Edition 199 - November 2017

The current situation of higher education in Iraq

In October WES (World Education Services) released a report on the current situation of education in Iraq, with a focus on inbound and outbound international student mobility.  

According to the report, Iraq is one of the countries that have been more severely affected by war over the past decades. Its education system is paralysed by the dislocation of people and the destruction of infrastructures. According to UN, “some 84% of Iraq’s higher education institutions have been burnt, looted or destroyed” by 2005. Universities are constantly understaffed and senior lecturers are replaced with poorly trained junior faculty. At least 324 professors have been assassinated between 2005 and 2013. 

The situation is even more alarming if one considers that before the outbreak of the war Iraq used to have one of the most developed education systems in the Middle East. The drop in the government’s expenditure on education, the political instability, the war and the lack of high-quality study options resulted in a remarkable increase in the number of Iraqi outbound students: 428% between 2005 and 2016 (i.e. from 5,493 to 28,993 students, according to Unesco). 

Mobility is strongly dependent on scholarships and sponsorships provided by the government, NGOs, foreign governments and international organisations. From the source of funding depends the study destination of Iraqi students: self-funded students choose to go to neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and India, where the life costs are obviously cheaper than the UK or the US, which are chosen by scholarship-funded students. 

It comes as no surprise that the number of inbound students to Iraq is minimal: IIE only reported six US students pursuing studies in Iraq in 2013/2014 and zero students since then.

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