)
In the year 2006: 15 contracts (125 million I.D.)
Contracts were signed by the Principal Investigator (PI) and the DRD.
The relatively small budgets enabled much wider distribution. Some projects aimed to achieve research results by acquiring laboratory equipment, while others were in field studies and data collection. Both were encouraged by the SRFC, and more than 150 small projects were completed by mid-2006.
The SRC steering has also established a subcommittee for International Research Cooperation, e.g., visiting scholars and joint research, but was not supported to take an active role.
A lost opportunity
During 13 years of Iraq’s isolation and international sanctions, Iraqi scientists and academics developed innovative techniques and acquired skilled alternative procedures to technical challenges.
After the war, such experiences were lost under segregational rules like the De-Baathification act and sectarian practices that included higher education.
The promised international support was feeble. Funders and investors were reluctant to invest in Iraq for security reasons.
On the other hand, many highly experienced MIC scientists were deprived of their careers because of the MIC closing. They could have strengthened R.C.s’ research capabilities and transferred their research experience to the newly appointed young graduates. MIC scientists could have been an excellent asset for the research centres should the post-occupation authority make the crucial decision. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
The occupation authority considered all past MIC activities militarily-based because of the name of MIC (Military Industrialization Commission), and that wasn’t a correct assessment.
During the 1980s, the Scientific Research Council initiated an ambitious “Electronics and Artificial Intelligence Center”, but it was terminated with the closing of the SRC in November 1989!
A stimulating experience in this field was the founding in the 1990s of “Al-Kudis school for computers” as an institute for computer-skilled children and young people. After the war, this institute disappeared because it was attached to the pre-war presidency office.
In 2002, the government officially transformed the “National Centre for Computers” ) founded in 1972, upgraded and linked to the High Council of Planning in 1990) into a “Commission for Computers and Information Technology-ICCI“.
The government attached the Commission to the Ministry of Higher Education to lead computer education and granted it a university administrational level to include the “Informatics institute for postgraduate studies“.
However, the ICCI commission was suspended after the war for no apparent reason. It was re-activated in late 2005 and then renamed “University of Information Technology and Communications” in 2014.
On the other hand, the Computer Science Departments in the universities suffered, like all scientific specialities, from isolation during the long years of the international embargo. They were also challenged by basic requirements such as electricity and Internet service availability. Education in these departments was particularly affected by the lack of constant and skilled educators.
The post-war period witnessed cautious efforts for progress through cooperative agreements with international universities, e.g., in Canada and Korea. It opened a small window for e-learning.
In May 2006, public and private partnerships enabled the “Iraqi Virtual Science Library-IVSL” launch.
The project started as a partnership between the US State and Defense Departments and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
The organizers hoped that the Iraqi universities would make the Internet-based library available to 80 per cent of Iraq’s scientists and university students.
With a grant of roughly $170,000, the project assembled a library collection of 17,000 discounted titles from leading publishers such as Springer and Elsevier (one-year licences). Access to a significant research database was presumably arranged. CRDF-Global implemented the project; Sun Microsystems Inc. provided computer servers and training for transferring the IVSL from its USG host server to one hopefully overseen by Iraqis.
However, making use of the project was challenged by the basic requirements of electricity, the Internet and a lack of maintenance funds.
As for textbooks, the country relied in the past on internally authored and translated ones to compensate for the permanent shortage caused by wars and international sanctions.
The authored or translated Arabic textbooks were in line with the Arabization concept of education (except medical) at the tertiary level.
With university libraries unable to subscribe to journals or import publications, colleges and institutes used to print specialized journals for publication of their research results.
After the war, projects like the IVSL and the “resources for librarians in developing countries databases” were supposed to be conducive to progress, but the language barrier was another challenge.
There were sporadic accomplishments. Among these was a project to upgrade the Law Library at the University of Baghdad. The project was funded by USAID and supported by the “International Human Rights Law Institute-IHRLI” at DePaul University. It focused on rebuilding legal education in the country.
Similarly, the “Journal for Accounting” project (produced by the College of Administration and Economy at the University of Baghdad) was revived by the USAID “Izdihar project”.
Supporting this particular journal was part of the USG strategy to reconnect Iraq to the global market. Improvement in accounting standards is a requirement for accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
To attract Iraqi (and Arab) scientists who chose to stay abroad in the past, the then Revolutionary Command Council issued Legislation No. (154) of 1974. It was known as the ” Competencies law”, a law for the welfare of skilled personnel with high qualification degrees (PhD, MSc) outside the country. Those working in public institutions inside the country were also included. The government put through this act a package of generous benefits that encouraged many scientists and academics to return.
Since the early 1970s, Iraq has implemented a vigorous program of scholarships and study leaves, sending thousands to study abroad, mainly for PhD degrees.
After spending three to five years of study, the qualified graduates returned to the country from the US, England, France and other Western countries.
Fellowships and scholarship programs to eastern Europe, including the former Soviet Union, were similarly active.
These scientific opportunities ceased in mid-1982 because of the deteriorating situation in the war with Iran. However, it resumed at a lower rate in mid-1986.
The planned program resulted in an asset of tens of thousands of highly educated Iraqis for higher education and scientific research. Also, it gave solid backing to industrialization and other advances.
The project proved a good investment later in the 1990s when scientific sanctions were one of the international restriction tools, i.e. scholarships abroad were no longer available.
Despite many university staff having left the country for sanction-related economic reasons, the reserve of human capital was enough to carry on and carefully expand university education.
The national plan for internal MSc and PhD programs was also activated to sustain the educators’ numbers and adopt emerging knowledge such as Laser Physics, Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. That ensured the continuity of specialized education though at lesser excellence due to a shortage of scientific supplies, including equipment, materials and journals.
The 2003 war had a devastating effect on the already challenged education sector. Many experienced scholars left the country because their situation was insecure, and because of the implementation of the “De–Ba’athification” Act. Thousands of former ruling Ba’ath party members, including university academics, were sacked from public positions. Junior academics initially covered the resulting vacancies.
In 2006 the government announced scholarships to compensate for the shortage and the need for qualified Western-trained scientists. Setbacks were inevitable, but the measure was necessary.
The Ministry of Higher Education also established a part-time training program abroad for internally enrolled PhD students, who were thus exposed to the latest scientific advances.
Interaction with other sectors
In response to the sanctions imposed on Iraq by the U.N. Resolution 661 on August 6, 1990, which included a science boycott, the University of Baghdad adopted a “producer University” concept.
It engaged the University in know-how activities and presented graduate research products to the industry as end products, ready-for-contract, upscaling or pioneer productions.
Other Iraqi universities followed the example.
University interaction with society was also encouraged by the founding of specialized consultancy bureaus in engineering and other subjects. The practice widened the academic interface and brought extra income to the University and the academics themselves.
They could also work in a regulated partnership with other public establishments during the summer holidays, offering their experience in solving production problems or modifying existing systems. Many academics participated in the worthwhile scheme.
Additionally, some universities organized field services for the society during the summer holiday. For example, Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine students toured villages and offered their services, supervised by senior academics.
The Ministry of Higher Education used to formulate students’ admission plans based on a five-year national strategy provided by the Ministry of Planning, specifying the numbers and type of university graduates.
Coordination of Higher Education at the postgraduate level with other public departments was bilateral. For example, the health sector was set through the “Iraqi Medical Board” (The Commission for Medical Specialties). The board is attached to the Ministry of Higher Education, but it conducts its policy in response to the Ministry of Health’s need for specialists.
Health senior specialists also teach medical students at all levels, whereas University medical staff have their hospital beds to supervise.
Cooperation with the Ministry of Education is expressed in curricula revisions for secondary schools. Similar collaborations existed with Agriculture, Industry and other sectors.
The Universities managed their relationships with the public sector through a “Mechanism of Cooperation” that included the academics’ summer attachment, Joint Research and graduate supervision projects, etc. In contrast, with the private sector, it was through the “scientific bureaus” that a mutual contract was signed to accomplish a particular task. After the 2003 war, these activities stopped.
In 1995, the Ministry of Higher Education introduced a separate fund called the “drug project” with a target of Research and development of 1,000 medicinal drugs. These were under sanction-restricted importation. Many scientists in the University biomedical Departments energetically went into know-how and drug formulation contracts. Several proposals were successfully adopted by the State Company of Drugs Manufacturing (SDI) in Samara town (north of Baghdad).
A parallel initiative involving the Universities was the Insecticides project, also adopted by SDI company, whereas a third project focused on veterinary drugs.
The University conducted a fourth particular program, the Diagnostic Kits project, in collaboration with the Ministry of Industry centres.
The three years planned duration was extended an extra year and accomplished through a suitable follow-up mechanism.
In addition to the end products, these projects rebooted the university laboratories involved.
The fund for scientific Research was revitalized after the war, adding a planned one named the Medicinal Plants and Herbal Drugs project managed by the Department of Research and Development and the SRC.
Exploring the national plants, animals, and microbial genetic resources of potential value, was expected to bring foreign investment, but that didn’t happen. However, with the loose post-war control, many biological resources were subject to Bio-piracy.
The Ministry of Higher Education actively participated in the national Science competition schemes. These were purposeful activities to promote the productivity of professionals, scientists and academics during the international inaccessibility times.
Among these schemes was the one under the national “Scientists’ Patronages Legislation”. It was managed by a presidential politico-scientific committee to select the country’s top scientists in different fields of knowledge. The chosen scientists enjoyed special rewards and privileges for a period of four years. There were two four-year awards before they stopped in 2003.
Another promotion scheme was called the “Scientific Cadre Sponsorships.” It differed in that it selected the top 10 of each specialty, e.g. top 10 biologists, chemists, etc. Every Ministry yearly nominated its leading scientists or professionals; winners were financially rewarded.
The Ministry of Higher Education used to celebrate the national “Science Day”, which was organized on January 17 every year. It was another venue to promote scientific competition between academics, highlighting their annual outcome of publications, students’ supervision, patents etc. The winners received medals and prizes.
These inspiring programs stopped with the 2003 war.
Although the academic department is the basic unit in education and research, its scientific affairs must be approved by the College’s council and dean and possibly further up the system. It is an established bureaucratic procedure that may hinder novel or creative decisions like transferring talented MSc students directly to PhD projects or the unconditional admission of experienced professionals into the graduate program.
Avoiding inflexibility and the need for budgets without relying on deans’ financial decisions is vital to deal with instant situations.
The lack of experienced leadership after the war was at the expense of developing a sound, documented scientific plan for the department and the College. They visioned it as a list of titles of the graduate research projects only.
The curricula, which are the responsibility of the senior academics, are rarely upgraded or modified in these departments. Except for rare attempts, most departments couldn’t develop or adopt branches of new knowledge despite the world’s interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary science progress.
A department, college, or university needs to pursue an area of science, be known for a particular specialty, and enjoy the reputation of being a centre of excellence or a national focal point. Departments with strong date palm studies, active oil research, or plant salt tolerance are just a few examples of recognition prospects.
Because of the insecure environment, many academics have lost their focus on scientific matters. A few became more interested in financial gain resulting from over-lecturing or more students to supervise.
Iraqi academics experienced several dilemmas after the 2003 war. The first was the questioning and even retention of scholars with certain specialties in the search for an allegedly secret WMD program.
The second dilemma started when hundreds of academics were laid off from their jobs under the De-Ba’athification process. They were sacked from the University because they were members of the Baath party that had dominated political and social life for 35 years.
The post-war authorities did not realize their required academic experience. After a year or so, some were re-instated under the pressure of need.
The third dilemma was the worst. It started with academics receiving anonymous threatening letters, followed by a campaign of assassinations. Hundreds of senior academics have been killed, and the total number could exceed a thousand. Whereas many were shot on the way to or leaving the University, some were kidnapped and then killed. The fear has shadowed their daily lives, and the world’s attention to this problem was drawn, asking for serious investigation.
The University of Madrid seminar in April 2006 was among the first international efforts in this respect. Leading scientific journals like Nature and Science Magazine took particular attention in 2006.
The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), in its Human Rights Report of May 1— June 30 2006, included a whole page about the assassination incidences during that period.
IRIN, another U.N. humanitarian news and information service, repeatedly reported that threatened academics were fleeing the country. Most of the well-known scientists looked for safe refuges abroad.
The Ministry of Higher Education knew that the problem was leading to evacuation but couldn’t protect them. It kept updating the list of the victims and calling upon involved armed militias to spare the lives of academics and doctors.
There were several websites monitored the situation and published updated lists of the killed scientists and doctors e.g.
There has been little support from international organizations for higher education after the war.
Among the few initiatives, the UNESCO Project entitled “International University Network for IRAQ-IUNI” aimed at technology transfer and consolidating training programs. The project hoped to create eight university networks in crucial disciplines like governance and management, Curricula development, quality and accreditation, new technologies and distance learning, etc.
A university network would link Iraqi universities with international institutions and gain access to resources such as courses, research papers, e-libraries, etc.
The planners hoped the project would also encourage “brain gain” by promoting cooperation of the diaspora with their counterparts in Iraqi universities.
Although the UNESCO initiative aroused the enthusiasm of many countries, these sponsored only small-scale workshops and short-term fellowships. The participation of the main partners of the American invasion, like England, Poland and others, was disappointingly low.
The Iraqis Rebuild Iraq (IRI) initiative was associated with the International Organization for Migration (IOM)-Iraq program. The project hired Iraqi academics abroad to work in one of the Iraqi universities for six months, extendable to one year. However, the few recruited academics went to the northern universities for safety reasons. The program was unsatisfactory and lasted for only one year (2006).
Right after the capital Baghdad’s fall (April 9, 2003), in coordination with the Coalition Provisional Authority-CPA (The Occupation Authority), the “Iraqi Survey Group-ISG” started its year-long search for the alleged WMD program. They interrogated many Iraqi scientists, including Higher education academics.
In such a sphere, the US government (USG) allocated funds for the so-called Iraq Science Redirection through their agencies.
1. Office of the special advisor on Non-Proliferation Coordination/ CPA. The project’s name is “Non-proliferation coordination with Iraqi ministries/WMD scientists’ retention / MIC WMD personnel redirection“. (The estimated budget was $102-113 million)
2. Bureau of Nonproliferation /Department of State. The project name is “Iraqi International Centre for Science and Industry-IICSI” (started with a budget of $2 million.)
3. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) /Department of Energy. The project name is “Engaging Iraqi Scientists”. (Started with $ 0.5 million).
On the other hand, the “United States Agency for International Development-USAID) allocated $20.7 million for programs “promoting Higher Education and Development-HEAD”.
The programs were:
1. Public Health and Sanitation: A Consortium of American Universities partnered with the University of Mosul in the north to improve the laboratories and strengthens the skills of public health and sanitation engineers.
2. The University of Hawaii partnered with the University of Mosul and the University of Duhok (further north) to strengthen the Academic Agricultural sector, develop human capacity, establish a Centre of excellence in agricultural Research, and co-sponsor the publication of the Iraqi Journal of Agricultural Science.
3. Developing Institutional, Academic, and Leadership in Iraqi Universities: The University of Oklahoma strengthen educational, administration, and leadership infrastructure in the University of Technology in Baghdad and five regional Universities equipped with computer laboratories, software and Education materials, and leadership workshops.
4. Archeology and Assyriology: The SUNY Stony Brook University support the archeology and cuneiform studies at the University of Mosul and Baghdad
5. Environmental Health: Stony Brook University, in partnership with the Universities of Mosul, Basrah and Al-Mustansaryiyah, tried to establish infrastructure in environmental health by founding Environmental Health centres.
6. Legal Education System Reform: The program is conducted by DePaul University. It offered four components:
–Rule of Law and Good Governance: Through seminars and establishing a research centre, the program would support dialogue on the Rule of Law among faculty and students.
–Curriculum Reform: Improving the existing curriculum through exposure to international developments in law.
–Practical Education: Using debatable courts, advocacy seminars,courtroom visits and externships.
–Library and Education Technology: Re-equipment of the library.
The USG also contracted other public departments and NGOs to conduct related activities during the first three years after the war.
Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) of the US Department of Energy (DoE) tried exploring the broader science and technology scope. It coordinated with Arab Science and Technology Foundation (ASTF) based in UAE and held three seminars on project development in Amman. The research proposals by Iraqi scientists were promising in their initial phases. Still, the outcome was disappointing because of the lack of response by international funders.
Sandia also organized Biosafety, Biosecurity and other environmental issues workshops through their Cooperative Monitoring Centre (CMC) in Jordan.
The US Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF-Global) organised several train-the-trainer courses and workshops in Jordan. It also managed the Iraq Virtual Science Library-IVSL project.
The foundation (CRDF) supported a small group of Iraqi academics to create the Forensic DNA initiative through a meeting in Petra, Jordan, in December 2006. The USG and U.K. government funded the project equipment and training and later hosted by Al-Nahrain University in 2009.
Most of these projects struggled to survive during the first three years after the war. They eventually collapsed like sand dunes, except perhaps for the semi-regular monitoring Biosecurity workshops organised by USG agencies to keep an eye on academics and scientists of particular expertise.
–Revolutionary Command Council Resolution No.40. issued on March 22 1988, and published in Alwaqai Aliraqiya ( The Official Gazette of the Republic of Iraq)Vol 31, 1988.
—-Revolutionary Command Council legislation: The Computer National Centre published in Alwaqai Aliraqiya No. 3338 on 17/12/1990 updating legislation No. 100 (1972)
–“Higher Education Plan” published (in Arabic) in the Iraqi Al-Sabah newspaper ( 25/3/2006)
— Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education, Department of Research and Development (DRD) and the SRC Publications.
–Iraq Council of Minister’s legislation No. 1/ 1995 of Scientific Research Centers in the Ministry of Higher Education in 19/3/1995
—-The BRUSSELS Tribunal was founded around the time of the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003: www.brusselstribunal.org/academiclist.htm
–USAID accomplishments in Iraq Mar 2003 to Mar 2004
–UNESCO’s action in Iraq since 2003: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000233704
–Joy Gordon “The Enduring Lessons of the Iraq Sanctions,” Middle East Report 294 (Spring 2020)---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- *Material should not be published in another periodical before at least one year has elapsed since publication in Whispering Dialogue. *أن لا يكون النص قد تم نشره في أي صحيفة أو موقع أليكتروني على الأقل (لمدة سنة) من تاريخ النشر. *All content © 2021 Whispering Dialogue or respective authors and publishers, and may not be used elsewhere without written permission. جميع الحقوق محفوظة للناشر الرسمي لدورية (هَمْس الحِوار) Whispering Dialogue ولا يجوز إعادة النشر في أيّة دورية أخرى دون أخذ الإذن من الناشر مع الشكر الجزيل