On January 19, 2009, Nouri Al-Maliki, the Prime Minister or Iraq, launched an educational initiative “for uplifting and reforming the educational system in Iraq. This will be accomplished throw sending 10,000 Iraqi students a year for five years to study abroad in at accredited universities. A pilot project of sending 500 students will be launched in the summer of 2009.” This is according to the Higher Committee for Education Development in Iraq. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that this Iraq Education Initiative “intends eventually to send 10,000 students to English-speaking countries each year for five years.” Al-Maliki announced the initiative at the Academy for Educational Development. The program will be funded by the Iraqi government and include tuition, fees, and room and board.
Students will be able to earn BA, MA, and PhD degrees and choose their own field of study, though many will be encouraged to study engineering, business and education, among others. The Associated Press reports that twenty-two universities and colleges have been preselected to receive students, including Texas A&M, Vanderbilt University, and the Ohio state university system. Twenty-one universities in the U.K. have also been preselected. It is not yet known how many students will attend individual schools.
A less visible aspect of the initiative will be a reform of schools if Iraq, from the primary to post-secondary level, including changes in curriculum and methodology. Zuhair Humadi, who is overseeing the initiative for Al-Maliki, stated that about $54 million has been set aside for the fund, and that the cost for each student studying abroad will be around $50,000.
What if some of these students do not meet the required standard of English? Well, we’re hoping they’ll be able to study with organizations like A.C.E. before or during their enrollment in their degree programs. Are any of these students Northwest Bound? Likely, though not yet confirmed.
Interestingly, this is not the first scholarship program to send Iraqi students to English speaking countries for higher education, though the first was certainly much smaller in scale. Last year, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad posted an application for a Iraq Scholars and Leaders Program (ISLP), funded by a U.S. Corporation and administered by the Institute of International Education. The program intended “to provide the Iraqi scholarship recipients with the opportunity to pursue study at a U.S. college or university, develop new leadership and cultural skills, and to build closer ties between the people of the U.S. and the future leaders of Iraq.” Unfortunately, A.C.E. could not find any specific numbers around this program, though it does require an academic proficiency in English and a score of at least 580 at the TOEFL. Those pursuing degrees in business, engineering and the geosciences were given preference, some of whom will be arriving to study in the U.S. this fall.