Al-Fatlawi said that the ministry’s powers over private universities were limited to matters of academic supervision, such as approving curricula stopping some majors, and setting conditions for establishing institutions and carrying out work.
The ministry receives 3 percent of the annual revenues of private universities but does not have the right to intervene in their financial or administrative decisions, he added.
Al-Fatlawi estimated that there are about 75 private universities and colleges in Iraq, which enrol about 30 percent of the country’s university students.
Worries About Student Numbers
Some higher-education experts believe that the crisis in Iraqi private universities is not limited to majors that do not fit labour market needs. The number of such institutions has increased since 2003, many are not accredited, and some take in more students than they can handle, critics say.
Abdul Razzaq Al-Issa, a former minister of higher education, said private universities should be allowed to admit only a set number of students because of the high number of university graduates in all disciplines, including medicine, and the lack of job opportunities for them in state departments.
Another problem, Al-Issa said, was a shortage of qualified teaching staff, which forces some institutions to accept teachers who do not have the required academic credentials.
Ali Razzouqi, a former director for private education in Iraq’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, said another problem was that such institutions were not evenly distributed geographically. There were too many in governorates like the capital, Baghdad, and too few in governorates like Kirkuk, in the northeast, and Al-Qadisiyyah, in south-central Iraq.
“The capacity of these private colleges is not commensurate with their capabilities in terms of classrooms and laboratory equipment,” Razzouqi wrote to Al-Fanar Media. “Some colleges admit 400 students, while they can absorb only 120 students.”
Calls for More Government Oversight
Razzouqi welcomed the decision to suspend some majors. “Such a step usually comes at the request of university presidents in light of low turnout,” he said.
Iraq’s Private Higher Education Law allows the Council of Ministers to license retired or unemployed Ph.D. or master’s degree holders to establish a private university, college, or institute. They should have the rank of assistant professor at least and there should be at least nine of them to set up a private university, seven for a private college, and five for a private institute or scientific society.