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  • Iraq puts forward ambitious higher education plan


Iraqi officials have proposed a five-year, US$1 billion higher education plan to increase the science and technology workforce and promote science-based sustainable development.

The Iraqi Education Initiative, which would run from 2009–2013, was announced by Zuhair A. G. Humadi, senior advisor to Iraq's vice president Adil Abdul Mahdi, at the NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference last month (25–30 May) in Washington DC, United States.

Under the plan, which will be financed by revenue generated by Iraq's oil reserves, university infrastructure will be rebuilt, including new laboratories and establishing Internet connections.

Over the next five years, the plan would see 10,000 students sent abroad each year on full scholarships to earn two-year technical degrees as well as Bachelor's, Master's and doctoral degrees from world class universities in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The degrees would be in a variety of fields including engineering, health, science and technology — to increase the scientific capacity of the country — and education.

As a condition of the scholarship the students must either return to Iraq after completing their degree or repay the government.

The plan was first proposed to Iraq's parliament on 11 May by prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and is awaiting approval following parliamentary voting in the next three months. Upon final approval, an action plan will be prepared.

Fawzi Al Naima, former dean of the College of Engineering at Nahrain University in Baghdad, Iraq, told SciDev.Net the plan is "essential to put the higher education system in Iraq back on the right track, as it is in desperate need of rehabilitation of the existing universities and the building of new universities".

Al Naima, who is now working in the Faculty of Telecommunication and Information Engineering at the University of Engineering and Technology Taxila in Pakistan, adds that the initiative should include plans to encourage university professors who have been forced to leave the country to return.
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