The legacy of APPRAIS – Governance, quality, accountability: a Piloting Reform Process in Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The end of the project is a new beginning

During the past three years, the project APPRAIS – governAnce, quality, accountability: a Piloting Reform PRrocess in kurdistAn regIon of Iraqhas strongly contributed to the rebuilding and modernisation 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. The APPRAIS project’s objectives well fit in the development strategy of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) focused on raising the standards of Kurdish universities, started in 2009 with a new vision and reforming programme for the HE sector and still ongoing, well supported by the APPRAIS activities, training and strategic reflections. 

The main highlights and results of APPRAIS include:

  • An Updated needs analysis of the Kurdish Higher Education system, aiming at identifying gaps and priorities in governance, quality assurance practices and learning mobility, as the basis for the future development of competences. The process of identification of needs included a thorough desk research, a self-evaluation exercise on behalf of the 8 Kurdish universities and working groups performed in November 2021 in Erbil. The result is a Report presenting an overview of the Higher Education sector in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
  • The definition of a University Governance Glossary aiming to explain and standardize concepts and terminology related to university governance and quality assurance,  learning mobility and credit recognition as well as to university structures. The Glossary has been the outcome of a collaborative work on behalf of the 4 APPRAIS European Partners, and responds to the ambition of having a common reference for Kurdish academic and administrative staff during Bologna Process implementation and in the dialogue between Kurdish and European HEIs.
  • The definition of a Roadmap for the implementation of the Bologna Process in Kurdish universities. Kurdish partners worked on their priorities and goals and  elaborated their own strategy, based on the needs assessment conducted in the early stages of the project, defining an institutional roadmap for a better adoption and adaptation of the Bologna Process principles and practices. The Roadmap defines actions, timeframe, strategic priorities, expected results and impact. 
  • capacity building action started in 2022 and lasted until the very end of the APPRAIS implementation, and still further on the Kurdish HEIs agenda.  The capacity building of Kurdish staff started with the training week in Oslo in May 2022, moving then to the training workshop in Sulaimani, and completed by the field visits in Pisa and Evora in October 2022, focused on quality assurance, strategic planning, management of the internationalization units and research activities; and in Rome and Murcia in January 2023 focused on learning mobility, credits recognition and internationalization. Moreover, APPRAIS developed, piloted and now launched to all potential learners, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Governance, Quality Assurance and Bologna Process implementation. The course, launched between January and March 2023, was designed to provide training modules on selected topics related to the definition and implementation of Bologna process in the Kurdish universities, providing the competences and knowledge to facilitate reforming processes related to the improvement of university governance and the implementation of transformative practices at Kurdish universities.
  • The Training on Trainees (ToT) within each Kurdish university partner, taking place between  May and June 2023t. Each training session focused on the main topics of  APPRAIS and targeted +160 staff members amid the Kurdish academic and administrative staff. The Restitution and Harmonization Workshop, held in Erbil in February 2023, that  put the basis for the dialogue and harmonization between the strategy of the Ministry and the strategy of the HEIs in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The idea was to discuss and agree on a shared strategicapproach, to later inform the  institutional strategic plans of each university. The conversation took into account the outcomes of the Consultative workshop in Pisa and the main pillars of APPRAIS, which correspond to the key assets of the Ministry reform: quality assurance, Bologna process implementation and good governance. A unique and  dedicated software for Quality Assurance, a new frontier for quality management in Kurdish Higher Education. The APPRAIS software allows a more accurate and professional management of the services delivered by the university Quality Assurance Directorates, with a particular focus on research activities, services for students and the university social role. For the first time, Kurdish universities will use a common  and unique solution for managing QA in these three very important dimensions of university life and governance.

The project saw the  cooperation and dialogue between European universities and Kurdish institutions, but also laid the ground for a fruitful collaboration between the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research KRG and Kurdish HEIs on strategies and priorities particularly important for the improvement of the Kurdish Higher Education system.

In addition, the APPRAIS partners committed to continually train their internal university staff and to enlarge the benefits of the APPRAIS capacity building action(cascade effect) to other  non partner universities in the KRG region, maximizing the positive impact of the project on the institutions and in the country. The Kurdish universities will continue to use the APPRAIS software, implement the actions foreseen in their Institutional Strategic Plans and disseminate the APPRAIS training materials,  being now fully empowered and equipped to take the lead in their own modernisation path in the years ahead. 

“The end of the APPRAIS project marks a new beginning for the collaboration with Kurdish universities”. This has been the key message shared by Dr. Mohammed Hussein Ahmed, Director General, Head of the Apparatus of Supervision and Quality Assurance, Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in KRG during his welcoming speech at the Final APPRAIS Conference. A message shared by the UNIMED Director, Dr. Marcello Scalisi, reiterating the UNIMED commitment as a network of universities to continue to support Kurdish universities beyond the project life span. More than 100 attendees took part in the event, from both partner and non-partner institutions, showcasing the relevance of the project in the Kurdish context and its potential to generate benefits well beyond its end.

To know more about APPRAIS, reach out to us, see the project video and follow us on the APPRAIS Instagram channel.