eWENR, March/April 2001: Middle East

The Middle East

First Pan-Arab University to Go Online

The first pan-Arab online university hopes to begin enrolment as early as next year. Its headquarters are to be based in Kuwait with branches in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, and Lebanon. The project originated from development institutions set up by the Arab Gulf Program for the United Nations Development Organizations [1].

Kuwait Education Minister Yussif al-Ibrahim will spearhead the university with the technical assistance of John Daniel, an official of the British Open University [2]. Daniel will also be entrusted with managing the accreditation of degrees.

Those involved in the project estimate that 5,000 Arab students will enroll next year, a number that is expected to rise as high as 70,000 by 2010.

Jan. 9, 2001


Two years after police invaded a university dormitory in Tehran and sparked a series of student riots, the Iranian Parliament has approved a bill that will outlaw police entrance to university campuses, seminaries and the residences of senior clerics. The proposed penalty for such an offense could be up to a one-year prison term or a three- to five-year suspension.

The bill still must garner the approval of the Guardians’ Council, which has represented more conservative elements of Iranian politics. If they elect to block the bill, as suspected, its fate will lie with the Expediency Council.

Feb. 14, 2001


Since coming into power following his father’s death, President Bashar al-Assad has taken great strides in restructuring Syrian education and opening it up to international influence. Cultural centers like the British Council [3] and the American Language Center [4] have benefited tremendously, as education officials have promised to improve links with the United States and Great Britain. Syrians had previously valued English as a job tool, but the recent emphasis on improving foreign relations has improved employment prospects with multinational corporations and heightened interest in language study.

Bashar al-Assad has also mandated that state education require the study of two foreign languages, as opposed to the one that was previously required.

In an even more significant move, the president has reversed a major trend in Syrian education and allowed for the operation of private and international universities within the country.

Previously, the state owned and ran all universities, and even Arab schools were prohibited from establishing branches in the country.

Middle East Times
February 2001


Fifteen private universities have opened in the last five years, marking a significant trend in the modernization of Turkey’s higher education. Private universities in the country now total 19, although they enroll only 3 percent of the students in four-year schools.

The Turkish government banned private schools in the 1970s due to a prevailing economic crisis, only to be permitted to reopen in the early 1980s. In that short span, the government had nationalized higher education and gave in to the push for private education grudgingly.
Under the new laws, applicant institutions must be funded by nonprofit sources and report regularly to the Council of Higher Education.

The government’s resistance to private higher education has continued, as officials have attempted to alter or block the creation of new schools. One private institution, Koc University [5], submitted its plan to review student applicants based on interviews and tests similar to the College Boards. This contrasts with the sweeping survey test currently used by Turkish officials to determine student admissions and course of study at state institutions. The proposal was rejected, and then, in 1993, the Islamic-oriented Virtue Party contested the construction of the school on the grounds of environmental conservancy.

Yet Koc University and many like it have persevered and, endowed with generous budgets, have established themselves as top-tier sites of teaching and research. Sabanci University [6], for example, distributes IBM laptops to its incoming students. Istanbul Bilgi University [7] offers an MBA through the Internet and has set up a department for jazz studies. These schools stress the importance of student-teacher interaction, the use of current technologies and open dialogue. Tuition is high, of course, preventing a massive student enrollment, but many hope that these institutions will at least provide a model framework for the Turkish schools of the near future.

“We want to do our business so well that other universities will copy us,” said Tosun Terzioglu, president of Sabanci. “If we can do that, it will transform Turkish society in 10 years.”

New York Times
March 13, 2001


The Basic Education Expansion Project was launched at a workshop entitled “Towards Adequate and Quality Education” held in February. Following the opening ceremony, Yemeni educational officials presented papers and held discussion panels regarding the current national status of education and government policies and strategies. This initial collaboration of educators and administrators from throughout the country intended to more clearly articulate the methodology and implementation strategies of the project.

Dr. Abdullah Almaneefi will head the project, which aims to enhance primary and secondary education throughout the country through local administrations.

Yemen Times
February 2001