(Rome, 12 March) Ten Iraqi Universities, the participation of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Iraq, the collaboration of EU universities from Portugal (Evora University), Turkey (Aydin Istanbul University) and Italy (Bologna University) with the participation of UNIMED under the coordination of Siena University: the big challenge of reforming the university governance system in Iraq as one of the biggest and most complex Arab country in the MENA region.

This has been the INsPIRE kick-off meeting held in Siena from 19 to 21 February 2019. The opening ceremony of the project has been attended by the representatives of several Italian and Iraqi institutions plus the presence of the Iraqi ambassador in Italy His excellency Mr. Bamarni. All the ten Iraqi Universities, (from Mosul, to Baghad to Basrah plus several others) have participated and Mr. Al Rubaiey, representative of the Iraqi MOHER, intervened by stressing not only the enthusiastic engagement of its institution in INsPIRE, but also how crucial this project is felt for the future of the Iraqi higher education system.

During the two days the activities of the consortium were mainly focused on describing the current Iraqi higher education context and its consequential needs thorough a comprehensive desk research on the relevant literature on the topic. All Iraqi partners emphasize the tricky context in which their higher education institutions (HEIs) conduct their activities at the moment. Not only the damage of the infrastructures caused by decades of wars, but also the environmental issues affecting some parts of the country (e.g., the water salinity problem in the Basrah region) undermine Iraqi HEIs potential.

Moreover, during the workshop session, all the Universities highlighted a constrained decisional autonomy allowed to Iraqi HEIs, thing that goes hand in hand with a burdened discretion over the ability to obtain and spend resources for their activities. Therefore, even though participants may be willing to build their own strategies and the related action plans, they do not feel to be in the conditions to do so at the moment. For this reason, their first concern is a change in the regulatory framework. A special focus on Capacity building and management of human resources are two other two main points that have been discussed among universities.

INsPIRE has to be considered only the first step in a more comprehensive framework of cooperation between UNIMED and Iraq. The latter is continuously looking at Europe as a model to transfer and implement for the benefit of local HE system starting, for example, in taking inspiration by adopting the ECTS system as a first step towards the Bologna process.

To know more on the Kick-off meeting, please download the programme.

To see the Photogallery of the event, please click here.

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