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December 28, 2021

Bologna Process: A new higher education system for Iraq

During the Bologna Process conference in Baghdad, we initiated the start of a new higher education system in Iraq. Alongside our partners from the Ministry of Higher Education of Iraq and the Kurdistan region of Iraq (KR-I), representatives from Iraqi universities, the Dutch embassy, the EU Commission and UN, the new system will raise standards of education.

Higher education systems are essential for the development of all sectors of a country’s economy. In Iraq, it is essential to raise the standards of education and better match academia to the needs of the labour market. In this conference different dimensions of updating and developing tertiary systems in Iraqi universities were explored.

The student has to be given a major role in this enhancement process. The Bologna Process is an intergovernmental higher education reform process that, to date, includes 49 European countries and a number of European organisations. The Bologna process provides a platform for students to engage in the development of their studies.

“Working on the Bologna process means working actively on improving the education system while putting the student in the center of the story. We believe the students have to be given a major role in contributing to the fundamental changes and future of their community and country”, says Firas Deeb, Programme Manager at SPARK in Iraq.

During our first session, Dr. E. Burak Arıkan, a leader in higher education transformation, talked about the importance of the Bologna Process, quality assurance, recognition of diplomas and student-centred learning. He also mentioned the transformative power of the Bologna Process through the Turkish experience in which he was actively involved in.

“I personally believe that the Bologna Process will entirely change the shape of the higher education system in Iraq, for the positive, and for the good of the students, the academics, the ministry and for the entire Iraqi nation.”

Dr. E. Burak Arıkan, a leader in higher education transformation © 2021, SPARK

During the online panel, ‘Bologna Process and Internationalisation: the European Perspective’, Lucie Trojanova, the Policy Officer at the European Commission explained how the EU supports the Bologna Process, as it calls for:

  • An inclusive and innovative approach to learning and teaching
  • Integrated transnational cooperation in higher education, research, and innovation
  • Securing a sustainable future through higher education
Lucie Trojanova, Policy Officer at European Commission discusses the Bologna Process © 2021, SPARK

Participants gathered in groups to debate the planning and implementing the process, the barriers, and suggestions for turning it more practical. They also presented many suggestions that help implement Bologna Process easier, better proceeding, and greater outcomes, including:

  • Promoting Bologna Process
  • Preparing staff through training and skill improving courses
  • Managing an online system 
  • Creating Bologna Process higher committee and Bologna network on a national base
  • Bologna pilot project
  • Autonomy to the universities
  • Preparing bologna unites for MHE and Universities
  • Partnership with EU universities and road map for the process from partnerships and consultations
  • Clear commitment from policymakers to adopt Bologna Process
  • Establishment of a national qualification framework
  • New pedagogy for the lecturers including (CBE, ICT, SCL, INNO)
  • Releasing new policies and regulations
  • Learning from the experience of other universities, countries, and stakeholders
  • Ministry support for the resources and budget for implementing the process
Representatives from federal Iraq and Kurdistan Region of Iraq ministries join together on the Bologna Process discussions © 2021, SPARK
Representatives from federal Iraq and Kurdistan Region of Iraq ministries join together on the Bologna Process discussions © 2021, SPARK
Representatives from federal Iraq and Kurdistan Region of Iraq ministries join together on the Bologna Process discussions © 2021, SPARK

From the second day of the workshop, there was a panel discussion, with the participation of the four panelists (Dr. Ihab, Dr. Mohammed Hussein, Prof. Dr. Burak, Gonca McDaniel) to discuss the process thoroughly. Open discussion and interactive session with all university representatives about the furthering of higher education of Iraq.

The panelists from both Ministries of Higher Education of federal Iraq and KR-I were involved in positive dialogue with the audiences and heard important feedback about the new planned policies, the universities’ autonomy, a collaboration between KR-I and Baghdad ministries, internalisation and the integration of the Bologna Process in Iraq.

Dr. Ihab, Dr. Mohammed Hussein, Prof. Dr. Burak, Gonca McDaniel © 2021, SPARK

SPARK, the Dutch Foreign Affairs Office and the European Commission strongly stated their support for the implementation of the Bologna process in Iraq. The future of the project lies in the decision that will be taken by the Iraqi Ministry. Once that decision is taken, all stakeholders of the project are ready to start the project.