ISHIK UNIVERSITY is a private university which was founded in 2008 in Erbil, Iraq by the private Fezalar Educational Institutions.
The university continues educational service with 6 Faculties containing diverse programs. It is located closely to the city center of a historically rich city, Erbil. The Faculties are as follows: Engineering, Dentistry, Administrative Sciences, Education, Law, and Science.
Professor Ahmet Öztaş is the President of Ishik University. He has held the role since September 2012, prior to which he was the Dean of Engineering and Architecture Faculty at Epoka University in Tirana, Albania.
Ahmet’s background is in Mathematics and Civil Engineering. He graduated first from the Mathematics department of İnönü University in Malatya, Turkey and then from Civil Engineering Department of Istanbul Technical University in Istanbul, Turkey. He has a MSc. in Construction Management from Istanbul University and obtained his Ph.D. in 1995 from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) in Manchester, U.K. His PhD title was “The Mitigation of the Effects of Delays in Construction Projects - A Knowledge Based System Approach”.
He joined the Civil Engineering department at Gaziantep University in Gaziantep, Turkey as a Research Assistant and received a PhD. scholarship from the Turkish Higher Education Council (YOK). While he was lecturing in the Civil Engineering department, he was involved in administrative duties as well. He became the Director of the Kilis Vocational High School of Gaziantep University from 1999 to 2004. Apart from academic works, he was involved in implementing “Quality Assurance System (QAS)” in the Ready Mixed Concrete (RMC) plants as Concrete Quality Chief Inspector in the southeastern region of Turkey while working at the Turkish Ready-Mixed Concrete Association for 12 years. During this period he supervised 25 RMC plants in 9 cities to establish the QAS.
He was involved in a number of national and international projects as a researcher and project leader. Apart from other projects, he has also worked on the EUROCODE project as a visiting fellow researcher at the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission (EU) in Italy from April 2006 to October 2007. Another research project involved as project leader is “Predicting the Compressive Strength and Slump of High Performance Concrete using Artificial Neural Networks”, TÜBİTAK.
He has published more than 50 journal and conference papers and supervised more than 20 MSc and PhD students in Gaziantep and Epoka Universities. Prof. Öztaş has been a member of the GEDC since 2010.
What are the Degree Programs offered by Ishik University and what are some of the salient ongoing research projects?
Ishik University offers various degree programs which are crucial and important in the region. In addition to engineering education, there are diverse programs such as Law and Dentistry, which play important roles in contribution to youth education throughout the region. The Engineering Faculty has emerged as a result of local and regional demand for engineering specializations to meet the economic development and growth of the region. The Engineering Faculty offers 4 different degree programs: Civil Engineering, Computer Engineering, Architecture, and Interior Design. These programs are top areas that serve the needs of society in the Kurdistan Governmental Region (KRG). We have plans to add new departments to our Faculty like Mechatronic and Petroleum Engineering in coming years.
The Engineering Faculty focuses on specific research areas which are crucial for the society. Research is encouraged within each discipline to focus on both local issues as well as global ones. Local issues focuses on finding solutions to existing problems that are considered of importance as it’s related to people's lives. Global issues are related to the current emerging trends within each field and the adaptation of these trends in order to contribute with something new.
Almost all final year students within each discipline are involved with a “graduation research project” that is supervised by an experienced faculty member. These projects are carefully selected and undergo a rigorous assessment process to evaluate their usefulness, applicability, learning outcomes and overall value in terms of contribution. Many of these projects eventually excel to a publication level as the work is carried on later by the faculty members targeting international conferences and journals. Some of these projects are allocated grants to pursue the implementation on a higher level.
Generally, there are many projects in Civil Engineering that are targeting sustainability in structural design & construction materials. These studies focus on studying methods of adopting ergonomic programs into the KRG's construction industry. On the other side, Pavement Management System focuses solutions to society’s problems.
The Computer Engineering Department is targeting Robotics and Smart Technologies Research. We proudly established the Robotics lab within the Computer Engineering department; the first within the region. This lab is equipped with several educational robotics kits along with software in order to not only offer the course but also conduct research within this area.
The Architecture Engineering Program studies the streetscape of Erbil city, while Interior Design Engineering Program studies the structure of civil buildings in the city.
What is the graduation rate of female engineers at Ishik University? What are some programs which may increase enrollment of young female leaders in Engineering?
Considering Ishik University to be young, on average, we have about 40 - 50 graduates from each department. For the past 4 years the number of female graduates from the Engineering College totaled to around 100, this forms to about 25% of the overall graduates. The highest number of female enrollments is in the Architecture Engineering Department and a smaller number enrolled in the other departments, with Civil Engineering being the least in the past couple of years.
There are many cultural factors affecting the selection of the field of study for females within the community of this region and the university should play a better role to enlighten the community and increase awareness of the potential that females may have in building a better society. Ishik university organizes many events to address this issue one of which is known as the “Career Week”.
Is Ishik University planning to offer any Massive Open Online Courses [MOOCs] in Engineering?
The strategic plan of Ishik University is considering the implementation of online courses in the near future due to the increasing interest for the online courses in the region.
What are some of the overall challenges that your institution faces?
Ishik is an internationally connected institution which has collaborations with other institutions all over the world. Most of our staff is international. We invite professionals from other countries to keep the quality high.
Since Ishik is one of the leading universities in the KRG, we open new programs and research areas; however, these programs face some difficulties as they are unknown by prospective students. One of the great difficulties that we face as a university is instability in the region. This instability leads to a reduction in the retention rate of the faculty members, which is considerably related to the instability of economic growth in the region.
Although the region is safe for living and studying, news and media coverage of events in our neighboring regions affects international public opinion. Thus, this misleading opinion creates an obstacle in attracting scientists to our international conferences and in collaborating with international universities.
How would you characterize the current relations between the Ishik University and the Corporate and Industry world? What are some of the projects that you are implementing local companies?
In developed countries, the relationship between universities and industry is mature and clearly defined on several levels. Universities play a major role in the manifestation of ideas and conducting the relevant research and development for these ideas. Industry on the other hand, plays a major role in funding and facilitating the implementation of potential ideas.
In developing countries, such a relationship has not yet matured, and other factors relating to regulations may at times hinder the progress in establishing such relationships. However, Ishik University understands the potential of such a relationship and always tries to push the limits. The university established Ishik Engineering Consulting Bureau (IECB), which facilitates consultation for civil engineers in both private and public sectors. In addition, the university established Ishik University Research Center (IURS) in order to follow up with research and organize national and international events, such as competitions and conferences, that would promote ideas to industry. We know that we took the right steps and we know that the process would eventually become fruitful. Although we are at the beginning, we have set up a number of relationships with industry locally and internationally. We also offer 25 seats for students to participate in local industries with support from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research of KRG.
Globally, Ishik collaborates with international companies for internship programs and collaborates with international universities for summer training seminars and student workshops. By this way, Ishik ensures the quality level of education and research by catching the trends of the region and the world.
How many International Branches does Ishik University have in the world?
Ishik University has links with the international universities based on student and staff exchange programs. The university has two branches KRG: Ishik Erbil Main Branch and Ishik Sulaimani Local Branch.
Are there any international partnerships between Ishik University and other institutions?
ISHIK University has signed memorandums with about 50 universities in various countries such as: Albania, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Cyprus, Georgia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S.A. Based on these agreements, the university hae sent more than 30 students overseas and received 2 students from abroad during the past three years. Also, the university established a Dual Diploma Program with North American University in Houston, Texas, (USA) where the students can earn part of their degree at other universities. We are encouraging our students to have an international experience through our exchange and dual degree programs, and as a result, student interest in the Ishik exchange program are increasing every year.
What are some of the cutting edge engineering education advancements at the Faculty of Engineering during the last few years under your leadership?
Ishik University encourages its students to enlarge their understanding of engineering by participating in international competitions. By this means, Ishik is an entrepreneur institution which leads the society of KRG to new limits in education. Ishik accomplishes this by setting the international standards and applying them.
According to my knowledge and experience in the advancement of engineering education, a young institution with young staff like Ishik University should set up global managerial and educational standards. Based on this ideology, I have started with the curriculum development and become a learning organization. From the Secretary to the Deans, Vice Presidents and President, the learning process has started. This learning process focused mainly on Bologna Process, ISO 9001 standard international accreditation apart from other topics. Then, we have converted and adapted all programs curriculum to the Bologna Process in one year. We obtained ISO 9001 Quality Management Certificate in a year and a half, and applied for international accreditation for the Civil Engineering program. We are anticipating positive replies from the accreditation agency in the beginning of 2017. By passing through this process (as I am calling this process the Quality Journey of Ishik University) we have converted our education system from lecturer-centered teaching to student-centered learning which is very new for the region.
There are some advancements relating to engineering education in our Faculty. For instance, in Civil Engineering, Ishik has applied LEED and other standards for sustainable design, construction, and renovation stages of buildings. The Civil Engineering program uses special software for applying BIM (Building Information Modeling), which is crucial in Civil Engineering studies in the world. The engineering quality comes with the safety. The Civil Engineering education is adopted to be familiar with Ergonomic, OSHA standards and construction site safety.
A smart society is the leading direction of education at Ishik. Our staff is aware of the importance of engineering education for the region; therefore, our entire team focuses on the practices that support our student’s education. Our students can apply the theory to real-time problems.
Society involvement is a key factor for achieving higher standards. One such involvement is related to road hazards such as potholes, debris, sunken manhole covers and other common roads safety hazards. Drivers encounter these while driving and reporting these could be achieved in a “smart” way, with the least user intervention using an out of the box solution: “Smartphone”. These advancements are leading innovations in the region and education society of KRG.
Can you share with us some of the approaches that Ishik University is implementing in order to sustain growth in its Engineering College and retain a constant growth of its student body in addition to ethnic and gender diversity?
The gender and ethnic background diversity of the city is large. It includes different nations such as Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens, and many more. The content and the curriculum of available programs in Ishik meet the local market needs as well as society needs. This gives the university a great power of quality and diversification in education. Ishik welcomes different cultures and religions in the region. This power and strength is understood by the community of KRG people. We have students from different ethnicities who study at the university peacefully, without facing discrimination. So far, Ishik has a good reputation with its quality of discipline in education and ethics.
At the Ishik University, what are some of the initiatives that you have undertaken to promote diversity in Engineering Education?
The university by nature is multicultural. Staff members as well as our students, male and female, come from different ethnic backgrounds and are from different nationalities, not only locals. We consider that human capital is the most valuable asset. We look at the collective sum of the individual differences, life experiences, knowledge, inventiveness, innovation, self-expression, unique capabilities and talent that our employees invest in their work. This represents a significant part of our reputation and achievement as well. There are many female employees in our university and many of them hold key administrative roles in the institution. The university takes every effort to promote Engineering Education diversity.
In your opinion, what are some of significant issues/topics that ought to be addressed by the global engineering community and particularly by Engineering Deans, in order to further strengthen inter-regional communication and continue to globalize this field of study?
In Civil Engineering Department we have several ongoing research projects targeting sustainability in structural design & construction materials, construction management, pavement materials, hydraulic structures, foundation engineering and geotechnical engineering. In the Computer Engineering Department, as well as the Information Technology Department, research is focusing on “Smart Societies”. It includes the design of smart homes to tackle power consumption issues, water consumptions issues as well as the design of smart tools and machinery to assist the disabled – an endeavor inspired by the casualties of Peshmerga (soldiers). The Architecture Engineering Department is involved in urban design and streetscape, as well as rethinking education in Architecture. The Internal Design Department research is focusing on internal comfort – aesthetic. All these topics are gathered from the needs of society and are very crucial for the region. Since these studies are related to the world community, and we believe many countries face similar problems, the GEDC can focus on them to attract researchers to define alternative solutions. This will help humanity to overcome a large number of life-related problems.
Other topics to be addressed by the GEDC:
- Environmental issues
All these would strengthen the international and region communications in a globalized way.
What are the main areas of research in Engineering [and Technology] at your institution?
In the Engineering Faculty, we focus on sustainability in design and construction, thermal and environmental comfort, urban planning and design, and architecture education.
What is the main focus of your research?
The main focus of my research is in “construction management” and I study mitigation of construction delays, risk management of construction projects, planning and scheduling of construction projects, and quality assurance in Ready-Mixed Concrete Plants.
How has GEDC helped your University achieve the goal of making your institution a more global environment?
The involvement itself is inspiring. Meeting with other fellow colleagues, as well as professionals, would for sure widen our horizon, as we would benefit from the experience of others worldwide. The GEDC would provide a medium whereby ideas could be exchanged and potential solutions are offered.
The GEDC has helped to push Ishik University into the global arena through the visits to other international institutions like Korea, Australia, China, America, etc. It attracted our staff to share the knowledge with the researchers around the globe and motivated them to focus on humanity's issues in different societies. The GEDC also attracted the attention of our engineering students. They have prepared and sent projects for competition at the WEEF-GEDC conference in Seoul in November 2016.
What are your top five priorities as a President and what do you envision for the Faculty of Engineering five years from now?
- My first priority is to improve the teaching quality in the university. To achieve this goal, I have identified a 3 stage process on Quality journey in the university. First and second steps namely Curriculum Development, and Obtaining ISO 9001: Quality management certificate were fulfilled. Third step is international accreditation which is an ongoing process and a long way to achieve to have the accreditation for all 15 departments.
- To increase the number of International students in my university. Although the region is safe for living and studying, but because of some news and events related our neighbor regions in the media affects the international public opinion. By increasing social and scientific activities we may overcome this obstacle.
- I would like to encourage local universities to be a member of GEDC and to form a national or regional Engineering Dean’s Council.
- To encourage our students of engineering and other disciplines to be entrepreneurs to help the development of their region and their country. Then, to be active to solve the regional and global problems.
- To increase student’s awareness to the problems of the community which they live in by the Community involvement and management for society needs with full of ethics and respecting to human values.