Higher Education and Development for Archaeology and Environmental Health Research
SUNY at Stony Brook

Admission of Iraqi Students for Graduate Education at Stony Brook University

by Dr. Elizabeth Stone
This summary as of: 19 March 04. For updates see section 2.4 of Monthly Progress Reports.


  • In December 2003 we distributed application forms to the Departments of Archaeology and Cuneiform Studies in Mosul University, the Department of Archaeology at Baghdad University, and the State Board of Antiquities of Iraq (who employ many of the graduates of these programs). In March 2004 we returned to evaluate the candidates.
  • This process attracted 26 candidates, 15 from Mosul University, 5 from Baghdad University, and 6 from the State Board of Antiquities and 1 who found us.

The evaluation process was based on:

  • the application form
  • the transcript indicating the grades received, overall average and rank in class
  • an exam in English reading comprehension which was developed by Stony Brookís Intensive English Center and administered by us here in Iraq
  • a writing exam where the students wrote an essay during a fixed period of time under our supervision. Those collected in Baghdad were faxed to Stony Brookís Intensive English Center and evaluated by them; those collected in Mosul were evaluated by us following the criteria used on the first set.
  • An interview with the candidate lasting between 20 and 45 minutes with Professors Paul Zimansky and Elizabeth Stone. To the extent possible this interview was conducted in English, but with a translator present.

The criteria for admission were:

  • The transcript and letters of recommendation. We were looking for the best students.
  • The studentís ability to articulate why they were interested in archaeology and some particular research problems that they would like to attack.
  • The studentís interest in returning to Iraq to teach in Iraqi centers for higher education. The studentís ability to handle the English language. This was based on the exams that we administered, their ability to understand our questions, and their ability to frame answers.

Problems encounteredĖand their solutions

  • The overall low level of English exhibited by these students. This is much lower than was the case when Zimansky and Stone worked in Iraq in the years before the first Gulf War. Apparently Iraqi Universities do not allow students in Archaeology to take courses outside their own subject, so they could not take courses in the English Department. Our solution here was to choose students with some English, and arrange for intensive English classes for them, based on materials used by Stony Brookís Intensive English Center, between now and the beginning of the program in July. The written exams will be repeated on a regular basis between now and then to measure their progress.
  • The poor communications within Iraq today which have resulted in the Departments losing touch with many of their recent graduates. It is this that led us to include the one applicant who found us.
  • The lack of familiarity of the students with taking multiple choice exams. We found that the results of the exam were often inconsistent with their comprehension in the interview.

Successful Candidates

  • Although we originally planned to make offers to ten students, we felt that only eight (four from Mosul, one from Baghdad University, two from the State Board of Antiquities and the one who found us) met our criteria.
  • This group is made up of five men and three women, out of a total pool of twenty men and six women.
  • Nine of the ten need to take intensive English between now and when they come to the United States.
  • Since we do not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity or religion, we do not have data on the ethnic and religious mix of our students.