Continuous Academic Development

Continuous Education

Continuous Academic Development     
To update the knowledge of the academics
To insure the high academic level of the universities

Professor Dlawer Al’aldeen 
Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research

Seeking knowledge from the cradle to the grave has always been one of the most sacred duties for every professional. The success of individuals and the progress of the country’s system lies in raising the standard of knowledge and continuously developing the technical level of work.

It is everyone’s legitimate right to get a product or service of high quality for the time, money and effort spent. One can only obtain such a product or service from organisations and professionals who focus on the quality and care about it in their programmes.  It is not just students who want to update and seek knowledge, but professionals are also striving in this path. 

Although it is a student’s right to demand high educational standards from teaching staff at institutes of higher education, these teachers should also consider it their duty, right and personal desire to attain these high standards.  Lecturers at universities and colleges in the Kurdistan Region are in desperate need to join the rank of modern knowledge and technology than ever before.

On the one hand Iraq’s thirty-year isolation from the outside world resulted in the seclusion of university academics from modern knowledge and science. On the other hand the sudden growth of educational institutions and rise in student numbers increased the burden on teachers. During this time the institutions lacked a mechanism for economic and administrative guidance to provide opportunities for continued education. Even when opportunities were available, for example when scholars and specialists visited universities and faculties for a seminar, teaching staffs were not expected to attend.

Luckily nowadays the gates of modern knowledge are beginning to open for the institutions in the Kurdistan Region. Golden opportunities are available for the universities in the big cities to benefit from the visits of scholars and academics who come from abroad. However, apart from a small number of staff members, no one else has benefitted from the visits of academic guests.

Academics in the universities and the colleges of the smaller cities feel that they are isolated from knowledge. They have a strong desire to connect and participate academically and to continually update their scientific standards. Not only is the distance from their main centres a problem but their economic and administrative rights have not been preserved. As a result, they have little rights in the competitions within higher education, Scholarship, participation in conferences and scientific activities. They hope that a legislation can be passed so that they obtain these rights to achieve the sacred aims they have.

Thus from here the responsibilities of the institutions of higher education begin to establish a suitable mechanism to encourage and support the academics and staff at these institutes in the continuous academic development project. It is the duty of the academics to put in the time and effort in order to deserve the efforts and costs carried by the higher education institutions to preserve their rights.

In the previous month, the topic of establishing a suitable mechanism for the Continuous Academic Development was presented to the Higher Education Committee.  Later it was presented to the Council of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in its last meeting in May, where the project was agreed upon.

Below are the details of the project which can be enriched after it has been tried out and tested.

(Continuous Academic Development)

In order to establish and implement the Continuous Academic Development project in the universities and colleges, the Scientific Committees of these institutes will lay down a robust programme this September for the academic year 2010-2011. The faculties will implement this programme and it will be monitored and observed by the Scientific Committee.

Each university faculty and teaching staff should lay down a programme periodically for the academic seminars. And at the start of the first term, they must publish a list of seminars with the titles at the university and the faculties and on their websites.  In order to encourage exchange visits, seminar presentations and networking among academics of different institutes in the Kurdistan Region, the schedule of the seminars must be published among the corresponding faculties.

The hours in academic development

Under this programme each and every academic, regardless of his degree, is required to allocate at least 50 hours to seek knowledge and participate in various academic activities. These 50 hours will be used as a measurement; each hour will be counted as a unit. Some activities may require hours of preparation and execution, however, they will be calculated as a single unit or one hour.

Collecting 50 hours for academic development throughout the year is not a difficult task. When comparing the larger universities and colleges in the big cities with those that fall outside these cities, the opportunities to attend seminars are greater for the former than the latter. So academics from the big cities should expect to collect more than 100 hours of activities for academic knowledge.  However, it may be difficult for academics in the smaller cities to collect the 50 hours without help from the university and college administration. Therefore the deans and principals of these universities along with the different bodies and faculties will be required to create opportunities for academics who should strive to make up these hours by travelling and visiting various universities to seek knowledge.

Participation through attendance

Each seminar, conference and academic workshop is of great value in education. Participation through attending academic development seminars is an easy task. All academics must be present at the education seminars of their colleges. Each attendance is calculated as one hour of academic development.

The names of the attendees in the seminar will be recorded in a list which will be handed to the Scientific Committee of the college. This list will be given to the Scientific Committee of the university and used as proof of attendance.

A seminar must be no shorter than 45 minutes in order for it to be calculated as one hour of academic development. As for the conferences and workshops, the Education Committee should agree on a standard and hours calculated. However, each full day of conference should not be credited as more than three hours.

Active participation

The best and the most effective method of updating education are via active participation. This can only be achieved through research, analysis and presenting research results at seminars organised by colleges and faculties. Seminars of this type will be calculated as two hours for the researcher. Academics and scholars should achieve 20 hours of academic development each year through active participation.

  •   Seminar presentation

All academics must present the following seminars periodically:

  1. Present a seminar every six months to his colleagues at his department and faculty on the subject of his research or the core of his specialty.
  2. Select a scientific article in his area of specialisation from an international newspaper at least once every three months and prepare a Powerpoint presentation for his colleagues at his department in a simplified and logical manner. The seminar must be open to all and be announced at the university. Attendance of academics of the department will be compulsory and optional for those in other departments.
  3. A presentation of a scientific article should be carried out for the teaching staff of the faculty at least once every six months  in the same method mentioned above in (B) but on a different topic. The seminar must be open to all and announced at the university, attendance of the academics of the faculty is expected.
  4. Without a doubt the important role of academics lies in participating in think-tanks, developing strategic plans and providing scientific and valuable advice to various institutions. These activities can be calculated as one hour for each participant if presented with proof.

  •  Educational publications
  1.  Writing and publishing educational articles in educational journals updates knowledge. Publications are considered highly in the Continuous Academic Development project. For example, publishing an opinion piece, or a literature review or a speech in a specialist journal can be considered as one hour. Publishing an educational book of the author’s field of speciality, after it is submitted to the Education Committee for evaluation should get the credit of five to fifteen hours. It cannot exceed 15 hours since it is prohibited to spend all hours on one subject and activity.
  2. The evaluation of projects, publications and the scientific research dissertation are considered as good opportunities for seeking knowledge. Those who evaluate the scientific projects and publications of another researcher (before publication) gets one hour. Two hours will be credited for the evaluation of Master’s thesis and four hours for Ph.D thesis.


The budget of academic development project

  • All departments must allocate a budget for inviting scholars and researchers whether from the region’s universities, expatriate Kurds or academic visitors. These visitors should be active in their field of research and should be invited to present the results of their research or their latest creations in their specialist areas. A certain amount of money will be allocated for travel costs within the Kurdistan Region and for prizes; however, nothing will be allocated for travel costs outside the region.

Quality and compliance assurance

  • In order to ensure the implementation of the project, the quality of seminars and other activities, the Higher Scientific Committee (HSC) must follow the process of academic development in cooperation with the Quality Assurance Committee at the universities and faculties. They must also develop an appropriate mechanism for the workflow. The following are some points of clarification, which will become integral to the academic development project and monitored by the Scientific Committee.
  1.  The Scientific Committee of each college will collect the scholar’s and academic’s proof of attendance at every activity. This information will be submitted to the HSC of the university in order to grant each academic a certificate of development. The HSC of the university will be responsible for ensuring attendance and quality assurance. It must also collect proof of achievement of the development process in the faculties and colleges. At the same time the director general of control and quality assurance at the Ministry will be responsible for following up the project. 
  2.  To ensure quality assurance, assessment forms should be distributed among attendees at seminars. Each form should include questions regarding the scientific standard, style of presentation and the academic’s effort in preparing the seminar. The HSC of the university will collect these forms and analyse the data in a manner similar to the quality assurance project carried out for students. This feedback will be treated anonymously and given back to the academic.


Compliance and Results

  • Commitment to the continuous academic development project will be an integral part of a teacher’s life and their academic activities and achievements will be taken into consideration. For example, an academic who has completed 50 hours of development activities can request a promotion of their grade or apply for an administrative position or participate in the committees or become part of a delegation outside the country to represent the university. But those who have fewer than 50 hours will not have the right to apply for a promotion or get a higher position or participate in other activities for two years.


Conclusion

  • Every teacher is an ambassador for his university and he reflects the standards of his university. Every university should want its representatives, ambassadors and academic and administrative staff to attract admirable attention in their performances and achieve the trust and respect of those abroad. Therefore, the teaching staff should be a vivid example of continuous academic development and it is the responsibility of the university’s management and staff to create a robust programme and proper environment for the development.
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