Thursday, June 24, 2004

U.S. administrators have made great strides in rebuilding the Iraqi educational system, but still face hurdles, many of their own making, a senior coalition official said in Washington yesterday.

"There is a growing independence of the universities," said John Agresto , the senior adviser for higher education and scientific research with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad.

"Despite the fears of religious and political coercion, I think you find incredible openness and dialogue," Mr. Agresto added during a discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute.

"I think higher education is absolutely going in the right direction," he said.

Iraq now has 20 functioning universities and 43 technical institutes and colleges. These are mainly public and overall experienced a 50 percent increase in freshman enrollment last year.

Policy at the institutions is set by their own presidents, rather than the central government, Mr. Agresto said. "This is absolutely a major change."

He also noted that university students for the first time have access to the Internet.

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