WENR, June 2009: Middle East


Students Leaving En Masse for Britain

On the day that British troops formally ended their mission in Iraq, that country’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, announced that 500 Iraqi students will this year be coming to study at Britain’s universities and colleges under a new scholarship scheme with thousands more to follow.

“It’s especially poignant and important to stress that on the day the British troops are withdrawn there is a new era of cultural exchange, of educational exchange,” Maliki said on a visit to the British Council’s London headquarters.

The scholarship scheme, which aims to send 10,000 Iraqis a year to universities and colleges in the UK, US, Canada and Australia, is one part of a two-pronged initiative to restore Iraq’s position as a regional education powerhouse.

“The second part of the initiative involves the improving and upgrading of the primary and secondary curriculum and improving the level of education in primary, secondary and further education,” said Dr Zuhair Humadi, an education adviser to the prime minister. This is being achieved through the Rawabit (partnership) project, which has seen groups of principals – followed by deputies, heads of department and lecturers – spending weeks at a time at British colleges to see what is working there.

The Guardian [1]
May 5, 2009


Building a Private Tertiary Sector in Collaboration with Foreign Partners

The American University of the Middle East [2] began classes a year ago, seven years after Kuwait lifted a ban on private higher education. In drafting its private higher education policies, the government of Kuwait decreed that all new institutions must have foreign partners.

In the eight years that private universities have been permitted to operate in Kuwait, the country has rapidly built a credible private higher-education system. The private sector currently caters to some 13,000 students, with nine additional institutions authorized to open in the next few years.

Two other Kuwaiti universities have paired with American colleges. The Gulf University for Science and Technology [3], a polytechnic, teamed up with the University of Missouri [4] at St. Louis, while the American University of Kuwait [5], a liberal-arts college, has a partnership with Dartmouth College [6]. Other private colleges have Australian or European partners.

Prior to the liberalization of private higher education, Kuwait University [7] was the only option for students who wanted to earn a college degree in the emirate. However, with a rapidly growing population, the status quo was becoming untenable through the 1990s, and the government turned to the private sector.

The government has set out a number of requirements for private investors wishing to develop their own universities. The foreign partner must be ranked among the top 200 by The Times Higher Education Supplement or appear on U.S. News and World Report’s top tier of colleges, and the relationship between the Kuwaiti institution and its foreign partner must be a meaningful one.

The University of Maastricht Business School [8], in the Netherlands, and the Box Hill Institute [9], in Australia, have opened branch campuses or franchises of their home institutions in Kuwait, with the Kuwaiti partners taking a back seat when it comes to day-to-day operations. The Private Universities Council [10] licenses and accredits all institutions, and also sets the standards it expects private universities in Kuwait to meet.

The American University of Kuwait enrolled 100 students in its first year. The largely Western-educated faculty members do not expect their students to memorize lectures, as is common in Middle Eastern universities. Instead, Dartmouth has helped the American University of Kuwait set up the kind of curriculum and structure that encourage critical thinking skills. It offers a largely liberal education. The university also has ties with Purdue University, which has agreed to help build “some very Purdue-like programs that will, over time, morph into the kind of programs they need in Kuwait,” says Andrew Gillespie, Purdue’s associate dean of international programs.

The Gulf University for Science and Technology, which opened in 2002 and enrolls about 2,600 students, modeled its programs after those offered in Missouri. Students can earn undergraduate degrees in computer science, English, business, and mass communications, and a master’s in business administration.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [11]
May 22, 2009


US Students Choosing Qatar as Study Destination

The emergence of U.S. campuses in the oil-rich Persian Gulf nation of Qatar has been well publicized in recent years, yet the movement of US students to study at these campuses has been less visible.

Six U.S. universities have opened branch campuses in Doha’s academic hub, a 2,500-acre campus known as Education City [12], that are thriving because of generous financial support from the government of Qatar. In addition to funding the operation of U.S. campuses, the government is also offering substantial financial aid to most foreign students who need it — often chopping tuition to a quarter of what it costs at home, according to the government.

Qatar has struggled to diversify its economy away from oil and gas revenue. It sees the university sponsorships as a way to build its academic credentials — locals also attend classes — and bolster its workforce. The government offers foreign students the option of repaying each year of study with a year of work in Qatar.

According to campus officials interviewed by USA Today, the number of U.S. citizens attending classes at Education City is relatively low — Weill Cornell [13] tops the list with 26 Americans among its 239 students this academic year — but the number of university applications has gone up and is likely to keep rising.

USA Today [14]
May 3, 2009

United Arab Emirates

Canadian Recruiting Efforts Come up Short in UAE

Australia has increased university enrollments from the UAE six-fold in the last six years from 200 to 1200; however, the number of students from the Gulf nation heading to Canada has remained relatively static.

In interviews with The National newspaper, UAE students currently studying in Canada appear positive about Canadian universities, however, they state that little is known about them in comparison to institutions in more aggressive competitor countries such as Australia and the United States, which have spent much more time and money advertising in the UAE.

Part of the reason for this view could be that Canada’s efforts to promote its universities have been limited at a federal level. Education is the responsibility of the provinces, so the country does not have a central education ministry to organize marketing. However, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has now launched the country’s first international education marketing campaign, and the universities hope that one effect will be a marked increase in students from the Gulf.

Officials say tuition costs are lower than in the US and UK, although they acknowledge that their universities may not be seen as quite so prestigious as some of the big names elsewhere. However, one factor over which governments and faculties have no control is climate, and Canadian universities admit that concerns about the weather can put off students from warm weather countries such as the UAE.

In promoting itself to students in the Middle East, Canada has strengths that separate it from its neighbor to the south. Students from the UAE, particularly in a post-9/11 world, see Canada as a much friendlier, more open country, and many Canadian universities have Muslim prayer spaces, a strength that could be focused on when competing against the higher prestige offered by big-name UK and US universities.

The National [15]
April 20, 2009

First Domestic Doctorates to be Offered at UAE University

The National newspaper reported that beginning this fall, the United Arab Emirates University [16] will become the first domestic university in the country to offer doctoral degrees.

Until now, the only option for Emirati doctoral students was to enroll in programs overseas, but this fall officials at the state-run university expect approximately 20 students to enroll. Doctoral programs will be offered, on the American model, in the same fields that the university already offers at the undergraduate level, including the humanities and social sciences, although the environment and health will be emphasized. Administrators at the 33-year-old university say the move is part of the university’s effort to become a leading international research institution.

The university recently employed Wyatt Hume, a former provost of the University of California [17] system, as its president. He was brought to the Emirates with a mandate to make big changes at UAE University. In addition to raising undergraduate admissions standards and setting a goal of placing the university among the world’s top 100 ranked institutions, Mr. Hume will oversee the creation of eight research institutes at the university and said he expected some departments would hire more faculty members with strong research backgrounds.

The National [18]
May 8, 2009

Market to be Only Check on University Growth

The United Arab Emirates is already home to 61 universities, according to ministry of education [19] figures, and the government is ready to accept more, saying it will let market forces decide how many universities the UAE should have. Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak said that in a free market there would still be controls on the quality of universities, and that below-par institutions would struggle to attract students.

His comments were made as more institutions prepared to open in the country’s free zones, where they can operate without a ministry license and are not obliged to obtain course accreditation from the Commission for Academic Accreditation [20]. The UAE has three federal universities and, at the most recent count from the ministry, 58 other universities offering programs. The population of the UAE is just 4.8 million.

The recent closure of George Mason University [21]’s campus in the Ra’s Al Khaymah free zone brought into question the oversupply of universities and the undersupply of qualified students. While some officials have previously said there should be stricter controls on how many institutions can open, to prevent competition between universities offering the same courses, Sheikh Nahyan said this was not the case. “I am sure those that do not reach the standards that we set, students will not go to them,” he said. “Let the market determine. As long as there is demand, I am sure it’s healthy to have institutions from all over the world.”

The National [22]
May 20, 2009