__Ground-breaking ceremony marked with strong emotions of hopefulness__
p. Last week, the American University of Iraq was officially established in a ground-breaking ceremony in Sulaimaniya, a northern Kurdish portion of Iraq relatively untouched by conflict of war. Expected to open in 2008, the university’s ceremony was attended by many of the leaders of the new Iraqi government including president Jalal Talabani and was marked with strong emotions of hopefulness for the future.
p. “This shows what Iraq could be like,” Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said to the International Herald Tribune. “This is a dream that has to come true.”
p. Both Iraqis and Americans were optimistic during the event. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker represented the American government, which has already pledged $10.5 million to the university.
p. The establishment of the university also represents the relative stability that the northern Kurdish states have enjoyed for the greater part of the past four years. The three major Kurdish provinces of Iraq, which make up roughly 15 percent of the country’s population, have gone through many periods of rapid development on their own.
p. Currently, with $40 million pledged through various local businesses and both Iraqi and American governments, the university hopes to begin the first stage of construction. In the future, the university hopes to raise $90 million more with which to build adequate classrooms, dormitories and a museum.
p. The university’s mission is to mirror the American Universities in Cairo, Egypt and Beirut, Lebanon that are world-renowned for their academics and competitive admissions policies.
p. All applicants to the American University of Iraq are expected to speak fluent English and to have scored in the top 20 percent of their college entrance exams. Although the tuition is set at $10,000 a year, a large sum for a country with free public education at the higher levels, scholarships of varying amounts are being planned by the university’s leaders.
p. Although logically a university such as this one would be most beneficial in the capital city of Baghdad, officials stated that the violence and instability of the city would have made the project unviable.