The University of Sulaimani (UOS) was established in 1968. Today, the University consists of eight faculties and two colleges. The education system of UOS is technical so that students in the undergraduate program mainly focus on a specific field.

The American University of Iraq, Sulaimani was established in 2007. The University now has 6 colleges. Its system of education is Liberal Arts. AUIS has an American approach with a faculty mostly educated and from Europe and particularly from America, but UOS faculty are often educated at local eastern universities and the education approach is technical.

Iraq has changed considerably since 2003; the power from an undemocratic authority of the Iraqi Sunni dictatorial regime shifted to a multi-ethnic semi-democratic government, inclusive of the three main sectors: Shia, Sunni, and Kurds. The dictator, Saddam Hussein, had been executed, but Iraq has faced a lot of violence, political instability, and corruption. The Kurdistan region as a part of Iraq has achieved significant success in terms of security and economy, but it still suffers from corruption and political instability. We, Hawdang Kamal and Ahmed Yousef as two AUIS students, had discussions on the role of education in a developing a country like Iraq. We were concerned about AUIS and UOS as two educational institutions that are in charge of providing new educated citizens have made positive steps for reducing violence and corruption. In other words, we wanted to know whether these universities have provided the country with graduated students who are more familiar and responsible toward democratic values, such as freedom of press, freedom of speech, equality and human rights. And, If AUIS and UOS have done such great work; do the graduated students of the two universities see local challenges differently and accordingly provide different solutions?

 Therefore, we compared American University of Iraq-Sulaimani (AUIS) and University of Sulaimani (UOS) in terms of student outcomes with regards to employment, lifestyle, and the way of thinking.

The research project is built on the question that how these two universities have influenced their students differently. Therefore, we collected data about graduated students of both universities in order to determine the impacts of each university on their students for each of these areas of focus.

Hypothesis: Our hypothesis is that the student outcomes at these two universities will be significantly different, and our reasons are based on the different styles of education at the two universities.

AUIS students require knowing and learning English language, for the language of education is English. However, teaching in Sulaimani University is based on Kurdish language. Therefore, it is likely that AUIS students, for example, listen to English music more compared to UOS alumnus.  Moreover, AUIS is a liberal art education university; AUIS students take several classes, such as history, politics and government, life science, and math. However, Sulaimani University is technical that means they focus mainly on one subject. For instance, AUIS has provided some subjects like World’s Regions, a core class in which students learn about different religions, and Civilization, which is a core requirement for all AUIS students and is a critical approach toward world’s history. Thus, it is more probable that AUIS students compared to UOS students have a more variety of views about the role of religion and politics in the Kurdistan region.  AUIS students also have to take computer to learn how to search in internet, how to make a PowerPoint, how to use excel program, and etc while using technology is not something necessary for all UOS students. Thus, for AUIS has provided a kind of education system more friendly with using technology in education and work, so it is likely that AUIS students, for instance, have found work through internet more than UOS students.

Method: Comparing student attitudes, the ways of thinking, and employment outcomes for students who have graduated from AUIS and SU in certain years. We distributed a survey to graduates of AUIS and UOS, in the departments of International Studies, IT, and Business.  We aimed of a sample size of approximately 30 students for each group, who graduated over the last 3 years. The sample included 104 UOS graduated students and 86 AUIS graduated students.   The survey was anonymous; Responses collected according the graduates’ school, department, gender, and year of graduation. The participants at AUIS were consisted of 45 Business Administration graduates, 24 International studies graduates, and 17 Information Technology graduates. The UOS participants consisted of 36 Project Management graduates, 24 Computer graduates, 20 Political Science graduates, and the rest of them did not determined that graduated from which these three departments. The participants at both universities were graduated students of 2012 to 2014.

Collection Process: with faculty and administrative support, we gave a survey to our sample of alumni with questions about employment, lifestyle, and ways of thinking. For instance, in term of job opportunity we asked them: Did you find a job before or after graduation? Do you work in private or public sector? In term of lifestyle, for example, we asked:  Have you ever donated, volunteered or worked in NGOs? Which kind of movies do you watch? In term of ways of thinking, for instance, we asked them: Is religion a barrier to individual freedom? Which culture now has more influence on Kurdish society?

Overall 86 AUIS graduated students including 57 males and 27 females responded to the survey.

Compared to the American University, we spent a lot of time and energy in order to collect the necessary information. We spent four days only to get the permission and support of the Sulaimani University for conducting the research project.

From UOS 104 alumina students including 51 males and 39 males responded to the survey.

Results

We try to show and explain some similarities and differences among AUIS students and UOS students based on their responses to the survey.

Job opportunities

AUIS graduates have better job opportunities compared to UOS graduates. Firs, many AUIS students could find a job before graduation. Responses to the survey showed that 43% of AUIS students have found a job before graduation whereas 10% of UOS students have found a job before graduation. Second, more AUIS students were able to find a job directly through the university compare to UOS students; 21% of AUIS students answered that they found their job through AUIS whereas only 3% of UOS students found their job through UOS. Third, AUIS students were more capable of finding a job through internet compared to UOS students; 22% of AUIS students answered that they found a job through internet while only 3% of UOS students a job through internet. Fourth, AUIS graduates were more successful in finding a job in private sector compare to UOS graduates; 84% of AUIS students work at private sector while 34% UOS students work at private sector. Some reasons that may explain the differences between UOS graduates and AUIS graduates in term of job opportunities are the following:

First, AUIS students are quite familiar with using computer and technology at first step. AUIS students have daily contact with their professors through emails; All AUIS students at least should pass Computer Science 1o1 in which they learn how to use PowerPoint, excel, and other computer programs. They also should do projects, which require using power-point, excel, and other computer programs.

Second, AUIS has an office named “AUIS Career Services” to help students improve their employability through internships and gain valuable work experience. Career Services at AUIS help students to improve their CVs, complete application forms, prepare for job interviews. Thus, AUIS through AUIS Career Services has provided an ongoing connection between students and job opportunities outside the university. AUIS students can visit the Career Services’ office to find what new job opportunities are available; they learn hot to apply for a job through internet.

Third, AUIS students, regardless of their low professional skills compare to UOS students, know English, so they might have a better chance to be hired by foreign companies. The Kurdistan Region has become the host of many foreign companies mostly from Turkey, United States, and European countries. AUIS every year opens a job fair and invites many well-known companies in the Kurdistan Region to the university, so AUIS students have opportunity to update their data about what job opportunities are available in the Kurdistan Region.

Fourth, AUIS curriculum appreciates competition and new ideas at work. Private sector values competition and creativity more than public sector that has a traditional way of occupational improvement mostly based on working more years. AUIS students at private sector have better opportunity for self-working and establishing and starting new business. Moreover, private sector is where AUIS students can have a higher income. Competition, new ideas, and a higher income might encourage AUIS graduates to establish their own business and create new job opportunities.

Lifestyle  

AUIS graduates have a different lifestyle compared to UOS students. AUIS students compared to UOS students spend more free time in outdoor settings like park; 48% of AUIS students answered that they go outside places like park per-week while only 27% of UOS students spend their free time in outdoor settings. In addition, AUIS students compared to UOS students better engage with NGOs; 81% of AUIS students answered that they have been in touch with NGOs through donations and volunteer work while only 23% of UOS students said they have been part of NGOs. Plus, 24% of AUIS students stated that they still have their connection to NGOs while at UOS only 5% of students have kept their connections. AUIS students watch English movies and listen to English music more than UOS students; 83% of AUIS students said that they watch English movies while 43% of UOS students said that they watch English Movies. Moreover, 30% of AUIS students said that they listen to English music, but only 9% of UOS students listen to English music. AUIS students practically are less pro religion than UOS students; 28% of AUIS students have stated that religious rituals are not important parts of their lifestyle whereas only 4% of UOS students have stated the same. Finally, AUIS student drink alcohol more than UOS students; 15% of AUIS students said that they drink alcohol, and 10% of them said they drink alcohol occasionally. However, no student at UOS said they drink alcohol and only 3% of them said that they drink alcohol occasionally.  Reasons that might explain the differences in term of lifestyle among AUIS graduates and UOS graduates are the followings:

 First, weekend has well defined within American-European culture; individuals work during week and spend their weekend for rest or adventuring. AUIS often provides recreational and academic tours during weekends that strength the habit of going outside during weekends.

Second, AUIS has been actively connected with local NGOs; such as Kurdistan Save the Children (KSV) and Nature Iraq and WADI. The idea of NGOs, as an important element of having engaged citizens who actively take part in shaping their society, has been imported from the west, and AUIS works to promote this idea within the Kurdistan region.

 Third, AUIS uses English language as the formal language while Kurdish language is dominant at UOS. The fact that AUIS students listen to English music and watch English movies more than UOS students shows how learning a new language is to become part of a new culture.

Fourth, AUIS students and UOS students have a different family background; ….. %  AUIS students consider as international students, so a considerable AUIS students were in European countries before came to AUIS. Thus, part of the difference in term of the role of religion in lifestyle of the students of the two universities is because some AUIS students have grown up in European countries or they often visit these countries. Also the results show that AUIS students and UIS students think about religions differently; we provide evidence for this different attitude towards religion in next section.

The Way of Thinking

AUIS students are more secular while UOS students are more pro-religion. 31% of AUIS students disagreed and 3% of them strongly disagreed that religious institutions (mosques, church, etc.) promote peace in the Kurdistan Region. However, 1% of UOS students disagreed and 1% of them strongly disagreed that religious institutions promote peace.  Moreover, 37% of AUIS students and only 9% of UOS students said that religion is a barrier to individual freedom. Thus, the results indicate that AUIS students and UOS students have a different view about the role of religions in the Kurdistan region. We think that the following reasons might explain the huge difference between AUIS students and UOS students in term of religion:

First, AUIS students and UOS students have different socioeconomic status: many AUIS students are from rich families, so they may travel abroad more and accordingly have new experiences. In other words, the better economic status of AUIS students makes them to more easily distance from the local environment and its religious and traditional elements.

Second, different environment: most of AUIS faculty are from Western and hold secular perspective whereas UOS professors mostly are from the Kurdistan region and probably Muslim. AUIS and UOS are different environment in terms of buildings and activities; UOS has a mosque inside the university while AUIS keep a secular approach, which means that it is not necessary for a university to build religious buildings but there are rooms where students can prey inside the university. AUIS also value doing drama and sport for boys and girls, so it amuse students with non-religious group activities.

Third, AUIS has provided a different curriculum compared to UOS. AUIS has provided courses, such as world’s religion, Civilization (CIV), and History of the Middle East. All AUIS students have to pass CIV 101, CIV 102, CIV 203, CIV 204; in which students critically learn about early and modern history. For instance, AUIS students learn about economic and social reasons behind emerging Islam and not only moral reasons of emerging Islam. World’s religions is a core option, so many AUIS students from different majors may take this course. Students in World’s Religions study both Eastern and Western religions including Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hasidism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. The main aim of the course is to compare religions in terms of theological traditions, material culture, the nature of scriptures, and the place of politics in these religious societies. Thus, many students at AUIS have an opportunity to take World’s Religions and have a more critical and global view about religions while UOS students do not have this opportunity. Only AUIS students whose major is International Studies take The History of the Middle East. These students in this curse learn about reasons behind conflict the decline of Ottoman and Safavid Empires, the emergence of nationalist, social and religious political movements. Thus, International Studies students at AUIS through this course deeply concentrate on historical religious and political disputes in the Middle East.

AUIS students and UOS students almost have the same opinion about the main source of political instability that Kurdistan Faces; 60% of UOS students and 48% of AUIS students said that political parties of Kurdistan are the main source of political instability. After political parties of Kurdistan, both AUIS and UOS students, 26% of AUIS students and 18% of UOS students, chose neighbor countries as the main source of political instability. Both AUIS and UOS students with different percentage, 23% of AUIS students and 9% of UOS students, chose the Central Government of Baghdad as the third main source of political instability. The following reasons might explain the similar opinion of UOS students and AUIS students about the main source of political instability in the Kurdistan region:

First, the political parties of Kurdistan region, especially Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) as the two major political parties, internally have divided the Kurdistan region into two areas: Green and Yellow Areas. This division has turned the Kurdistan region into two bureaucratic systems and two peshmerga forces and subsequently politically destabilized the Kurdistan region.

Second, when we did the research, The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as an Islamic fundamentalist group had not attacked on the Kurdistan region. Thus, the focus as the main external source of political instability was on neighbor countries and the Central Government. Also it is interesting that while the Central Government of Baghdad had stopped sending the salary of Kurdistan region’s employees, both AUIS graduates and UOS graduates chose political parties as the main source of political instability.

Both AUIS students and UOS students have criticized the role of media in the Kurdistan Region. They said that media officially associated with political parties of Kurdistan does not improve political tolerance in the Kurdistan region; 77% of UOS students and 63% of AUIS students disagreed that political parties’ media (television stations, radio stations, and newspapers controlled by political parties) enhances political tolerance. Moreover, majority of students at the both universities, 50% of AUIS students and 38% of UOS students disagreed that there is a high level of freedom of press in the Kurdistan region. Plus, 83% of AUIS students and 77% of UOS students agreed that Kurdish media in the Kurdistan Region mostly works on political issues. The following reasons might explain the similar view of the two graduates groups about the role of media:

First, most of media in the Kurdistan region has controlled by political parties. Each political party has its own TV channels, radio station, and newspaper. In fact there are a few semi-independent TVs, newspapers, and websites with financial and professional limitations may be the reasons behind not considering a high level of freedom of press in the Kurdistan region.

Second, most of these media magnify the internal conflicts between the political parties of the Kurdistan region especially during elections. These local media affiliated with political parties have politicized the daily life of citizens through spending hours on political events. As a result, debates on social, artistic, environmental, and sport issues altogether occupy much less space in the Kurdistan region’s media compared to political debates.

AUIS students and UOS students believe that the western culture has the most influence on the Kurdistan region. Participants in the survey at the both universities, 62% of AUIS students and 45% of UOS students, said that western culture now has more influence on Kurdish society; surprisingly, in the both universities only 1% of participants, one student from AUIS and  one from UOS, said that Persian culture has now more influence on Kurdish society.

First, the economical marginalization of Iran in the Kurdistan region compared to Turkey and western countries might underlie the cultural marginalization of Iran. According to USAID-Foras Erbil out of 1358 foreign companies, there are only 101 Iranian companies while there are 647 Turkish companies.

Second, Universities that associated with Turkey and western countries, such as Cihan University (CV), University of Kurdistan Hawler (UKH), and American University of Sulaimani (AUIS) might promote the culture of their origin countries.

Limitations   

It is true that the differences and even the similarities among these graduated students that we found through the survey may not necessarily be the result of studying at AUIS or UOS; it also can be caused by other sources, such as family and friends. The beauty or maybe the weakness of social science is that it will not provide us with an exact and unique answer. For instance, if a social scholar studied 100 cases of crime and found that all criminals were from low class families, he/she could not say that these people committed a crime just because they were poor or being a poor person is equal to being a criminal. However, she/he can indicate that there is a link between poverty and crime. What we did is trying to picture the link between the type of university chosen by a person with a job, lifestyle and the way of thinking that he/she has. We have tried to choose two groups of students that have many similarities, such as living in a region or a country, searching for a job at the same environment, having almost the same age so that studying at a different university can be one of the major differences among them. we think that many of the outcomes are accurate because they match logical and public expectations. By logical expectations, we mean that we can provide reasons that explain the differences that we found.  Moreover, the sample size, 86 AUIS alumni and 104 UOS alumni, for UOS graduates was small while it was big for AUIS graduates. AUIS has around 1000 students while UOS has over 10,000 students. If we could use a bigger sample size, we would be more accurate and surer about our outcomes.

Conclusion

To sum up, through comparison between AUIS and UOS, we found that AUIS students are more capable of finding a job, more in touch with NGOs, and more secular compared to UOS students. The data shows that overall AUIS students culturally are more in line with western style of life. In addition, both AUIS alumni and UOS alumni negatively commented on the role of media in the Kurdistan region. We hope the research benefits the two universities to find what they are good at and what they are not so goood at, so they can improve their strengths and fix their weaknesses. High school students by using the outcomes of the research can better choose which university they want to study at. In the long run, we hope that this comparison between AUIS and UOS encourages students to do more research about the role of education in the Kurdistan region, inquiring which university is doing the best and highlighting the secret of its success.

Image AUIS website

Researcher: Hawdang Kamal & Ahmed Yousef

IT Assistant: Aram Ahmed (AUIS IT student)

Assistants: Nuha Othman & Heshu Omer (AUIS Business Students)

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