Sustainable development trends in Iraqi universities and their future challenges

Assist. Professor Semir Khelil Ibrahim Shamto
Faculty of Tourist Sciences.

Sustainable development is a top priority in global efforts to achieve a balance between meeting current needs and those needs to come in the future without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. In this context, universities play a fundamental and pivotal role in consolidating the concept of sustainable development by promoting it in various aspects of university life. The university can serve society by contributing to employing scientific research in the needs of productive and service sectors, and by allocating places in universities for a number of companies and organizations in those sectors in order to take their headquarters as a place of interaction for academic faculty, students, and laboratories, and to cooperate to solve the problems faced by those productive sectors. Or various services, which prevent the development of organizations (Nashsheda et al, 2018: 3).
Sustainable development is a term that has received increasing attention, especially after the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, when a definition of development was formulated by the Brodtland Sustainable Commission: development that meets current needs without compromising the needs and rights of future generations (Satori, 2016: 299).
Educational sustainable development:
Education is the cornerstone of the development strategy of societies, but rather the basic and main gateway to achieving comprehensive sustainable development, and for that; Societies adopt clear strategies developed by educational institutions, especially universities, in the targeted field (Al-Barawy, 2021: 253). Promoting sustainable development includes a set of mechanisms and procedures that aim to achieve a balance between current needs and future needs, by improving the economic, environmental and social dimensions. In the context of Iraqi universities. These mechanisms can be applied to promote sustainable development as follows:
Integrating sustainable dimensions into management and decision-making: By encouraging the university administration to integrate sustainability principles into all aspects of its management, from resource planning to decision-making, as well as establishing organizational structures or committees concerned with sustainability issues to contribute to the formulation of policies and programs.
Sustainable infrastructure development: Improving the efficiency of consuming resources such as water and energy on campus by adopting more efficient technologies, in addition to taking advantage of renewable energy sources, and installing sustainable environmental systems such as recycling systems.
Integrating the concept of sustainable development into curricula and research: by including sustainability principles in the curricula of various disciplines; To enhance awareness of sustainable issues, as well as encourage scientific research and studies that focus on environmental and social challenges, and provide sustainable solutions.
Awareness and interaction within the university: Organizing awareness campaigns and workshops for students and employees about the concept of sustainable development, and how to contribute to it, and holding sustainable events and activities to raise awareness and encourage interaction and participation.
Cooperation and partnerships with institutions, government agencies, and the local community: to exchange experiences, enhance sustainable development efforts, and establish partnerships with the private sector to finance and implement sustainable projects on campus.
Measuring and evaluating impact: Establishing indicators and standards to measure and evaluate the implementation of sustainable practices and their impact. Data must be analyzed and results evaluated to ensure the achievement of sustainable development goals and identify areas that need improvement.
These mechanisms represent part of the actions that can be taken to promote sustainable development in a university environment, and these mechanisms can be customized and modified according to the local context and needs. The university environment is a dynamic environment, constantly changing according to various challenges and developments. Some of the trends that can affect the change in the university environment include:
Technology and Innovation: The advancement of technology and technical developments affect the methods of education and research within universities, and the emergence of new technologies, such as: online learning and artificial intelligence; It can change how academic content is presented and the interaction between students and professors.
Environmental and social challenges: Increased awareness of environmental, sustainability, and social justice issues affects universities’ attitudes toward integrating these issues into their curricula and research.
Changes in labor market needs: The evolution of labor market requirements affects the academic specializations and programs offered at universities, as students search for an education that enables them to develop skills that meet the changing labor market needs.
Diversity and Inclusion: Increasing cultural and social diversity in universities poses challenges and opportunities in promoting openness and cultural understanding among students and employees.
Political and economic changes: can affect university funding and policies, and there may be a need to adjust strategies and planning based on new challenges.
Globalization: The expansion of globalization means increasing interaction between universities, educational and research institutions in various parts of the world, and this can lead to the exchange of experiences and knowledge on a broader scale.
Changes in learning and teaching methods: Developments in learning and teaching methods, such as the focus on active learning and phased learning, may require changes in the university environment and infrastructure.
Challenges of promoting sustainable development in Iraqi universities:
It is necessary to plan according to the available resources to adopt sustainable development, apply its concept properly, strive to integrate its dimensions, and make optimal use of natural and human resources, with governments understanding the importance of their role in preserving natural resources (Muhammad, 2013: 22). Education is a fundamental pillar of development, especially human development, as education works to qualitatively improve productivity and its elements, in all countries of the world. Education contributes to preparing human resources capable of keeping pace with technical development, therefore; Taking the proper role in development plans that serve communities (Al-Obaidi, 2011: 358). Iraqi universities face many challenges in achieving the concept of sustainable development, the most important of which are:
Economic conditions and limited investment: Limited allocation of resources may be an obstacle to implementing sustainable projects and achieving goals.
Security and political challenges: The security and political situation in Iraq may affect the implementation of some sustainable projects and the strengthening of cooperation with external parties.
Lack of awareness and education: Lack of awareness of the importance of sustainable development may pose a challenge in adopting sustainable concepts and practices.

Future directions for promoting sustainable development in Iraqi universities:
Universities must be an important part of the development process, especially preparing a generation that believes in the future of sustainable development and the importance of achieving it. This is achieved by creating a research field between professors and students, and in this field; We find that universities are very keen for the university student to be under the sound scientific supervision of the academic professor, and through study and application of research curricula, as well as educational scientific courses, to establish the developmental transformation process while the student is in university studies, or while working in the public sector or private sector (Al-Khatib, 2014: 13). There are several future trends that can contribute to promoting sustainable development in universities. These trends include a set of ideas and practices that can contribute to achieving sustainable development:
Integrating sustainability into university strategies: Universities are moving towards including the principles and goals of sustainability in their strategies and development plans. This means mobilizing resources and directing efforts towards achieving sustainable development in a comprehensive manner.
Innovation and research in the field of sustainability: By encouraging research and development in areas of sustainability such as renewable energy, resource management, and environmental technologies, this would give new and innovative solutions to sustainable challenges.
Promoting education and awareness of sustainability: Integrating the concept of sustainability into school curricula, providing educational programs that encourage critical thinking about sustainable issues, and encouraging the adoption of sustainable behaviors.
Sustainable cooperation and partnerships: Strengthening cooperation with different sectors including local governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to implement sustainable projects and share knowledge.
Providing an incubating environment for innovation: creating spaces and infrastructure that encourage creative thinking and the development of projects and ideas that contribute to sustainable development.
Measurement and evaluation of impact: Using specific indicators to measure universities’ progress towards sustainable development, evaluating the environmental and social impact of projects and programmes.
Motivation and rewards for sustainable innovation: Encourage employees and students to participate in sustainable initiatives by offering rewards and incentives.
Using technology to achieve sustainability: Using advanced technology such as artificial intelligence and graphical analytics to improve resource management and predict future challenges.
Commitment to the highest standards of environmental sustainability: Adopting green building practices and achieving sustainability in the design and operation of university buildings.
Directing investments towards sustainability: making investment decisions consistent with sustainability principles and encouraging investment in projects that promote sustainable development.
Factors that must be taken into consideration to achieve the promotion of sustainable development in Iraqi universities:
Promoting sustainable development in Iraqi universities can be achieved despite the challenges they may face. Universities in Iraq – like universities in other countries – can play an important role in promoting sustainability by adopting sustainable principles and practices, however; There are some factors to consider:
Educational institutions direct the adoption of sustainable practices in universities, enact legislation that promotes this within directives and policies that support sustainable development.
Increase awareness of the importance of sustainable issues among staff and students, and awareness through organizing awareness campaigns and workshops can have a positive impact.
Improving infrastructure and using sustainable technology, as it can reduce resource consumption and improve efficiency.
Encouraging research and development in the areas of sustainability, as it can lead to development commensurate with local needs and challenges.
Working on the principle of cooperation with government sectors, the local community, and the private sector in order to enhance efforts to achieve sustainable development.
Providing educational and training programs that focus on sustainable concepts and practices, which contributes to expanding awareness and providing individuals with the necessary skills.
Planning and integrating the concept of sustainable development into university plans and long- and short-term strategies directs efforts towards achieving goals.
Directing investments towards sustainable projects and initiatives to create a positive impact on the university environment and the surrounding community.
The bottom line; Sustainable development represents a challenge that requires cooperation and continuous efforts from Iraqi universities, by adopting future trends and overcoming challenges, as universities can have a positive impact in achieving sustainable development for society. Universities can also integrate the concept of sustainable development into all aspects of their work, starting from the structure of education to scientific research and community cooperation, in a way that effectively contributes to building a future based on sustainability, and ensures that the needs of current and future generations are met.
Despite the challenges that universities may face, the commitment of universities to promoting sustainable development remains necessary to preserve the environment and achieve a balance between environmental, social and economic aspects through the development of human resources, infrastructure, and scientific research, therefore; Universities can be driving forces for positive change in society.
Promoting sustainable development in Iraqi universities is an investment in the future, and an emphasis on the role of universities in building a better and more sustainable society. By adopting future trends and teamwork, universities can be a role model in achieving sustainable development.

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