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First Annual Symposium
of the Baghdad-Erbil-Erlangen-Project (2009)

Symposium Report

The First Annual Symposium of the BEEP was attended by 33 high-ranking representatives of the three partner universities, among them the President of the University of Baghdad, Prof. Dr. Mosa J. A. Al-Mosawe, the Acting President of the Mustansiriyah University, Prof. Dr. Fadhil A. J. Al-Amri, the Vice President of the University of Erbil, Ass. Prof. Dr. Mohammed R. Mochtar, deans and heads of departments of the respective Schools of Administration and Economics, and administrators for academic relations. Representatives of other three Iraqi universities, namely the University of Diyala, the University of Dohuk and the University of Sulaimani, have also attended the symposium.

The Symposium focused on the topics of University Management, German-Iraqi Academic cooperation, the Economic development in Iraq, and German-Iraqi Economic Relations. Furthermore, in special working sessions the essential points of the Dual-Degree Master Program and Joint-Agree Doctoral Program of the BEEP were discussed and agreed upon.

To the strict working program of the symposium visits to the cities of Nuremberg, Wurzburg and Berlin were added. All three cities were severely damaged during World War II and the Iraqi guest got a vivid impression of the results of the reconstruction in post-war Germany. A guided visit of the Federal Parliament in Berlin has given additional insights into the 20th century German history and the functioning of the German parliament.

Progress achieved in cooperation

As a result of intensive communication during the formation of the BEEP program, three Memoranda of Understanding were signed on the 8th of December between the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg and the three partner universities, the University of Baghdad, the Munstansiriyah University and the Salahaddin University.

The Center for Iraq Studies (CIS) was opened on Wednesday, the 9th of December, in a ceremonial celebration by the presidents and vice-presidents of the Iraqi universities, the chancellor of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Thomas A.H. Schöck, and Prof. Dr. Sefik Alp Bahadir. The Center offers research facilities for Iraqi and German scientists and graduate students of the BEEP program. CIS will be the address for Iraqi and German scientists and businessmen seeking information about the economy of Iraq and the German-Iraqi economic relations.


In a ceremonial ambient accompanied with folkloric oriental music Prof. Dr. Salah M. Aliwi Al-Abbasi and the Chancellor of the Freidrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg Mr. Thomas A.H. Schöck expressed their deep contentment about the academic cooperation between the two countries and their universities. Dr. Al-Abbasi has described the initiation of the Center for Iraq studies as the first step on the path that is leading to an aim we all share "Building a strong academic Iraq". In his speech Dr. AL-Abbasi expressed that he sees CIS as one of the vital nuclei in rebuilding and strengthening Iraq. Read the speech of Prof.Dr. Salah M. Aliwi Al-Abbasi

Further details about the regulations and procedures of the Dual Degree Master Program and the Joint Degree Doctoral Program have been discussed, negotiated and agreed upon during several intensive working sessions with the presidents, vice-presidents and deans of the Colleges of Administration and Economics. In all essential points a consensus has been reached and the drafts of these programs have been submitted to the organs responsible at the respective universities.

University Management and the German-Iraqi Academic Cooperation

In order to lay the foundations for an intensive, long-term cooperative partnership between the universities, mutual understanding of the different academic structures, their problems and tendencies of development is necessary. Different sessions of the symposium offered the place to discuss this topic.

In the first session (“Perspectives of the German Iraqi Academic Partnership”) each university presented information about its history and structure. The University of Baghdad was founded in 1957 and is the oldest existing university in Iraq. It contributed to creating and developing all other universities in Iraq. It has nearly 80.000 undergraduate and graduate students and 24 colleges and departments. The Mustansiriyah University, founded in 1963 and also located in Baghdad, has 12 colleges. Its name proudly refers to the high school which was founded in the 13th century by the caliph al-Munstansir.

The Salahaddin University which was founded in 1968 in Sulaimaniya and moved 1981 to Erbil is the newest of the three universities, a place of 18.500 students and 19 colleges. It profits from the better security situation in the Kurdish Region of Northern Iraq which induced a lot of academics from the established universities of the south to migrate to Erbil. This “brain gain” and lavish investments of the regional government in building new facilities for the university promise a dynamic development in the future.

The structural reform process of the German universities generally and that of the Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nuremberg particularly has been clearly and elaborately presented by Chancellor Thomas A.H. Schöck in the 4th session on „Management of Universities“. These reforms include a reduction of the number of faculties, the modernization of the accounting system, and the transition to the B.A.-M.A. structure of study programs according to the Bologna process. The consequences of the Bologna process, with special reference to the School of Business and Economics, were described by Prof. Dr. Michael Amberg, the Head of this School, during the second session (“Changing Environment and Responses of Universities”). Both, Chancellor Schöck and Prof. Amberg stressed rather the positive results of these processes. This overall optimistic picture of the reforms was accentuated by the experience of the University of Wurzburg and the Free University of Berlin. Both universities introduced the process of their reforms to the Iraqi colleagues during an eventful visit on Friday, the 11th of December, and Wednesday, the 16th of December. Whereas the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg cut down the number of faculties and introduced a new level of departments, the University of Wurzburg split up faculties to create new ones which have more specific and focused actual tasks of teaching and research. Mr. Gibian, who is in charge of the Foreign Relations Office at the FU Berlin, pointed out that the proliferation of different B.A. and M.A. programs in Germany hampers the mobility of the students (a result that contradicts one of the important aims of the Bologna process). The rate of students going abroad at the FU Berlin has, in fact, dropped after the introduction of the new programs.

Our Iraqi guests got a lively impression about the general reaction to this reforming process during the Symposium. Students were striking against the Bologna process at different universities all over Germany. (On request, our Iraqi guests were assured that there would be no disciplinary consequences against the striking students.)

For the Iraqi partner universities the reforms among German and European universities will be of increasing importance, especially when the cooperation with European universities intensifies. It is worth mentioning, however, that the structure and programs of Iraqi universities are more oriented towards USA and UK education systems. These countries also attract most of the Iraqi students who go abroad.

Besides the general reform process, innovative university projects were discussed. Paul Held, from the Institute for Innovation in Learning, presented at the second session on “Changing Environment and Perspectives of Universities” the introduction of e-learning and e-science at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. Methods of e-learning are of special interest for Iraqi universities given the deficits of the material infrastructure.

During the same session, the University of Baghdad introduced its project to adopt the concept of total quality management in their university management.

During the 4th session ("Management of Universities") Dr. Al-Ani suggested that Iraqi universities should provide support to small and medium enterprises in founding and managing their businesses by the means of incubation centers.

Economic Situation of Iraq and the German-Iraqi Economic Relations

The second main focus of the symposium was the economic situation in Iraq and its economic relations with Germany. In the 3rd session on “Economic Reconstruction of Iraq in International Perspective” a general picture of the economic situation was drawn. In the 5th session (“Perspectives of the German Iraqi Economic Partnership”) Georg Reichl from the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology described the economic relations of Bavaria with the Middle East. While imports of oil from Libya, Saudi Arabia, etc. dominated the import side, Bavaria exports a wide range of industrial products to the Middle East. Exports to Iraq are still low, but a positive trend can be observed during the recent years. Whereas Germany has no major oil or gas companies, German technology is sought for in all other industrial spheres. Especially the reconstruction of the infrastructure in Iraq is a promising field for the German industry.

In 6th session on “Iraq's Quest for Foreign Direct Investment” several Iraqi economists from the Kurdish part and from the Arab part have constructively discussed the reality of foreign direct investment (FDI), the opportunities, challenges and potential solutions. While Kurdish participants referred to how to further facilitate and improve FDI in the Kurdish Regions, the Baghdadi participants tackled the obstacles for FDIs and provided several solutions to defeat these challenges and encourage FDI to come into the rest of Iraq.

In the Kurdish Region, foreign investments are needed in diverse fields of agriculture, industry, infrastructure and services. In order to encourage FDI, the local government of the Kurdish Region cares to issue liberal investment laws and to keep a high security situation. Since the security situation in Northern Iraq is far safer than the southern part of the country, the Kurdish Region has been an attractive target for foreign investors. Nevertheless, in the field of banking and insurance the legal framework is still not transparent and differences between the local government and the central monetary authorities still exist. Hence, these problems hinder foreign investments in the financial sector.

Besides the academic sessions, Iraqi participants had the chance to meet representatives of the Nuremberg Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday, the 10th of December. During this meeting, Dr. Udo Raab gave the Iraqi guests an overview about the economy of the Nuremberg Metropolitan Region in general, while Mr. Christian Hartmann specifically described the Nuremberg Metropolitan Region's Trade and Investment Relations with Iraq. In Berlin, on Tuesday the 15th of December, the group paid a visit to the Federal Association of German Industry (BDI) where Mr. Behm (Director for Africa and Middle East in the International Markets Department) gave a sketch of the delegation travels of German enterprises to the Middle East and North Africa organized by the Association. He also presented the program “Iraq-Horizons 2015” of the BDI which offers young Iraqi professionals the chance to get training in German enterprises. While there is a substantial interest from German companies to participate in this program, multipliers in Iraq are needed to inform the potential applicants about that program. The next visit in Berlin was to the Arab-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Ghorfa) on Thursday, the 17th of December. Besides Mr. Abdulaziz Al-Mikhlafi, Secretary General of Ghofra, Dr. Klaus Hachmeier (the Middle East Representative of the Ministry of Economy and Technology) was the main discussant in the session. During this session, the Iraqi participants have actively discussed the present situation and the future perspective of the German Iraqi economic relation. They were keen to learn from the German experience in the economic reconstruction after the World War II and the German experience during the reunification of Germany. With regard to the privatization of the Iraqi state enterprises which dominate up to now the Iraqi economy, Dr. Klaus Hachmeier advised to stabilize first the Iraqi economy and not to hasten privatization within an unsecure environment. The group thanked the Ghorfa for their efforts and thanked Dr. Hachmeier for his informative participation as well as Mr. Al-Mikhlafi for his hospitability. With this visit to Ghorfa the side events program of the First Annual Symposium of the BEEP come to an end.

Participants

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