On 5 May Baghdad's Al-Mansour University College became the first in Iraq to reopen its doors. Less than a fortnight later, classes for some 200,000 students at more than 40 public universities and colleges nominally resumed.
But — as Andrew Lawler describes in this article — these are the exceptions among Iraq's once-proud university system, already weakened by more than a decade of economic sanctions, brain drain, and political oppression. Scores of academic buildings around the country were bombed, looted, and burned during the US invasion. And science departments were especially hard hit.
The path to recovery will be arduous; money is scarce, security is tenuous, and dozens of top administrators have been fired because of ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. US officials are promising a clean sweep to put the universities on firmer footing. But all sides agree that this won't be achieved without large doses of outside help and domestic tranquillity.
Reference: Science 300, 1490 (2003)