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Ministry of Higher Education

The Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research (MHESR) oversees the administration of 20 major public universities in Iraq, two post-graduate commissions, and 43 technical institutes and colleges. Following the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, MHESR also assumed basic administrative oversight of some higher educational institutions previously tied to the office of the president and other dissolved organizations (e.g., Al Nahrain University). At the start of the 2002-2003 academic year, these institutions had over 240,000 undergraduates attending morning classes taught by roughly 14,700 fulltime faculty. Approximately 500 staff serve in the MHESR headquarters in Baghdad.

In June 2003, the CPA Senior Advisor to the MHESR invited the presidents of Sulaimani, Salahaddin, and Dohuk Universities and the Foundation of Technical Education from the northern region to join his Advisory Council. Meeting alongside their colleagues from the other universities of Iraq for the first time in well over a decade, these leaders began working on developing specific proposals for the future of Iraqi higher education.

The MHESR also supervises accreditation of higher education institutions in Iraq, promotes scientific research and technological development, and maintains its own research institutes for cancer and psychological research as well as its press house.

The Ministry headquarters in Baghdad was burned and looted repeatedly. As a result, its building became structurally unsound. Between April and July 2003, the Ministry had its temporary offices located in the Main Library of the University of Baghdad. With these offices proving inadequate for the resumption of normal activities, the MHESR moved to space in the Iraqi Commission of Informatics & Computers, with essential office equipment and supplies provided by USAID.

The MHESR is led by John Agresto, the CPA Senior Advisor, and Amb. Joseph Ghougassian, Deputy Senior Advisor to the MHESR. The office is headquartered in Baghdad, Iraq. The CPA MHESR team is drawn from Iraq, the United States, and other countries representing the civilian and military coalitions supporting the current effort to rebuild the Iraqi higher education system. CPA MHESR team members have taught and served in academic administration in universities in Iraq, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic and Italy. The CPA MHESR team works on a daily basis with its Iraqi counterparts in the ministry and universities, Coalition forces, and CPA Regional Teams located throughout Iraq, as well as with international organizations, non-governmental organizations, foundations, professional associations, universities, and private individuals.

The Office of the Senior Advisor planned to partner with the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research and others to restore essential higher educational services; rejuvenate the leadership of Iraqi higher education; reconstruct damaged facilities; refurbish critical facilities including laboratories, library, and Internet centers after years of neglect by the previous regime; reintegrate Iraqi students, scholars, and scientists into the international academic community; and reinforce the autonomy of the universities in Iraq as independent centers of free, open, secure, and tolerant learning.

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