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Cablegate: University of Baghdad - Class of 2008

VZCZCXRO0494
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #1891/01 1741513
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 221513Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7920
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 001891

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KPAO KCUL IZ
SUBJECT: UNIVERSITY OF BAGHDAD - CLASS OF 2008

1. (U) Summary: University of Baghdad (UB) President Dr.
Mosa Aziz Al-Mosawa exulted at the success of the 2008
academic year during a June 15 meeting with Poloff. UB is at
full capacity, with 70,000 undergraduate students and 10,000
graduate students. July 15 will mark the end of the UB
academic year, with approximately 9,000 students graduating
(8,000 undergraduates and 1,000 graduates). Al-Mosawa cited
the university administration's emphasis on security as the
main reason why campus life is calm. The university enforces
a strict secular and no-politics-on-campus policy; as a
result, no political party or religious group wields
influence on UB's curriculum, students or faculty. Student
applications are up Iraq wide and, according to Al-Mosawa,
unlike many other educated professions, notably doctors,
university teaching staff have remained in Iraq despite civil
strife and continue to work. End Summary.

2. (U) Al-Mosawa boasted that the University of Baghdad is
one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the
region. This October the Law College will celebrate its
centennial. UB has 70,000 undergraduate students, 10,000
graduate students, twenty-four colleges, five institutes and
ten research centers, spread over many locations throughout
Baghdad. Its teaching staff numbers 8,000 and makes up 42%
of the country's total. For families who wish, UB also
offers six women-only colleges. The Ministry of Education
administers the admissions process and students who are
accepted attend tuition free -- much to the chagrin of the
University President, who feels that the students would have
a better work ethic if they (their parents) were paying for
school. 15%-20% of the student body hails from outside of
Baghdad.

3. (U) The University of Baghdad's medical program generates
the greatest demand among students. The six year program is
the only degree that guarantees employment through the
Ministry of Health. This year 350 students are expected to
graduate. (Note: There are estimates that 12,000 Iraqi
doctors fled the country, decimating the nation's health care
system. End Note)

4. (U) BU's engineering program, traditionally prestigious
in Iraq, is one of the school's largest, followed by other
sciences. Al-Mosawa explained that lectures in these topics
are conducted in Arabic, but textbooks and notes are in
English. (Note: Until the 80's, the engineering program was
taught entirely in English. End Note) In the past, the
Ministry of Planning would employ engineering graduates, but
that is no longer the case and students now must seek
employment on their own. BU President estimates that from
this year's 1,000 engineering graduates, only 30%-40% will
find work in their field. UB offers many fields of study,
including a linguistics department with ten languages )
English being the most popular with French coming in second;
there are also 15 students studying Hebrew, he remarked.

5. (U) University of Baghdad's main campus is quiet and
gives the impression of being insulated from the hustle and
bustle of the city, but in reality this requires constant
vigilance on behalf of the school. The administration places
a high priority on security, hiring and training its own
guard force, Al-Mosawa explained (Note: Security at other
campuses is less certain and recently the Vice President of
Nahrain University was assassinated. End Note). Moreover,
student political activities or organizations are prohibited
on campus. Political party representatives may speak at the
university, but only on issues that pertain to Iraq as a
whole. The administration has come under some pressure to
authorize religious ceremonies, but it continues to maintain
its secular standing, he stressed. When asked if any
political party, militia or religious group had ever tried to
coerce the UB President or teaching staff, Dr. Mosa seemed
surprised by the question and responded, "How could they? We
follow the curriculum set forth by the Ministry of
Education."

6. (U) The University of Baghdad confronts the same
challenges as the rest of Iraq. Years of Saddam's oppressive
regime, sanctions, a decade of isolation, and other regime
change related strife have left the university's faculties in
desperate need of modernization. Some of UB President Dr.
Mosa's key concerns are the poor condition of its 13
dormitory buildings that house 6,000 students, the lack of
computers for professors, the need for international
scholarships and greater cooperation with foreign
universities.

7. (U) Comment: As a barometer for Iraq's future,
University of Baghdad's Class of 2008 signals a step towards
normalcy. In a secure environment, away from the noise of
politicking and free from the influence of malign actors,
Iraqi students show a strong interest in professional careers
as doctors, engineers or scientists, while still possessing a

BAGHDAD 00001891 002 OF 002


broader appreciation for languages, history and literature.
While UB graduates face an uncertain job market and the
university needs to improve its infrastructure, the students'
achievements augur well for a future burgeoning middle class.
End Comment.
CROCKER

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