A Conversation with the President of UKH: Insights Into Leadership and Vision 

By Raza Soran and Derin Baqi

Sometimes we tend to forget that behind the big labels a successful person holds, there is a human being with a private life, hobbies, a family, and every other normal thing like every one of us. With one son and two grandchildren, President Keith Sharp started talking about them with a face full of smiles and a heart full of love. Professor Dr. Keith Sharp, or Keith, as he modestly asked us to call him, President of the University of Kurdistan, was kind enough to walk us through his success journey and his administration’s vision for UKH.

Professor Dr. Keith Sharp

A university’s success derives from ambitious and efficient management. To our luck, the current president of UKH is a sociologist with a background in managing academia, and through his insights and experience, he is passionate about offering the students the best learning experience and opportunities to attain their dreams.

When asked about his role as president and what effort he puts in to create a positive and vibrant campus environment, he replied, “Physically, we are working on making the space bigger and re-designing the campus, but there is more to it than that; we encourage extracurricular activities and events for students in between classes to always stay motivated and energetic.” The president also mentioned how much he values the alumni and how they also stay in touch with the university even years after they graduate; “a very powerful force” is what he described them as, and went on explaining how they can benefit the university as well, giving many examples of graduate students who own their own companies or hold high positions in many places and take in more UKH students due to the trust they have in the abilities and skills of students from our university.

The president’s goal for the future is, “As a university, we want to be more international, both in staff and in students, as that’s vital in the world now to understand across cultures.” For further developing Kurdistan, he added his insight that “what this region needs is to bring the best of what the world has to offer into Kurdistan.” He hopes UKHs’ effect on Kurdistan will be “to allow Kurdistan to develop so in the future it can secure the place in the world that this region deserves to have.” As the president, he attains such goals by implementing the right procedures at UKH that ensure students attain a high calibre of education and standards. He also has an interest in long-standing higher education; when asked about his intentions for UKH’s education, he added, “In my opinion, standards should be international, which is why this university’s academic standards are comparable to the best in the world, and this is what makes UKH degrees credible internationally.” How the university manages this is through pursuing international accreditation by bodies such as ASIC and the QAA and by having international external examiners oversee academic standards. The president said, “We are one of the only universities that does this in Iraq.” This means UKH’s credentials, ability, quality of work, and transferrable skills are of international standards.

As we touched upon the new role opened in UKH titled “The Director of Postgraduate Studies”, Keith elaborated more on the importance of this role: “This role tries to create a sense of identity amongst postgraduate students; they need to see that they are a big part of UKH, and as they all have other responsibilities other than studying, it would be nice to see them join the social and academic events to create an identity among their peers.” He continued by saying “The postgraduates should always have someone to talk directly to when facing an issue, so this role will be very helpful for them”.

Upon living here, President Keith observed the unfortunate use of nepotism, or “wasta,” in our community, and he noticed how it hindered our success. “If you award the students with degrees for anything other than their performance, you undermine the very point and purpose of the university,” says the president. That is why such usage is prohibited in UKH. UKH is working on both high-quality education and high standards. So much so that the president has stated, “I need to know and am very focused on whether any student graduating here is at least as good as a graduate from a good UK, US, or European university.” To top that off, we have dedicated educators from a range of backgrounds who share their knowledge and experiences. “We have a committed group of academic staff whose goals are for the students to do the very best they possibly can,” Keith added. He also mentioned the principles of UKH, which are that “This university was founded to be unique and innovative and not to be trampled on by the old fashioned way of doing things.” The methods by which UKH has practiced this are through its critical thinking, creativity, tolerance, and problem-solving skills. Through the president’s vision and hard work, students can expect optimal opportunities to build a successful future for themselves and become the future leaders of our community.

As we concluded our interesting and friendly interview with the president, we left his office feeling prouder to be part of this great university. The help of students, academics, and staff will be essential to fulfilling the ambitions of the president’s vision for UKH. He is counting on all of us!