Is there progress toward cooperative aspirations for HE in Iraqi Kurdistan?

I became aware of the cooperative movement in the Rojava and Bakur provinces of Kurdistan through Twitter, when @cooprojavabakur followed me (thanks!) I am no expert on Kurdish culture, but there appears to be a thriving economic and cultural cooperative movement there. For more information, see: which is a project of the Institute for Solidarity Economics. There you will find a wealth of information about the economic model that is developing in Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistan.

I could not anything about the impact of the cooperative economic model on Higher Education until a few days ago, when I stumbled across a phrase that was drawn from the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research website. The Ministry has a “Vision” (Ala’Aldeen, 2009) for the future development of HE, which can be found here: The first priority of the Ministry speaks directly to a cooperative vision for higher education:

“1- Reforming the management structure of Universities, and introduce a modern democratic system where the staff’s ownership of their institution and students rights of quality education are protected.”

Crucially, this primary goal is aligned with the Ministry’s aims of increasing the independence and autonomy of institutions. Another concern the Ministry has is that the quality of higher education is not as high as they would like. It is fitting therefore that they have identified that the way to achieve this includes introducing stronger processes of quality assurance based on student and staff evaluations, and linking the achievement of key performance indicators to pay and promotion. There is also a role for strong independent audit. There appears to be a lot to like about the approach that the Ministry has prescribed.

What is the effectiveness of the Ministry’s prescription? I could not find documentation of the Ministry’s website that indicates how progress is being monitored toward its stated aims, despite the role they assign to audit, no audit reports appear on the Ministry’s website.

In one MA dissertation study (Pallander, 2013) criticism is levelled at the Ministry for perpetuating Saddam-era bureaucratic and hierarchical control:

“change must start within the government structure and administration moving towards minimizing bureaucracy and hierarchy, such that other areas become decentralized and make progress” (Pallander, 2013, 110)

Perhaps, in the last three years, progress has been made towards developing autonomous universities, but if so information is hard to find. In order to demonstrate progress, and to address the criticisms levelled by Pallander, the Ministry should be encouraged to publish its audit methodology and to regularly report on audit findings, alongside an annual report on progress towards the goals stated in the Vision.


Ala’Aldeen, D. A. A. (2009). A Vision to the Future of Higher Education in Kurdistan. Retrieved 12 November 2016, from
Palander, N. (2013, July 10). Higher Education Policy-building in Kurdistan Region of Iraq: Perceptions of University Representatives (Thesis). Retrieved from


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