March 30, 2023

SPARK Announced as Key Partner in Iraq’s Higher Education Reform

In response to SPARK’s efforts over the past four years, the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MoHESR) has announced that the Bologna Process will be adopted by all universities throughout the country to improve higher education systems. The Supreme Supervisory Committee will work with SPARK to oversee the implementation process.

Prof. Dr. Nabil Kadhum Abdul-Saheb, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Iraq's speech at SPARK's Bologna Conference in Baghdad ©SPARK 2021

The ministerial order

The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Iraq (MoHESR) announced on 12 March 2023 a new ministerial order to implement the Bologna Process in all departments of colleges of science and engineering in Iraqi universities starting from the academic year 2023-2024.

The Bologna Process is an intergovernmental higher education reform process that is focused on creating labour-market-oriented educational systems. To date, it includes 49 European countries and a number of European organisations. At its core, the Bologna Process values the partnerships of local stakeholders, government-led policy processes and private-public partners. 

The new ministerial order invites all universities and academic institutions in federal Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to cooperate and work together with four reconstituting committees to improve the quality of higher education systems in the country.

“The MoHESR expects the Bologna Process to make education more open, improve Iraqi higher education’s reputation, raise learning standards, close the gap between education and the job market, and make it easier for students to move between universities and countries,” says Prof. Dr. Salah Hadi Al-Fatlawi, Head of the Scientific Supervision and Evaluation Authority at the MoHESR.

SPARK is delighted to work with the Supreme Supervisory Committee to guide public and private universities in reforming education in accordance with the Bologna educational process. 

Innovation Hubs within SPARK's Jobs and Perspectives Programme ©SPARK 2022

SPARK’s initiatives

SPARK kicked off the Bologna adaptation process in March of 2020. Through a national level conference in Baghdad, SPARK brought together stakeholders from the MoHESR, representatives from Iraqi universities and the Dutch embassy in Iraq, systemic change was set in motion within Iraqi higher education.

Bologna Process in Iraqi Higher Education Conference

Since then, SPARK’s Jobs & Perspectives Programme, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has been working closely with the MoHESRs of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region (KR-I) to adapt the Bologna principles to Iraqi higher education. Through 200 workshops, the programme has tailored six new curricula to match labour market needs and 30 Iraqi academics have received skills improvement courses and seminars adapted to the new principles.SPARK facilitated knowledge exchange visits for 30 professors from Iraqi universities to European universities, allowing educators to explore the practical aspects of the Bologna Process. 

“Thanks to the improved curricula and the definition of clear learning goals, the degrees awarded by Iraqi universities will be more valuable and widely recognised. This will lead to a more sustainable employability of graduates,” says SPARK higher education expert, Ceren Genc.

Prof. Dr. Salah Hadi Al-Fatlawi, Head of the Scientific Supervision and Evaluation Authority at the MoHESR, said that “the Bologna Process makes it possible to compare university degrees from different countries, lets countries adopt similar quality standards, and helps college graduates find jobs and compete globally.”

By introducing the Bologna Process within Iraq’s higher education systems, SPARK hopes to better align the education youth receive, with the real needs of the labour market. Currently, 35.4% of highly educated youth in Iraq are unemployed and face huge challenges in accessing jobs. The private sector often complains of a lack of qualified labour force within the country, preferring to hire outside the country. Bologna is founded on the principles of local participation, government-led policymaking, and stakeholder collaboration. Only through this holistic approach, can change happen.  


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