WENR, March 2010: Middle East


Academics Oppose West Bank University

A total of 250 academics representing universities and colleges in Israel have signed a letter that was sent to the Council for Higher Education [1] urging it not to recognize the college [2] in the West Bank town of Ariel as either a university center or a university.

The college was officially recognized by the Council for Higher Education 15 years ago, but unlike all accredited universities and colleges inside the Green Line in Israel, the college in Ariel is subordinate to the Council for Higher Education in Judea and Samaria, and thus answerable to the Israel Defense Forces Central Command.

Even though the Council for Higher Education is not willing to recognize the college in Ariel as a university, it continues to fund it as a college. According to a recent order by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the college is to be officially recognized as a university center; however the order has been vehemently opposed by the council which contends “there is no academic need for another university”.

University World News [3]
February 21, 2010

Institutions of Higher Education Working Together to Battle Brain Drain

The state of Israel has proposed an initiative to reduce the ‘brain drain’ that would establish a new fund to provide the jobs needed to keep the country’s best and brightest academics from moving overseas, or to bring them back home. The fund, to be managed by the Council for Higher Education [1], will invest in centers of research excellence that provide positions for repatriated scientists and engineers.

The Higher Education Council presented the plan to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February, in coordination with the Finance Ministry and the National Economic Council. Netanyahu is expected to approve the plan. The Stars Plan calls for the establishment of 30 research centers at a cost of NIS 45 million (US$12 million) each, bringing the total cost to NIS 1.3 billion.

Most of the money will come directly from the state, with universities supplementing the funds. Universities, individually or in groups, will bid to establish the centers. The money will go to paying scientists’ salaries. Since the centers will be independent of the regular university framework, the normal regulations on university salary limitations will not apply.

Haaretz [4]
February 25, 2010


Joint Project to Build Nuclear Science University with French Announced

The Jordanian government announced in January that it plans to create a university specializing in nuclear sciences and research in partnership with France.

“This will be a center of excellence, rather than a university in the traditional sense,” Ned Xoubi, Commissioner for Nuclear Fuel Cycle at the commission, told University World News. “Thus it will expand to more than one Jordanian university utilizing the already existing resources and infrastructure.”

The University of Jordan [5] has a nuclear physics program, as has the Jordon University of Science and Technology [6] (JUST), along with research and teaching nuclear laboratories. These will be the leading Jordanian institutions that will work with the French institutions to offer advanced degrees. Programs will include a master degree in project management geared toward nuclear and mega projects at the University of Jordan, a master degree in nuclear safety and regulation at JUST, and a technology diploma that will attract community college graduates for developing the technical skills needed for nuclear power plants.

University World News [7]
January 31, 2010

Saudi Arabia

International Education Expo a Hit

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Higher Education [8] (MOHE) hosted the inaugural International Exhibition for Higher Education [9] in January. According to governmental officials, an estimated 300,000 people attended the event, which showcased approximately 340 universities from 35 countries. In addition to recruiting, universities were also there to network, and a number of cooperation agreements were reportedly inked.

Among other objectives of the four-day event, was the Saudi government’s desire to showcase its international scholarship program, which has been extended for another five years, and to build relationships with foreign universities.

France’s Grenoble Graduate School of Business [10] (GGSB) and Al-Yamamah University [11] reportedly inked a memorandum of understanding at the event, and according to Gael Fouillard, International Executive Education Manager of GGSB, the agreement includes a plan to send female students from Al-Yamamah University to Grenoble in July for a summer school program as well as a plan for GGSB to offer an MBA program at Al-Yamamah.

Universities in attendance were not only from the major exporters of educational services, but also from emerging destinations such as China, India, Japan, South Africa and South Korea.

Arab News [12]
January 31, 2010

New National Body for Higher Education

On the sidelines of the International Higher Education Expo (see above) in January, Minister of Higher Education Dr. Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-Angari launched the Observatory of Higher Education, a body that will reportedly be responsible for assessments and evaluations of higher education programs and student experiences, while also publishing information on the sector.

The oil-rich Gulf nation devoted a quarter of the national budget last year to education and training, and restated its commitment to building the tertiary sector and human resource development at the launch of the new body.

Saudi Press Agency [13]
January 27, 2010

Bank to Introduce Private Student Loans

The International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, signed an agreement in February with Saudi Arabia’s Riyad Bank to introduce a new student loan scheme that will not only help finance student enrollments across the country, but also prove that the industry is viable in Saudi Arabia. The scheme is designed to promote priority disciplines such as medicine, engineering, business administration, accounting, and finance. It is also seen as being particularly important for the nascent private higher education sector and strategic fields of study that are deemed of high importance to the national economy.

Michael Essex, IFC Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said that by demonstrating student lending was commercially viable, the scheme might encourage other financial institutions to enter the education sector. The finance corporation has established similar student loan schemes in the West Bank and Gaza, and Jordan.

IFC News Release [14]
February 16, 2010

United Arab Emirates

Ministry of Education Challenges Schools to Better Prepare Students for University

Remedial courses taken by most first-year Emirati university students because of poor standards at high schools are to end, according to The National newspaper. The move is contained in the long-anticipated Ministry of Education Strategy 2010-2020, which was published in February on the website of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice-President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The move appears to be a challenge to the country’s public schools to better prepare pupils for university. The ministry intends to immediately start work on plans to eliminate foundation programs, although no specific time line has been released.

The 27-page plan, which lists a series of objectives but does not offer specifics on how they will be accomplished, replaces a 2008 plan. Ninety-four per cent of the approximately 9,200 students who enter federal universities must take foundation programs that focus particularly on improving students’ English-language skills. While public schools teach in Arabic, universities teach in English.

The National [15]