It goes without saying say that an educational system is the bedrock of any developed country. Efforts to nurture education demonstrate a commitment to human development. Despite the fact that Kurdistan has grown exponentially over the last decade and has made great strides in its development, compared to Southern Iraq, certain educational issues have not been addressed properly. For one thing, there has clearly not been a systematic approach to rationalizing the educational system in Kurdistan.

After a safe haven was created in Kurdistan by the coalition forces in 1991, Kurdistan obtained de-facto semi-autonomy that made it possible for the Kurdish people to attain self-rule within the region. Kurdistan became isolated from the international community due to the sanctions imposed on Iraq after the 1991 invasion of Kuwait. However, Kurdistan began establishing public universities to educate its young people. Although these institutions did not have any exchange programs with international institutions for more than a decade, they endeavored to keep their doors open to students and managed to offer academic programs, albeit with a somewhat outdated curriculum. Their contribution to the community was limited by the facilities and capacities that they possessed at the time.

The liberation of Iraq and Kurdistan in 2003 created a lot of opportunities for establishing private universities in the region. It has been shown in many regions around the globe that the emergence of private educational institutions has brought significant changes in the quality of education. What distinguishes private educational institutions from their public counterparts is that they bring accountability, credibility and flexibility to education and research and consequently they attract people of high caliber.

Our main goal is to educate future leaders of the community and pave their way to the pinnacle of knowledge and excellence.

Unfortunately, most of the private universities in the region lack the credibility to assure quality education and they mainly rely on tuition fees to cover their operational costs. They are not run by academics, but rather businessmen who seek a quick return on their investment. At the same time, public universities have so far failed to attract the high quality faculty and administrative staff members needed to create a conducive environment for the development of higher education. One of the reasons for this is that public universities offer a very low salary scale, one that has not attracted high quality staff members.

Among those few private universities in Kurdistan that strive to provide high quality education is the American University Duhok Kurdistan (AUDK). It is a nascent university which is less than one year old. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT), and the founder of the university is His Excellency Masrour Barzani who has envisioned turning AUDK into a leading institution in the region by offering state-of-the-art programs. As an academic figure and a leader, Chairman Barzani has decided to make AUDK a not-for-profit institution to show his concern for promoting a high quality system of education in the region.

AUDK has enjoyed an outstanding start as a center of education and research. The university currently offers five programs; Computer Science, Design, Management and Finance, Media Studies, and Politics and Public Policy. Within these five programs, there are 20 majors that are not offered by any other institution in the region. These include Digital Forensic Science, Fashion Design, Digital Animation, Logistic and Supply Chain Management, Hospital and Healthcare Management, Insurance and Risk Management, and Security and Strategic Studies. The BOT has recently appointed Professor Michael Mulnix as the new president of AUDK. Prof. Mulnix has an outstanding academic record and strong leadership skills. He is currently drawing up a long-term strategic plan to ensure the success of the university. That plan will involve future expansions, self-sufficiency and sustainability, as well as the initiating of procedures needed to gain accreditation. One of the primary goals of AUDK is to gain accreditation from a reputable accrediting body in the U.S. This will be an arduous process but it will guarantee high quality education at AUDK. The university plans to establish more programs in the future including Nursing, Medical Science, Engineering, Education and Liberal Arts, and Art and Cinema. These will meet the learning needs and aspirations of students to develop their intellectual abilities. The programs will also reflect the market demands.

In accordance with its commitment to changing people’s lives for the better, AUDK offers diverse programs to the community. It has recently established the Center for Peace and Human Security which aims to address the issues of the local community and to approach them academically. AUDK is the first institution in the region that offers a “Peace and Community” course of study as part of the general education that students take during their first two semesters. This was decided after conducting a study on what courses should be developed to serve the community. Of equal importance in terms of social impact is AUDK’s positive contribution to the economy and the development of the community by offering professional development programs for professions such as teachers, nurses, managers and professionals, as well as providing them with English as a Second Language programs.

Thanks to the vision of H.E. Masrour Barzani, AUDK has recently introduced the “Mustafa Barzani Honors Scholarship”, the “Chairman Barzani Honors Scholarship” and the “President’s Merit Scholarship”. These scholarship programs will be awarded to the top students in the region as part of the strategic plan to attract the highest quality students to AUDK.

The BOT has established the AUDK-Foundation, which will allow the university to build warm, long-lasting relationships with a wide range of stakeholders on the local, regional, national and international levels. The philosophy behind this Foundation is to engage the community and its individuals in supporting the development of the university and establishing it as one of the premier teaching and research institutions in the Middle East and beyond.

Our main goal is to educate future leaders of the community and pave their way to the pinnacle of knowledge and excellence.