Once boasting one of the most educated populations in the Middle East with a well-funded education program, Iraq's educated classes were devastated by years of economic sanctions, war and sectarian and criminal violence.
Although the level of violence has dropped in the country over the last two years, hundreds of Iraq's professors have not returned, al-Malaf Press writes in Arabic.
Sadiq al-Rikabi, the political advisor to Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki said at the beginning of a three-day conference organized by the Iraqi Ministry of Higher education and Technology that Iraq’s professors are an integral piece of Iraqi society and could affect the future of the Iraqi economy should they choose to return.
At least 350,000 Iraqis living in exile have university diplomas, or about 17 percent of the roughly two million Iraqis who have left the country since 2003, the agency adds.
About 200 Iraqi professors came to the gathering in Baghdad, al-Malaf Press writes, some of whom expressed misgivings at the idea of returing to a country where violence continues to smolder.
Muhammad al-Rabi'i, an Iraqi professor of engineering at Dublin University reportedly told Reuters that he planned only to make short visits to Iraq, adding that while many professors did not seek to return to Iraqi to reside, but suggested that short-term projects involving expatriate experts could still benefit the country.