WENR, September/October 2003: Middle East
UKeU Pursuing Middle-Eastern Students
UK eUniversities Worldwide (UKeU), a company owned by British universities that provides online degree programs set up by its shareholders, (see January/February issue WENR) signed partnership agreements with four institutions of higher learning in the region.
The Higher Colleges of Technology/Center of Excellence for Applied Research and Training and Stafford Associates in the United Arab Emirates; Edutech Middle East in Saudi Arabia; and the Syrian Virtual University in Syria and Lebanon are the four institutions involved with the UKeU initiative. A number of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and continuing professional development courses in seven subject areas – business and management; science and technology; health; English language, teacher training; environmental studies and law – will be offered.
May 5, 2003
Women’s University in the Offing
A group of private investors plan to establish a Bahrain-based university for women with the help of Canadian and British universities. The Royal University for Women will be one of the first of its kind in the Gulf region when it is established next year. It will be offering international standard degree-level qualifications for women only.
The project is being funded by private investors, but no information has yet been released about the cost. Agreements are now being finalized with Canada’s McGill University and the United Kingdom’s Middlesex University. The university plans to offer a wide variety of subjects through a number of colleges. These colleges will include business administration, design and informatics and education. Modern facilities, to be built on a site in West Riffa, will house the university and eventually cater for up to 3,000 students.
Arab Women Connect
June 4, 2003
AOU Establishes Branch Campus in Bahrain
A Bahrain branch of the Arab Open University (AOU) was officially opened in July. The Arab Open University is a non-profit educational organization helping to address problems of access to higher education in the Arab states.
The university aims to provide to everyone regardless of age, background or location the opportunity to study at the tertiary level through distance-learning programs. Courses on offer through the university lead to diplomas and bachelor’s degrees in business administration, computer science and information technology, English language and teacher training.
July 6, 2003
Iranian Students Looking Overseas
A population boom in Iran in the 1980s means the country is now overwhelmingly young, with around 70 percent under the age of 30. Faced with poor job prospects, thousands are leaving every year, creating alarm among the country’s leaders.
English-language schools have mushroomed all over the country in the past few years. Qeshm Language School in central Tehran opened just under a year ago with 80 students; it now has more than 500 students enrolled. In fact, so huge is the demand for places that it has had to open two other schools, with two more on the way. Most students are studying for English-language proficiency tests, compulsory for study overseas. Last year the number of applicants for English-language exams rose by 84 percent. Now, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), hundreds of thousands are leaving every year.
May 29, 2003
Saddam University, Iraq’s premier university under the rule of Saddam Hussein, has been renamed Two Rivers University. Under the previous regime, the Chronicle states, students at the university were admitted strictly on merit to be taught by top-notch handpicked professors who were paid double what their peers elsewhere received. The institution’s budget, in a system starved of resources, was relatively lavish.
That is all about to change. Under the U.S. plan, all universities in Iraq will be equally funded. For many, that represents good news, but scholars at Two Rivers University worry that, as their budget shrinks, so will the quality of their academic programs.
The Ministry of Education, which is being run by Iraqis and Americans, plans to spend roughly US$37 million, excluding salaries, for the rest of the year on the country’s 43 universities, colleges and technical institutes. The money is coming from the Iraqi Development Fund, which is financed by oil revenues and Iraqi government assets seized abroad. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is planning to give US$30 million to American universities to establish programs with Iraqi universities (see July/August issue WENR).
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Sept. 12, 2003
International Grants Awarded for Universities’ Reconstruction
The Qatar Foundation and UNESCO have launched a multimillion-dollar initiative to revitalize Iraqi universities through immediate and long-term assistance. Qatar provided the first US$15 million to the UNESCO-administered fund. The gift from the nonprofit foundation represents the first financial contribution from another Arab country to assist Iraqi higher education. UNESCO is completing a comprehensive assessment of Iraqi higher education with the support of the Japanese government.
In addition, the U.S. Agency for International Development has awarded $11.7 million in grants to three consortiums of U.S. and other universities, which will work with their counterparts in Iraq:
Oct. 7, 2003
Humberside University Administrators Arrested
Four administrators from the Israeli branch of Britain’s Lincolnshire and Humberside University were arrested in September for suspicion of fraud, bribery, forgery and extortion and interference in an investigation over the course of the past year.
According to the investigation, some of the degrees received by graduates were fictitious and printed without the knowledge of the parent institution in Britain. Hundreds of graduates, some of them teachers and state employees – including police officers – received master’s degrees without first earning bachelor’s degrees, for the suspected reason of gaining education-based salary bonuses from the state.
Last year, Israeli branch campuses of the University of Latvia and the American Burlington Academy were both under suspicion for similar activities (see November/December 2002 issue WENR) after criminal investigations found that the two institutions frequently granted fraudulent degrees. The Finance Ministry decided that Latvia University diplomas will no longer win public-sector employees pay raises in Israel.
Sept. 15, 2003
Technical University to Boost Prestige of Technical Qualifications
The government is working on plans to further develop human resources by establishing a university that will offer bachelor’s degrees in various marketable vocational trades for the first time. The school would be the first of its kind in the Kingdom, pushing the vocational sector into the realm of higher education while helping to eliminate deep-rooted negative attitudes toward vocational trades.
Officials from the Ministry of Education are looking at the German system as a model, whereby curricula focus on the practical application of technically advanced and knowledge-based vocational trades that are demanded by local and regional markets. A German delegation was in the country recently to examine the potential of such a project, agreeing, in principle, to help develop the government’s plans.
Aug. 5, 2003
Two Universities Allowed to Reopen
Israel’s military forces allowed two Palestinian universities in the West Bank city of Hebron to reopen in August, after they were forcibly closed in January on the grounds that they had been producing militants hostile to Israel (see January/February issue WENR).
Professors from the two institutions – Hebron University and the Palestinian Polytechnic University – had been holding classes in their houses as well as at elementary and secondary schools, but students lacked access to laboratories and scientific equipment.
For several months, the Palestinian Polytechnic University has been the site of frequent demonstrations over the institution’s closure and damage incurred to the infrastructure under successive Israeli incursions into Hebron.
Aug. 16, 2003
One University’s Future Threatened by Route of ‘Separation Fence’
Al-Quds University in the East Jerusalem town of Abu Dis is home to 7,000 Palestinian students and is battling to save its campus. The university’s soccer field and an adjoining basketball court are destined to be bulldozed and replaced by one section of Israel’s controversial “separation fence,” an 8m-high, fortified steel barrier tipped with razor wire and patrolled by border police. The sports grounds make up one-third of al-Qud’s compact campus.
Once the fence, which Palestinians refer to as an “apartheid wall,” is built, al-Quds will in effect become the border between Israeli Jerusalem and the Palestinian West Bank.
As well as changing the map of the university, the route of the fence will add to the problems students already face in reaching the campus. Up to 30 percent of the student population lives in Israeli-controlled areas of Jerusalem destined to fall on the “other side” of the fence. Once the fence is completed, they will have to make a complex journey through Israeli gates in the fence to cross into Palestinian territory. There is no guarantee that they will be allowed access at times or places convenient to them.
Sept. 30, 2003
Israel Agrees in Principle to Change Route of Fence
Israel has agreed in principle to change the route of its controversial “separation fence” to minimize damage to the campus of al-Quds University (see above) . The decision to build the fence west of the campus comes after students and staff at the university mounted a monthlong protest vigil.
Under a compromise agreed at a meeting between Amos Yaron, director general of Israel’s Ministry of Defense, and the president of al-Quds University, professor Sari Nusseibeh, the route of the fence will now be shifted westward and will take in just a small section of the university.
Oct. 1, 2003
King Fahd has approved the merger of several university branches into independent institutions. The decision will merge faculties of Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University and King Saud University in Qasim into an independent university. Other faculties of the Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University will merge with King Abdul Aziz University in Medinah.
The mergers are to be complete by the end of the current academic year. The Taif branch of Umm Al-Qura University will also become an independent university. According to Minister of Higher Education Khaloed Al-Angari, the new institutions are being formed to afford more high school graduates access to a university education.
July 14, 2003
Ministry of Education: ‘Foreign Investment in the Private Higher-Education Sector is Open’
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education recently indicated that it will allow foreign universities to establish a presence in the Kingdom. Saudi universities accepted 178,500 students this year. Although the ministry says there are places for 27,000 more students, Saudi Arabia’s rapidly growing population will put increasing demands on the nation’s nine universities.
The ministry convened a special council to examine the problem. Its short-term recommendations include the immediate increase of the number of places in higher education by 57,000 – including the establishment of faculties and educational institutions providing direct training for the job market. Moreover, the council urged support for private institutions of higher education to meet the demands of school-leavers, as reflected in an August statement at a press conference by Minister of Higher Education Khaled al-Angari: “Foreign investment in the private higher education sector is open.”
The Ministry of Education is currently drafting the regulations needed to legalize the establishment of foreign universities in Saudi Arabia. Ministry officials said foreign universities could be operating in the kingdom as early as the fall 2004 academic year.
Aug. 28, 2003
Private University Given Green Light
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in September issued a decree for licensing the establishment of a private university in Syria under the name Private Union University. The proposed institution will be located in the eastern region of Raqqa, with a branch campus in the city of Manbej in the region of Aleppo.
According to the decree, the university will have faculties of agronomy, engineering and administrative sciences.
The Arabic News
Sept. 1, 2003
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Harvard is Coming to Town
The Harvard University Medical School is set to establish a series of research and training programs to help improve the quality of medical education in the region. The medical school’s international division – Harvard Medical international – and the UAE Ministry of Higher Education are planning to have the joint effort up and running for its first intake of students in 2005.
The program will operate out of a real-estate development known as Dubai Healthcare City, which will house new hospitals, currently under construction, and will extend to existing facilities that fulfill certain standards for quality and research potential.
Dubai Healthcare City news release
June 29, 2003