WENR, July/August 2004: Middle East


Little Progress Reported in Rebuilding of Academic Infrastructure

The senior U.S. official responsible for the distribution of education-related grants and the rebuilding of Iraq’s system of higher education said in May the United States has done little to repair damaged institutions, and has provided only US$8 million of an estimated US$500 million needed. John Agresto, former president of St. John’s College [1], N.M., said the United States and the international community have made very little progress, despite assurances of help from the international community.

There are exceptions. Japan has pledged “many millions” to the rebuilding of the education sector, he said. South Korea is spending more than US$5 million to install computer networks at universities, and the Czech Republic is providing many scholarships to Iraqi students. More than 20 U.S. schools are developing partnerships or are providing help to Iraqi institutions, which appear eager for assistance and exchanges with U.S. institutions.

Today, many Iraqi colleges lack almost all equipment and materials; however, Agresto assures that much has been accomplished, citing academic freedom, institutional autonomy, growth in admissions from 63,000 in 2003 to 97,000 this year, academic mobility and uncensored Internet connections.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [2]
June 4, 2004

Death Threats, Assassinations Stall Academic Freedom

Death threats and assassinations are teaching Iraqi academics to watch what they say. Iraq’s new interim government says 31 university lecturers have been murdered since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, and many more have received warnings to keep quiet. The International Coalition of Academics Against Occupation [3], citing a report by Iraq’s Union of University Lecturers, puts the figure at closer to 250. Academics argue that the climate of fear created by the killings risks stifling voices of moderation needed to help Iraq establish democracy. Early this year, the head of political studies at Baghdad’s Mustansiriya University, Abdul Latif Mayyah, criticized Saddam Hussein loyalists in a television interview. He was shot dead outside his house the next morning.

Under Hussein, intellectuals knew the price for speaking out could be death. The oppression has gone, but so has the certainty. These days the bullet could come from almost anyone. Some academics believe there is a deliberate plan to create a “brain drain” that will undermine the country’s institutions. There currently are no official figures for how many of Iraq’s lecturers have left since the fall of Hussein, but Iraq’s Union of University Lecturers quotes a figure of 1,000. Education officials say they fear the number will rise if intimidation continues.

For many, however, the risks pale in comparison to the cost of dissent under the former dictator. Academics who replaced Baathists after the U.S.-led invasion say they cannot find enough jobs for returning exiles. While choosing their words carefully in television interviews, at least some lecturers hope that intellectuals will play a more prominent role in public life in postwar Iraq.

Reuters [4]
July 16, 2004


Proposed Arab Campus an Olive Branch

A proposed outpost of a Jordanian university in Israel would be the first Arab institution to open in the country, other than the Jordanian and Egyptian embassies and airline offices. In June, a request for an operating license was lodged with the Council for Higher Education [5] by representatives of the Al-Ahliyya University [6] — Jordan’s first private university.

Despite opposition from some Arab countries, including within Jordan, officials from the university are determined to open the Israel branch of Al-Ahliyya, which at the moment enrolls 7,000 students from Arab and non-Arab countries in six faculties. A number of possible interim sites for the campus have already been examined, including a hotel in Nahariya and a building in Emek Hefer. Under current plans, the buildings would be leased for three years, during which time a permanent campus would be built. The university is expected to mainly serve the Arab sector, but officials have said they would also like to enroll Jewish students and Arab students from other countries.

Haaretz [7]
June 1, 2004


Admission Requirements to Private Universities Lowered

The Higher Education Council recently lowered the minimum score on the general secondary examination (Tawjihi) required for admission to a private university from 55 percent to 50 percent for high school graduates who have been out of school for more than two years. Those applying directly to a private university from high school must still earn 55 percent or higher. The minimum score required for entry to a public university is 65 percent.

Students take the cumulative Tawjihi exam in their senior year, and their results are the primary factor in determining which university they can attend, as well as the fields of study open to them. Students who do not qualify for university admissions can enroll at community colleges. If they maintain at least a 68 percent average over the two years of their program, and pass a final examination, they become eligible to transfer to a university.

AMIDEAST news update [8]
June 15, 2004


AUB Gets U.S. Regional Accreditation

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education [9] awarded the American University of Beirut [10] (AUB) accreditation on June 25 after an extensive institutional self-study. AUB has been registered with and recognized by the Department of Education of New York State [11] since 1863. With Middle States’ accreditation, AUB joins American University in Cairo [12] and American University of Sharjah [13] (see below) as the only universities in the Middle East accredited by a regional U.S. accrediting body.

AUB news release [14]
July 20, 2004


Foundation to Build Cornell Teaching Hospital

The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development [15] announced in June that it will donate US$900 million to build an all-digital, medical research and teaching hospital for medical students on the Qatar campus of Cornell University’s Weill Medical College [16] (see Nov/Dec 2002 issue of WENR [17]) and will create an US$8 billion endowment.

The hospital will form part of Qatar’s Education City, a research-and-education development near the capital Doha. The Qatar Foundation is the brainchild of the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani. Cornell opened its premedical program at the Qatar campus with a donation from the foundation in 2002.

Qatar Foundation news release [18]
June 2004

The United Arab Emirates

AUS Wins U.S. Regional Accreditation

American University of Sharjah [13] (AUS) has been granted accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education [9]. The Middle States panel is one of six regional U.S. accrediting agencies.

AUS was successful in completing the accreditation process in a relatively short period of time, originally becoming a candidate for accreditation in 2002 and subsequently embarking on an institutional self-study as part of its application. AUS became the second university in the Middle East, after American University in Cairo [12], to gain U.S. regional accreditation. American University of Beirut [10] (see above) recently became the third.

AUS news release [13]
July 3, 2004

New Western Campuses at Knowledge Village

The University of Southern Queensland [19] (USQ), Australia, announced in July the opening of a university campus at Knowledge Village [20], an education hub near Dubai that allows foreign universities to develop campuses with 100 percent foreign ownership. A week after USQ’s announcement, United Kingdom-based Middlesex University [21] formally announced that the location of its first campus outside North London would also be at Knowledge Village.

USQ will offer three-year bachelor programs in business administration, information technology, tourism and mass communication, as well as master programs in business administration, information technology and personal financial planning. A postgraduate diploma in human resource management will also be offered. In addition to traditional face-to-face delivery, USQ’s programs will be available via distance learning.

Middlesex University Dubai [22] will begin offering degree programs in January. Degrees initially on offer will be a bachelor’s in business administration and a bachelor’s in business information systems.

Knowledge Village news release [23]
July 4, 2004 & July 11, 2004