WENR, May/June 2001: Middle East
Conference Explored Educational Cooperation
A UNESCO conference conducted in Oman in mid-March explored the growing necessity for ooperation in education between states and acknowledged the need to avoid a dilution of shared heritage and culture in the Persian Gulf. Some 150 prominent educators from the Middle East and Western states attended the meeting, entitled “The University in the 21st Century.” Among the critical issues discussed were the trend of privatization of tertiary education, encroaching globalization and the spread of English as a language of instruction.
The conference came on the heels of the founding of the Arab Open University in January, and the exigencies of such an undertaking attracted much attention. Most prominent of these was the call for a pan-Arab accreditation body, which would facilitate student mobility and academic cooperation within the region. Many of the attendees expressed their concerns with how new international and private institutions would be held to standards of sufficient quality.
Proponents of privatization pointed out the growing demand for higher education in the Arab world, where currently 6.2 million students are eligible for university-level studies. State officials warned that this trend must be accompanied by regulation that guaranteed not only high standards of education, but also the protection of cultural values and the Arabic language.
—The Times Higher EducationSupplement
March 23, 2001
Parliament has passed legislation that will allow unmarried women to study at foreign institutions on state scholarships. The new law bears a stipulation that the female students must first acquire the consent of their fathers in order to be eligible for study abroad.
—Chronicle of Higher Education
March 23, 2001
Birzeit University has become a critical target for Israeli troops in suppressing Palestinian violence. Troops have blockaded the road connecting the school to nearby Ramallah, which is home to many of the students and professors. When a group of Palestinians used a bulldozer to try to break the barrier, Israeli soldiers opened fire, resulting in one man’s death and the injury of several others.
The campus, located in a section of Israeli control, traditionally has been a site of political activism and unrest. Since the crushing defeat of a pan-Arab military force in the 1967 war, the Birzeit campus has been closed more than 15 times, including a 51-month suspension of classes during the Palestinian Intifada. For much of the current crisis, students have been unable to
attend classes, and the university has reported that water lines and telephone wires into the school have been cut.
— BBC News
March 9, 2001
Cornell University has embarked on one of the biggest moves in the growing trend of exporting U.S. education by agreeing to establish a branch campus of its medical school in Qatar. The Weill Medical College of Cornell University in Qatar, as it will be called, will likely offer a fully accredited diploma in medicine, equivalent to the one issued by the Ivy League school in the United States.
The funding for the new school will come from the Qatar Foundation, which has agreed to pay US$750 million in operations over the next 11 years. Cornell, however, will control curriculum, admissions and faculty. As of now, Cornell’s medical school is ranked among the best in the country, and its counterpart in Qatar will be equally competitive,
enrolling an estimated 50 students. Officials hope that at least 70 percent of the students will be Qataris, but admission will be open to applicants of all nationalities, races and religions.
Qatar is one of the richest countries in the Persian Gulf, yet, because of its small size and population, does not have its own medical school. To establish a sufficient native applicant base, the Weill Medical College will be supplemented by a two-year premedical program, which will begin next year. However, completion of the premedical program does not guarantee a student’s
admission into the medical school, and all applicants must pass the school boards.
Cornell will employ approximately 65 faculty members in Doha, the capital city of Qatar, as well as offer a range of lectures presented over live video. The Qatar Foundation has expressed interest in forming similar relationships with schools of engineering, business and information technology, in hopes of making the country an academic center in the Middle East. For more
information, go to Cornell’s official press release.
— New York Times
April 9, 2001