About us

BBS has launched in October 2020, and currently offers a one-year, market driven “education to employment” program called Business Foundations designed to enable Iraqi youth to work in the private sector.

Our Story

Baghdad Business School (BBS) opened in October 2020 with a pilot class of 17 students.

BBS was founded to educate, enable, employ and empower Iraqi youth. We address youth unemployment and the skill gap, inspire other educational ventures, and provide talent for Iraq’s burgeoning business and entrepreneurship sectors.

The one-year program is based on years of work and research in the private sector and higher education in Iraq, during which founder Christine van den Toorn identified a three-tiered skills gap which prevented private sector companies from hiring Iraqi university graduates English language, Soft or Professional skills, and Business fundamentals. Working with a team of academics and practitioners, Ms. van den Toorn developed a curriculum tailored to Iraqi youth and the Iraqi market that would prepare students to be eligible to work in the private sector.

A team of staff and faculty, partners and donors in the private sector and academic institutions, as well as significant in-kind support have built BBS thus far. After nearly two years of planning from 2018 to 2020, BBS staff held the first admissions campaign in July 2020, enrolling 20 students into its pilot class. A year later, 17 students graduated in December 2021 and began internships, jobs, and work on their own startups. The second cohort of 22 students began their classes in October 2021 and will graduate in November 2022. Business Foundations will expand each year until it reaches approximately 100 students, divided into 5 classes. BBS will open a two-year diploma-granting institute of Business Administration in 2023, as well as other certificate programs in key areas like IT/ Programming, Human Resources, Digital Marketing, and Sales and the Digital Economy.

BBS is both an academic and professional institution, but also a community. We seek to prepare and enable Iraqi youth for their careers and lives, by teaching both soft and hard skills , critical thinking and financial technology, and providing mentorship, advising, and access to experts in Iraq, the region and around the world. We are a burdge of knowledge and access.



to create new educational and employment opportunities for Iraqi youth
to give Iraqi youth the knowledge, skills, and ability to succeed in their careers and be active, engaged members and leaders of their economy and society
to address youth unemployment and the skill gap
to generate human capital to grow Iraq’s entrepreneurial and private sector


For all of Iraq’s youth to have the opportunity to work toward and achieve their personal and professional goals.

To enable a flourishing, participatory Iraqi economy and society through empowering the new generation.



Bloated government payroll
Demographics-the youth bulge
The skill gap and outdated higher education system
Youth unemployment
Private sector opportunities
A massive need to prepare young people for work in the private sector

In Iraq, a large skill gap exists between university graduates and the needs of private sector enterprises. Considering the bloated government payroll, private sector demand, an ineffective higher education system, the youth bulge, and high unemployment rates—60% of Iraqis are under the age of 24 and over a quarter are jobless—there is a tremendous need to prepare Iraq’s young people for work outside the government.

Private-sector leaders in Iraq consistently identify English Language proficiency, Professional Development skills, and familiarity with Business Fundamentals as the key requirements for work in the private sector that are lacking among Iraqi university graduates. They also report that their companies have job openings for local staff, but they are unable to hire most Iraqi youth because of the skill gap. BBS aims to fill that gap.

Providing young people with access to quality higher education is a critical need in Iraq. The social and economic benefits of gaining a high-caliber tertiary education are widely recognized. Higher education opens up incomparable opportunities for personal improvement through the acquisition of the skills needed to become engaged citizens and gain quality employment. It also delivers wider societal benefits in the long term, including improved governance and reduced inequality and poverty. After years of turmoil, Iraq desperately needs such human catalysts to rebuild the country.

The standard of domestic higher education in the country has fallen woefully over the past four decades as Iraq has been ravaged by war, sanctions and domestic conflict. According to a 2019 Times Higher Education survey, only one Iraqi university ranks in the top 50 Arab World institutions. Iraqi public universities continue to lag in pedagogy and curriculum, failing to provide students with the essential critical-thinking, research, language and professional skills necessary to pursue their passions, succeed in the modern world, and carry Iraq into the future. In a country with some of the highest levels of youth unemployment in the world, graduates are most often ill-equipped to join the labor market.

An overhaul of the country’s education system is much needed, but will take years, if not decades. Consequently, alternative educational opportunities for Iraqi students must be made available in the meantime, both locally and abroad


BBS is a non-profit initiative.

BBS is overseen by two administrative bodies, one registered in Iraq, Baghdad Foundation for Business Management (BFBM) and one in the U.S., Iraq Fund for Higher Education (IFHE). Both entities are governed by boards with extensive experience in the higher education and private sectors in Iraq, the region and world.

​​Baghdad Foundation for Business Management (BFBM)

  • Ahmed Tabaqchali – Fellow, IRIS, AUIS
  • Mujahid Waisy – CEO, KAPITA
  • Aya Al Shabibi – MA in Applied Linguistics from Cardiff University
  • Hussein Dawood – Media Advisor, Office of the Presidency of Iraq
  • Christine van den Toorn – President and Founder, Iraq Fund for Higher Education
  • Abdulrahman Jamal – Executive Director, BFBM

Iraq Fund for Higher Education (IFHE)

  • Ahmed Tabaqchali – Fellow, IRIS, AUIS; Lecturer, American University of Iraq, Sulaimani
  • Lorna Middlebrough – former Iraq Higher Education specialist, US Department of State
  • Grant Felgenhauer – Managing Partner, Euphrates Fund
  • Yass Alkafaji – Professor Emeritus, American University of Sharjah; Director, Iraq Public Leadership; Program; Founder, A & A Accountants
  • Raad Alkadiri – Managing Director, Eurasia Group
  • Christine van den Toorn – President and Founder, IFHE

BBS has proper financial and legal structures to ensure good practices. BFBM is a client of Ledgers Accounting and Advisory, based in Dubai and Tawsia Law Firm, based in Baghdad. IFHE is a tax-exempt (501c3) charitable, nonprofit organization, represented by Goodwin Proctor and Mayer Brown, and a client of A & A Accounting an Advisory, based in Chicago..


BBS Staff

Christine M. van den Toorn

Christine M. van den Toorn

BBS Founder
Ms. van den Toorn was a lecturer and senior administrator at American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) from 2009-2019. She speaks Arabic, and she has published and presented widely on society, politics, and education in Iraq. She has her M.A. in Middle East History from the University of Virginia.
Abdulrahman Jamal

Abdulrahman Jamal

BBS/IFHE Project Manager
Abdulrahman is a graduate of AUIS in Information Technology as a major and Business Administration as a minor. He worked with the Communications Office and IRIS at AUIS. Abdulrahman is the Project Manager for the NextGen Coders Network in Iraq, a virtual exchange program implemented by World Learning.
Abdullah Imad

Abdullah Imad

BBS Project Officer
Abdullah is a senior at AUIS majoring in Medical Laboratory Sciences. At AUIS, he has worked as a research assistant at the Institute of Regional & International Studies (IRIS) and as an academic tutor at the Academic Preparatory Program (APP). He was a Peace & Conflict Fellow in 2019 with the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPI).
Zaid Falih

Zaid Falih

BBS Project Assistant
Zaid graduated from EUC in Baghdad with a major of Civil Engineering and graduated from BBS in 2022.
Mayada Abdoon

Mayada Abdoon

BBS Marketing and Communications specialist
Mayada is a graduate of Baghdad University, College of Fine Arts. She has worked in Marketing since 2018 primarily as Digital Marketing Coordinator, and has a Full-Stack Digital Market Diploma. She is a graduate of BBS’s second cohort.
Huda Ahmed

Huda Ahmed

Students Affairs and Admissions Officer
Huda is a Peace and Conflict studies graduate from the University of Waterloo, Canada. She’s worked with NGOs for over 7 years in Canada on various projects like mental health, restorative justice, and refugee resettlement. Her previous roles were mainly specializing in youth work and educational programs.
Haneen Al-Droubi

Haneen Al-Droubi

BBS Project Assistant
Haneen graduated from the University of Baghdad with a bachelor's degree in Soil Science and Water Resources. She established her own small business at the age of 18 while working as a freelance report writer. She has 6 years of experience in the private sector.
Ibrahim Jamal

Ibrahim Jamal

HR Generalist
Ibrahim has an experience working with management, talent acquisition and human resources positions in different organization in Iraq. Ibrahim is currently SheCodesToo programs coordinator.
Baghdad Business School’s overarching purpose is to meet the needs of this underserved population in their interest and the interest of society as a whole. In doing so, Baghdad Business School does not discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in the administration of its education policies, admissions policies, scholarship or loan programs, and other school administered programs.

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Whether you are an individual, a private-sector company or an international organization, supporting BBS is an impactful way to invest in Iraqi youth, education, and the future workforce of Iraq.

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