JANUARY 14, 2004

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USAID awards grant to Oklahoma universities to help improve Iraq’s higher education system

Four Oklahoma universities have been awarded a multi-million-dollar grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development for projects to improve Iraq’s higher education system in the coming years.

The USAID grant, called Al-Sharaka (which means “partnership” in Arabic), links the Oklahoma Higher Education Partnership – Cameron University, Langston University, Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma – with three Iraqi higher education institutions: Salahaddin University, the University of Al-Anbar and the University of Basrah.

The grant is valued at nearly $5 million during its first year. If funded for all three years, the consortium of Oklahoma universities will receive more than $14.6 million.

Four previous grants have been awarded to American universities to revitalize Iraq’s higher education system in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s overthrow last year. USAID funding for this project totals more than $21.7 million.

Among the program’s initiatives are the establishment and maintenance of an academic exchange program, promoting collaborative research and providing opportunities for faculty and students to interact.

The Oklahoma consortium will focus its work in the areas of instructional technology and business affairs. Projects include designing and hosting an Internet website for Al-Sharaka, providing instructional technology workshops and online instructional training and sending professors to Iraq who are fluent in Arabic languages.

The program will help provide access to research and academic databases that were unavailable under the Hussein regime, and will encourage Iraqi higher education administrators, faculty and students to engage in the revitalization of Iraq's higher education system.

USAID is an independent federal government agency that advances U.S. foreign policy objectives by supporting economic growth, agriculture and trade, global health, and democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance. Its history goes back to the Marshall Plan reconstruction of Europe after World War II and the Truman Administration's Point Four Program. In 1961, President Kennedy signed the Foreign Assistance Act into law and created USAID by executive order.

Since that time, it has been the principal U.S. agency to extend assistance to countries recovering from disaster, trying to escape poverty, and engaging in democratic reforms.

To learn more about the US Agency for International Development’s Iraq project, visit http://www.usaid.gov/iraq/.

Contacts: Keith Mitchell, CU, 1-580-581-2211; Catherine Bishop, OU, 1-405-325-1543; Deena Thomas, LU, 1-405-466-3484; and Milt Morris, OSU, 1-405-744-5278