Universities and schools

Higher education in journalism is consolidated in Iraq, but it has remained largely disconnected from global developments since the 1970s. Several universities and colleges offer two-to-four-year degrees in journalism (such as the University of Baghdad, the Salahuddin University and the Technical Institute, both in Erbil). The programs include undergraduate, master’s and Phd options.

Following the US invasion, UNESCO has implemented a program whose goal is to adapt its Model Curricula for Journalism Education to the Iraqi context. These Curricula have been conceived, according to UN terminology, as a guide for "developing countries and emerging democracies" and they have been discussed with Iraqi deans, faculty members and senior ministerial administrators to adapt them to the Mesopotamian context. The findings of this debate on educational reform between UNESCO-funded consultants and Iraqi academics have been published in an essay in 2012.

Technology remains a challenge in areas like Baghdad, where computers, broadband Internet and electricity (and therefore air conditioning in the terribly hot Iraqi summer) cannot be taken for granted. The privileged residents of the Green Zone are actually among the few Iraqis who enjoy 24/7 electricity. In some cases, students have to purchase mobile data packages to access Internet on campus. As for Iraqi Kurdistan, facilities are generally better equipped technology-wise (also due to long-standing stability in comparison with the rest of the country), but there is often a lack of qualified instructors.

A major problem in education is that the Ministry of Higher Education is scarcely accommodating toward the preferences of students, who are assigned specific majors regardless of their interests. This has resulted in increasing frustration among the student body. During the meeting, Iraqi educators have also highlighted the need to update classes on media law, make the most of technology by introducing also distance learning and convert a predominantly theoretical approach into a more practical one that includes "hands-on" assignments.

As for distance learning, the Ministry of Higher Education maintains a sceptical position in consideration of the mushrooming of "degree mills" after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Consequently, credits earned through online courses are not recognised in the Iraqi schooling system. UNESCO considers this a lost opportunity that would allow virtual correspondent internships in journalism schools, while being aware that distance learning remains challenging with such a disrupted Internet coverage. Even though infrastructures are poor and under constant threat because of the ongoing conflict, mobile telecommunications are ubiquitous and data packages widely available in major cities (CIA Factbook 2009 stats rank Iraq as the 40th country in the world for cell phone usage with 47 percent of Iraqis using a mobile). The UN agency has therefore suggested to bank on mobile networks for distance learning purposes in consideration of the diffusion of cell phones and the better conditions of mobile networks in comparison with broadband.