Iraqi Universities Reach a Crossroads

Ambitious plans for reform could be thwarted by sectarian politics

Iraqi Universities Reach a Crossroads 1

Jamal Penjweny, Novus Select, for The Chronicle

The U. of Baghdad and other Iraqi universities are benefiting from bigger budgets and the return of refugee academics. But Sunnis and secular Shiites worry that academic standards and freedoms are still threatened by sectarianism and religious and political ideology.

Eight years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq and a few months after the withdrawal of the military forces from the country, Iraq's universities, devastated by years of dictatorship, sanctions, and war, are still struggling to recover. The security situation has improved since the deadly, dark days of 2006 and 2007, when the country teetered on the brink of sectarian war, hundreds of professors were assassinated, and thousands more fled the country.

Today some of those refugee scholars