Capacity-Building Initiative Advances for Kurdish University Staff at Sulaymania

The capacity-building initiative for Kurdish university staff on strategic planning, quality assurance, and the Bologna process continues at the University of Sulaymania.

Following the initial Training Week of the APPRAIS project hosted by the University of Oslo, Norway, from May 9th to May 13th, 2022, a series of training workshops was organized at the University of Sulaymania in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, from June 13th to June 16th, 2022.

The training workshops welcomed 40 participants, including academic and administrative staff representing responsibilities within the partner universities, such as those overseeing the Bologna Process, Quality Assurance Directors, Vice Presidents for Scientific Affairs, and Vice Presidents for Students’ Affairs, from the 8 Higher Education Institutions in the Kurdistan region of Iraq that are partners of APPRAIS. The 4-day training also involved officials and representatives from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

During this occasion, the training emphasized practical and operational aspects compared to the week in Oslo, with exercises conducted in working groups and practical work sessions. The main aim of the training was to enable Kurdish universities to learn by actively engaging with pivotal topics: strategic planning, defining learning outcomes, transitioning to the ECTS system, defining core features of QA software for research and third missions, and implementing QA mechanisms for specific actions.

These topics are fundamental components of governance reform and the implementation of the Bologna process and quality assurance, which are pivotal themes of the APPRAIS project, "Governance, quality, accountability: a Piloting Reform Process in Kurdistan region of Iraq". This project, funded by the European Union under the Erasmus Plus programme – Capacity Building KA02, aims to support the rebuilding and modernization of the governance system of higher education institutions (HEIs) in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, with a specific focus on strategic planning, quality assurance, and Bologna process implementation through cooperation with European institutions.

To enhance participants' skills and operational capacity in reforming Higher Education processes, the training involved practical work and group exercises, fostering dialogue among Kurdish university staff, colleagues from other universities, and Ministry representatives. The training workshops focused on four central topics to achieve the project objectives:

  1. Strategic planning in higher education with a focus on the third mission.
  2. Transitioning from pre-Bologna to the Bologna era, emphasizing workload, academic calendar, ECTS, credit recognition, and defining learning outcomes for study programs and courses.
  3. Internal quality assurance for HE: implementing the ESG (Standards and guidelines for quality assurance in the European Higher Education Area) with a focus on QA in research to define the main features of the software that Kurdish universities need to purchase to manage quality assurance in research, third missions, and student services effectively.
  4. Roadmap for Bologna process implementation to be defined by each institution.

Participants were upskilled and empowered to lead the reform process in their institutions. An unexpected positive outcome of the training workshop at the University of Sulaimania was engaging participants in spontaneous discussions about improving the HE sector in Kurdistan, resulting in several proposals for the future arising from exchanges between participants and Ministry representatives. Once again, APPRAIS demonstrated its role as a catalyst for Kurdish universities to advance in the modernization process beyond set objectives.