In 2006, the Board of Trustees of the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani set out to establish a not-for-profit institution dedicated to providing a comprehensive liberal arts education for the benefit of Kurdistan, Iraq and the wider region.
This new university would be designed to develop strength in critical thinking, the ability to communicate well, a strong work ethic, good citizenship and personal integrity. They sought to create an institution not only innovative in its teaching methodology, but also unique in its role as an establishment of learning unaffected by sectarian divides and affiliations, where talented students from across the country and region would come to learn, regardless of their ethnic, sociopolitical or economic background.
The University opened its doors in 2007 to a cohort of 10 students from across Iraq who were admitted to the first undergraduate class. The University simultaneously launched a professional MBA program for students planning to study business and leadership at the graduate level. The university has grown to roughly 1,600 students and now offers undergraduate degrees in Business Administration, Information Technology, International Studies, Engineering and English and Journalism. All students at the University, regardless of their chosen field of study, take core courses in the humanities and sciences. The requirements of every major program are balanced by multi-disciplinary core courses grounded in the liberal arts. These courses foster self-reliant thinking, creativity, familiarity with the great ideas of human tradition and a greater knowledge of the world.
As the University expanded, so too did its extracurricular programs and activities. Many AUIS students are engaged in volunteering, community outreach, internships, athletics, and the creative arts. The University has also had men's and women's sports teams in basketball and soccer as well as student clubs which have grown from the first club in 2011 to include more than 20 different clubs focusing on various activities such as reading, chess, music, development, model UN and drama, among others.
The University received recognition by the Kurdistan Regional Government's Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in 2011 as the number one private university in Iraqi Kurdistan. The University's academic programs continue to attract high-achieving students from across the country and the AUIS remains the destination of choice for top students, who are eligible for many merit-based scholarships and tuition discounts available through donations and sponsorships.
The cadre of AUIS alumni are a distinct point of pride for the University and in 2012, the University held its first annual commencement ceremony with 74 students graduating with bachelor's and master's degrees.
AUIS housed the Twin Rivers Institute, along with the Study of Ancient Mesopotamia, the Center for Regional Studies, and the Center for Peace and Security Studies which were founded in 2010. By the beginning of 2013, the University had launched a new research center, the Institute of Regional and International Studies (IRIS) which continues the legacy of the earlier centers and has become a leading hub for research, dialogue and expertise on topics such as energy studies, regional geopolitics, security, economic development, gender and archeology. In March 2013, IRIS held its first annual Sulaimani Forum, which has since then become the institute's flagship event and continues to build on the success of the previous gatherings.
While the University has grown since its early days, it remains firmly committed to the ideal around which it was founded: to build a center of excellence and research dedicated to educating talented students from across Iraq and the region.