Zanko Press Magazine, which is a Kurdish magazine issued by Presidency of Sallahaddin University, on Sunday, November 1st 2015, on its issue 28has published an interview with Dr. Yusuf Goran, the KRG Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, in which some critical issues related to higher education and scientific research were focused on, the following is the full text of the interview:
So far, any Minister took office in this ministry has his own style or he cared about an aspect more than other aspects as a reform style of his own way of performance. What was your main goal in the process of your career?
There is no doubt that our main goal, in general, is to promote quality and the standards of our universities from all aspects, particularly in terms of science, curriculum and upgrading the ability standards of teachers and students. However, our second goal is to join these universities, studies and quality with requirements of society and its difficulties. This means we should prepare our students for this society and to study the difficulties facing our universities. In other words, the university shall act like a strong bridge between university and society. So far, I think this bridge is very strong. We have made many decisions and took many steps to achieve these goals, the first one is to promote the culture of research in our universities; so far, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific research is concerning about the higher education rather than scientific research, therefore, we have tried our best, during the current year and several months of our duty, to strengthen and make the scientific research the main priority of universities through issuing some instructions in this regard, encouraging the scientific centers, establishing the Supreme Committee for Researches, issuing instructions related to Masters and Ph.D. degree specially the Ph.D. degree which is changed towards serving researches, and to establish a kind of scientific competition among the universities through the project of National Ranking of Kurdistan Region’s Universities. This ranking process is a classification of universities in terms of scientific level; we have started the process this year and we may declare the results in October or November, accordingly we shall show the level of our universities and our researches. This is the first time the process of national ranking of universities is conducted; I think this process shall seriously serve higher education process.
Does the Ministry of Higher Education have a special and experienced committee to determine the ranking process?
Yes we have a competent committee, for now, we have collected data from all universities; almost 95% of data have been collected. For now we are processing these data in order to insert these data into the classification process, in other words, we will classify all universities in terms of scientific, research, their success, seminars and in terms of how many languages do their teachers can talk.
Many colleges are concerning about a big gap in terms of finance, equipment, and many other issues, and as your excellency knows, research is a hard task. How can the ministry make a balance in this regard?
Most of these concerns are correct, because researches, particularly the scientific researches, require some scientific requirements and funds to be provided, because laboratories in Kurdistan are not so sufficient to conduct advanced researches. It is true, during the recent years we have allocated large amounts of funds for laboratories in Kurdistan. Now I can say that we have taken good steps in terms of laboratories as compared to previous years, but so far we urgently in need of laboratories. These are not the only aspects, there are many more, until now we don’t have our own budget for researches. This is one of our critical problems, the established principles and instructions at Ministry of Higher Education, the same as in Ministry of Finance, are not encouraging people to become researchers. Therefore, we need to change those instructions which some of them are financial instructions, we are using scientific encouragement and competition in order to encourage research, but we have many problems.
Most of what you have mentioned might be just wishes, but practically, to what extent could you keep the balance of the current stage and continue with the researches?
This year for the first time, we have issued instructions for doctoral studies and we declared that students should have two published researches before the discussion of Doctoral thesis, this in itself encouraging research publishing, we will have hundreds of researches in the coming couple of years, on the other hand, we have set a big percentage for research level in classification of colleges, and currently new instructions are issuing by Deans and University Presidents in order to encourage researches.
As Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research what sort of facility have you provided to researchers especially in terms of finance?
Currently in terms of finance we cannot provide any facilities. The facilities we are providing will be based on that the working hour will be accounted for the researcher, for example, we can give a vacation to the teacher who is conducting a research. Right now I have some requests from teachers requesting for full free-time, if a teacher conducts research at any university we will pay him the salary for full free-time, from the other hand we can complete the legal action in respect to those teachers dedicating themselves to conduct researches what so called the complementary of legal quorum, for example some teachers can teach for 12 hours per week in order to have the legal quorum and account the full free time, but if he could not complete the 12 hours teaching, then he or she can complete the rest via completing his or her research. These actions encourage teachers to teach for 6 hours instead of 12 hours and complete the rest with researches. We are offering more assistance, we try to help them to learn English language, because researches need modern tools, as we all know you cannot conduct a scientific research and obtain new results without knowing an international language in all the aspects. Even in those aspects which we may think that language is not required for example in religion, Arabic and Kurdish language, even with these aspects we need language, therefore, we encourage them to learn languages, and we issued instructions based on learning languages to enable them to become a good researcher in the future.
It is been said that the Master’s Programis suspended due to some problems, some people are asking there might be no hope in resuming studying the Master’s Program, what is the reality about that?
The Doctoral Studies was suspended for a period of 4 years in Kurdistan, but we resumed the Doctoral Studies during this year in a new system and instructions. Master’s Programin Kurdistan is not suspended yet, it was available during the last academic year and even at the beginning of this year, but we have not started yet for the current academic year.
What is the reason?
We have decided to review the instructions, to conform to the strategy of Higher Education.
What kind of strategy?
A strategy that we can make some researchers, who are really qualified and can talk in different languages. We don’t need teachers only for teaching but we have to make teachers for researches also.So we have to re-draft the instructions to conform to international standards. There are special standards related to Doctoral Studies and Master’s Program. We have established a competent committee for this purpose, the duty of this committee is to review the standards and instructions, whenever these standards and instructions are over then we will start with Master’s Program, that is the reason when I say Master’s Program is not suspended but reviewing the instructions.
It is said that the meeting of Ministry’s Council is suspended, or the meetings were used to be held once or twice a week, but now these meetings are not held, what is the reason?
There are two reasons, from the beginning of our commencement, I have requested and the universities requested as well to give more independency to universities, because the Ministry is supervising and offering guidance rather than administration. We think it is better for universities to manage their issues by themselves, when we talk with universities and meet with them we rather talk on the strategic issues related to scientific standards and supervision, it is not the duty of the Ministry to interfere in administration details of universities. From the first beginning we think that these meetings might be held on weekly or monthly basis, however during vacations in previous months the meetings were decreased. We had a meeting with the Ministry’s Council last week, there has been a special topic, it was thought to be a strategic subject related to job opportunity centers and to know how to establish these kinds of centers within universities and connect them with society, so we held a meeting, talked on this topic and had good results.
Some issues are coming up and need decisions by the Ministry’s Council, but even recently when meetings are decreased, do you think that some critical decisions have been made?
We have several universities with Doctoral Studies, we talked with them, it is not necessarily to hold meeting only to discuss issues, I have talked with all five universities regarding the Doctoral Studies and they all agreed. Thus I think this is a faster mechanism, because you can meet with 14 universities, 9 of them do not have Doctoral Studies, so they are not concerned about the subject, the other 5 universities have Ph.D. we talked about postponement in consultation with all five of them.
After discussing the subject with them, we thought it is better to delay the requests for Ph.D. for a period of two weeks; this is one of these examples, thus, sometimes we are verbally talking with each other and get approvals, this mechanism is normal for some urgent issues.
As Ministry, what is your excuse for increasing of one academic year for the college of law?
I can say that this decision was discussed for more than 6 to 7 months, started with a meeting with all Deans from colleges of law, head of departments of the Ministry and in presence of representative of lawyers, attorneys and judges. We discussed the difficulties in Law Colleges in this country, the same way as we did for colleges of Medicine and Engineering in several meetings with the related colleges. We realized that in order to promote the scientific level of graduates from the colleges of law, some actions needed to be taken. One of the suggestions was to increase one academic year to the colleges of law. This decision was not taken randomly, drafted in a meeting and came to execution, in fact it took several months and several competent experienced parties have talked on this issue.
In your opinion, what will be changed by increasing one academic year?
We think that in studying law, first and foremost, it is necessary to learn language; our students must know another language aside from the Kurdish language, because most of them they don’t even know Arabic language completely; while most sources of the laws are in Arabic.
In the future, if we face problems with any organization, company or court outside Kurdistan, then we need an attorney knows language of those places. This is the reason we preferred to make Arabic language the main language for those who want to study law. English language is important as well, because most of the sources are in English.
Aside from what you have mentioned, we may need to prepare more qualified legal cadres in this stage, due to the current legal gap which exists in Kurdistan; do we need to make a generation who is able to develop the legal process academically for the future of Kurdistan?
Yes, in America you cannot study law if you did not study another college before law. In order to know the importance of law, previously even in Iraq at Al-Mustansryah College the study of law was 5 academic years. This was very useful specially to strengthen language, and we have to remember that the graduates of law in the future will become lawyers, investigators and judges providing justices and law for society.
I think there is a gap in Kurdistan called the legal gap, the problem is a law which has not been given its own right in Kurdistan?
We need to establish a strong legal generation. Many times we face a problem when companies want to employ a lawyer knows language and experienced in company’s contracts, but they cannot get one, so they are forced to hire lawyers from India and Pakistan. We do our best to prepare our students so that they can work in such places and duties. It is true, one year will be forced on students but in result they get job opportunities easier and in a better way
Are there any changes on the curriculums?
Certainly, there will be changes on the curriculums, we will set new laws and programs and we will care about practical programs. In the past there was Moot Court in which students were educated how to stand in Courts, this is available, but currently there is no chance and time, the four years study is not enough for this issue, thus we planned to dedicate part of the fifth stage for these practical lessons, in order to prepare students for the future, so that they can perform their duties immediately without any problems.
Meantime in the media, there have been talking about problems of Cihan University in Suleimanyah and resignation of this university’s president; we would like to know the truth of this subject from you.
In the last academic year 2014-2015, when academic study started, there were many requests either from universities or from Parliament and specially from the private colleges, we have many students serving as Peshmarga at the fighting fronts or at the KRG Ministry of Interior, those students are studying at evening schools, we thought about a legal method to help those students not to miss their study, because they are performing a sacred duty and defend our country. We could not reach to a specific method, and we were afraid if we exempt them in terms of absence and they will be examined by 100 points, other people who are not Peshmarga might use this opportunity, thus we informed all the colleges to facilitate this issue and assist the students who are really serving this country at fighting fronts. We could conduct this issue in many universities, for example we had 20 similar cases at Nawroz University in Duhok, and they had difficulty of absence, so we asked the university to address the problem. A similar case was available at Cihan University in Suleimanyah, we requested Cihan University the same as we did with Nawroz University, as I indicated previously, this issue was the concern of Parliament, but it seems that Cihan University in Suleimanyah had a different point of view regarding this issue. They did not want to cooperate while we agreed that each student claims to be a Peshmarga should submit recommendations from the Ministry of Peshmarga, and all the students have brought recommendations from the Ministry of Peshmarga signed by the Minister of Peshmarga. it is either Jihan University did not recognize the signature of Ministry of Peshmarga or they did not recognize our instructions. This is a problem of one University; in fact we believed that this class of people should be assisted. It is possible if they claimed that a certain student is not a Peshmarga, but it is not the duty of the Ministry of Higher Education to decide whether a certain student is a Peshmarga or not, actually it is the duty of Ministry of Peshmarga.
Recently it is noticed that there is a lack of finance in some universities which resulted in suspending some critical issues, what actions have you taken, as the Ministry of Higher Education, at least to fill this gap?
The financial crisis is a general crisis; we cannot have an absolute solution for this crisis which we are all living in. The Ministry of Higher Education is not excluded from the current crisis, we are continuously in contact with the Ministry of Finance and the Kurdistan Regional Government, sometimes they can solve our problems but sometimes they are unable, because in spite of the financial crisis, we don’t have to forget that we are in war. The priority is for war expenses, since there are requirements of the KRG Ministry of Peshmarga and the Education is the second priority. Since there are requirements of Education the Higher Education might come in third position, so we see the needs in this point of view. It is a good chance to ask the Ministry of Higher Education including President of Universities, Deans, Head of Departments and teachers in special to perform their national duties in the same spirit of the past which is the spirit of Peshmarga.
As the Ministry of Higher Education, what is new in your plans in this period?
We think about issuing instructions related to Master’s Program soon, similarly as we did for the Doctoral Studies. We think about taking action to cooperate the families of Martyrs to exempt students whom their family members are martyred, this initiative might cover hundreds of students. So far I don’t have details of this project, but the content is to exempt students, specially sons and daughters of martyrs, from part or whole funds given to their study at private universities. We are working on making this project an annual project and to commence starting from this year.
What plans do you have regarding students at the Kurdistani areas outside the Kurdistan region?
We declared that students studied in Kurdish at Kurdistani areas outside the Kurdistan region, can apply to enroll in all universities in the Kurdistan region since the language of study in universities in Kurdistan is Kurdish. Our students from Kirkuk area, Nineveh plain and Khanaqeen, who studied in Kurdish language until the sixth stage, and then suddenly they have to study in Arabic language at the first stage of the college. This year we decided, in cooperation with the Presidency of KRG Council of Ministers, to open the doors for requests for students having language problems, we sent application forms to the Kurdistani areas outside the Kurdistan region to be filled by the Kurdish schools.