Dr. Fernando Camacho Padilla, the professor of contemporary history at the Autonoma University of Madrid (UAM), wrapped up his trip to the Kurdistan region of Iraq last week. The main goal of his travel to the region was to visit Kurdish universities and study the possibilities of cooperation in different areas, such as students and professors exchange, joint research and publications, language teachers exchange etc.
Dr. Camacho Padilla, with the support of the KRG representation in Spain (KRG Spain), has visited Sulaimaniya University (public), Komar University (private), Koya University (public) and the University of Salahaddin – Erbil (public), all four universities are very well placed, both in the national and in the Middle East rankings.
The presidents and vice-presidents of the universities, as well as the deans of various faculties, received Dr. Camacho Padilla. The professor Camacho Padilla presented his university, one of the best universities in Spain and worldwide, according to international rankings and spoke about the existing collaboration models between UAM and other foreign universities, especially in the Middle East. The UAM is a part of the “4 Universities Alliance”, which also includes Autonoma University of Barcelona, Carlos III University of Madrid, and Pompeu Fabra University. These four universities collaborate with each other within the framework of the Erasmus + K017 program, focused on academic cooperation mainly with non – European universities. In the Middle East, the UAM works close with the University of Tehran and the Allameh Tabataba’i University.
The presidents of the universities spoke about their universities and expressed great interest in collaborating with the UAM. Most of them have previous experience in the field of academic cooperation with Spain, such as: the Erasmus Marhaba program (University of Santiago de Compostela and the University of Almería), as well as Erasmus + program (University of Malaga) The University of Sulaimaniya also collaborates with the University of Murcia.
Additionally, Dr. Camacho Padilla underlined the importance of teaching of Spanish language in Kurdish universities – the idea that was received with great enthusiasm by Kurdish academics. This project would further contribute to the academic relations of cooperation and friendship between Spain and Kurdistan.
We have spoken with Dr. Camacho Padilla about his trip.
GRK Spain: What was the main reason of your visits to the Kurdistan region universities?
Dr. Camacho Padilla: Since I joined the UAM in January 2015, I have been struck by the interest that students have in the history of Kurdistan. The war against DAESH and the fundamental role of the Peshmerga in its defeat has made a good part of Spanish society know more closely the reality of the Kurdish people. Many students write their works, as well as master’s and bachelor’s theses, about the Kurdish. Several students have also asked me to include this topic to the study programs of the subjects I teach and even asked about possibilities for academic exchange in Kurdistan and / or recommendations on how to travel to the area to do field research.
GRK Spain: What impressions have you had about the universities in the Kurdistan region? And about Kurdistan in general?
Dr. Camacho Padilla: I have been extremely impressed by the high academic level of the universities in the region. In addition to having a long history of academic cooperation with universities in different countries, they have numerous scientific journals and a highly qualified teaching team, as well as extraordinary facilities, with large campuses and excellent equipment in the classrooms. In appearance, they could perfectly be any of the best-known Spanish universities. When it comes to Kurdistan, I want to emphasize that it is a very safe and quiet region. It is certainly an exception in the area. There is practically no crime, and the people are very friendly and helpful. It has also surprised me that a good part of the population speaks some English, so it is quite easy to get along.
GRK Spain: Do you think it would be possible for Spanish students to travel to Iraqi Kurdistan for academic stays?
Dr. Camacho Padilla: I believe that Kurdistan region meets all requirements for Spanish students to travel there safely. Additionally, there is great ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious diversity. It is definitely one of the richest territories in the Middle East, when it comes to heritage. All this is of a great value for the learning and maturing process of the students.
GRK Spain: What plans do you have to start the collaboration between UAM and the universities of Kurdistan?
Dr. Camacho Padilla: We must continue studying the different options for cooperation, especially in two areas. First of all, the possibility for the students to convalidate their studies, so they do not lose the academic year. Second, the search for topics of common interest between Kurdish and Spanish professors to plan research projects and joint publications. In any case, having visited Kurdistan, I firmly believe that both points could be resolved easily now.