University linkages program: Partnerships to enhance student learning in Iraqi higher education institutions

Ms Elisabeth Macias1

1Irex, Washington, United States

Due to ongoing conflict and limited resources, universities and faculty in Iraq have been isolated from the international higher education community for many years. This isolation has limited incorporation of recent pedagogical, curricular, and administrative advances in global higher education. The University Linkages Program, funded by the U.S. Embassy Baghdad and implemented by IREX, has been supporting the development of long-term partnerships between faculty and universities in Iraq and the United States. The goal of each partnership is to develop a project that improves teaching, learning, and administration in Iraqi universities, with a focus on improving workforce readiness among graduates. In order to better identify the needs of local stakeholders and enhance career growth of Iraqi faculty, the partnerships are based on proposals developed by Iraqi faculty with support of Iraqi university administrators. After a competitive review process, each project is matched with a faculty partner in the United States with specific technical expertise in the project area. Most partnerships involve a mixture of in-person training in the United States or Iraq and remote collaboration. Partnerships are evaluated for their impact on sustainable changes in Iraqi university policies and practices. The poster will provide an overall theoretical and applied framework for the program as well as specific examples of partnerships that highlight successes and challenges of implementing cross-cultural partnerships in higher education in conflict regions. The overall University Linkages Program has demonstrated the ability to achieve results despite the inherent challenges of operating in a region with conflict. Development of sustained personal connections across a broad level of governance, ranging from faculty and staff at specific universities to Ministry of Education officials, has been central to achieving this success. Institutionalization of these relationships requires long-term commitments and flexible problem solving.


Elisabeth assists with monitoring, administration, and reporting for small grants linking Iraqi and US university partners, which promote institutional development for Iraqi universities and workforce development activities. She also contributes to the development of higher education tools, including higher education toolkits and workforce development training modules. She provides logistical and administrative support for events and ongoing programming.  Prior to joining IREX, Elisabeth taught high school World and European History at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Cambridge, MA. Her teaching skills include curriculum design, differentiation to meet diverse needs of learners, and assessment.  Elisabeth received her EdM in Teaching and Curriculum from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She received a BA in European History from the University of California, Santa Cruz.


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