The Iraqi government allocated 400 billion dinars to finance a program for fellowships and post-graduate scholarships for the 2011-2012 academic year, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research announced Sunday (October 23rd).
This represents a considerable increase from last year's allocations of 90 billion dinars.
"The ministry noticed there was a serious weakness in the area of scholarships, fellowships and expenditure on students, so it made this allocation to meet the need for the required specializations," said Kassim Mohammad, official spokesman for the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
Mohammad told Mawtani that a large number of fellowships and scholarships were given to students majoring in medicine and engineering in proportion with Iraq's needs.
He said the ministry would send more than 3,000 students to international universities, including the top-ranked students during the past two years from all Iraqi universities.
"The fellowships and scholarships will be at reputable universities. We have approached numerous universities and the cultural representatives abroad to obtain approval from their universities," Mohammad said.
The students will be sent to universities in France, Germany, the United States, Italy, Britain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, among others.
"If the Ministry of Finance deals favorably with the budget of the Ministry of Higher Education during the upcoming years, thousands of students will get fellowships and scholarships every year," Mohammad said.
Layla Hassan, a member of the Iraqi parliament's higher education committee, said the funding allocation was "a very important step. Iraq and its students need it badly".
"The importance of this step is found in the students bringing over the expertise and experiences they would get at the world universities for application here in our universities," Hassan told Al-Shorfa. "This will play an important role in having Iraqi universities keep pace with the developments taking place at other universities."
Hassan said the committee is studying a number of draft laws concerning students, including a draft law that would give grants to students, as well as laws regarding loans that would development of student dormitories.
"We are trying to approve these laws and merge them into a single piece of legislation that would serve students in all institutes, colleges and post-graduate institutions," Hassan said.
A number of Iraqi students praised the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research's efforts to secure funding for scholarships and academic programs.
"If the efforts of the Ministry of Higher Education are developed in the right way, and the students obtain the scholarships they deserve, that would be in Iraq's best interests," said Muhannad Majid, a 24 year-old student, who has a bachelor's degree in computer engineering.
Ulla Thamer, 26, who has a bachelor's degree in chemistry, said she would try to submit an application for a scholarship to obtain a master's degree in her field.
"I cannot complete my education at my own expense, nor can I gain admission into one of the well known universities without the ministry's help," she said. "The scholarship program is very useful for us as students and for Iraq in general because we are going to return and serve Iraq with the education we obtained."