WENR, June 2011: Middle East


G8 to Promote Investment in Arab Education

Leaders of the G8 nations renewed their commitment to promoting investment in innovation and higher education, and supporting university-industry partnerships across the Middle East and North Africa at a recent meeting in June.

The G8 declared that it would help build links as part of its agenda to support the growth of freedom and democracy in the wake of the Arab uprising this spring. “We will encourage student mobility and foster greater educational and research linkages between our universities and those in the MENA region,” the declaration said.

The G8 said it would use the Euro-Mediterranean Office for Youth as part of its plan to encourage more student mobility and greater university and research links. Mohammed Kuchari, an associate professor of microbiology at King Abdul Aziz University [1] in Jeddah, said that to maximize its effect on reforming MENA-based universities, these international initiatives must join forces with national and regional initiatives. For example, a proposed virtual network should be linked to the online innovation network for the Middle East [2], currently under development by the Saudi Arabia-based King Abdullah University of Science and Technology [3], he said.

University World News [4]
June 5, 2011


‘Science City’ Proposed

Egyptian authorities have announced that they will create a ‘science city’ as part of their post-revolution plans to promote higher education and innovation in the country and the broader Arab and African regions.

The initiative was announced in May by the ministerial legislature group, which agreed to a law approving the creation of the ‘ City of Science’ [5]. The campus, to be located on 110 hectares of land in Sheikh Zayed City northwest of Cairo, includes the establishment of a university and an institute for science and technology. It aims to educate students in world-class science and technology, develop new technologies and allow Egypt to participate in the technology-based global economy.

The focus will be on 21st century knowledge frontiers including genetic medicine, energy and water resources, information technology, and femto- and nanotechnology. The city will also be used to promote regional and international collaborations that produce scientific, social and political benefits.

University World News [6]
May 29, 2011


U.S. State Department Eases Visa Restrictions on Iranian Students

The U.S. State Department announced in June that it was changing the visa rules for Iranian students that have limited them to “single entry” visas; a policy that has forced any Iranian student who travels outside the United States to reapply for a new visa. The multiple-entry visas for which Iranian students can now apply will allow them to travel abroad and return to their studies in the United States.

“This change will allow Iranian students and exchange visitors to travel more easily, furthering our goal of promoting the free flow of information and ideas. This important decision is being taken as the global community witnesses the Iranian government’s increasing censorship and isolation of its own people,” said a statement from the State Department.

State Department [7]
May 20, 2011


Kurdish North Offers Students a Respite from the Violence

The University of Baghdad [8] has traditionally been considered the best university in Iraq, but in the post-Hussein era, with students feeling like targets, the Kurdish north of the country has become very popular.

“So many times, I had to go home in the middle of class. Once, a bullet went right past my friend’s head when I was with her,” 21-year-old Leylan Amir told the Wall Street Journal. That was in 2007. To escape the violence in the capital, Amir and her mother and brother – then a medical student in Baghdad – moved to Sulaimani, a quiet city in the Kurdish-administered north. Her father stayed behind in Baghdad, where he still works and takes care of the family home. In Sulaimani, Amir began studying business at the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani [9].

Since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, thousands of Iraqi students have fled north to the much more stable Kurdish area. As a result, universities have proliferated throughout the region, a boon for the local economy. Over the past five years, at least 10 new universities have opened in the area, bringing the region’s total to 20, and another five public universities are in the works, including one in the town of Hamdaniya to accommodate Christian refugees. Universities in this area, controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government, allow students from Baghdad and other unstable parts of Iraq to complete their education without leaving the country, a factor that has helped ease the brain-drain that typically comes with conflict.

The American University of Iraq-Sulaimani was founded in 2007 in Iraq’s Kurdish region by a group of Iraqis and foreigners, inspired in part by the landmark American University of Beirut [10] in Lebanon. Its executive MBA program for working professionals is run in conjunction with Germany’s Furtwangen University [11], and is accredited in Germany by the Foundation for International Business Administration [12]. The program, which has been running for four years, has 26 graduates so far.

Another new university attracting refugees from the south is the Lebanese French University in Erbil [13], the provincial capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Founded by academics from Beirut in 2007, the institution offers a four-year, French-style education in English. Its French partners are the University of Picardie-Jules Verne [14] and the University of Nîmes [15]. It will soon move into a new 50,000-square-meter campus. The university’s MBA program is expanding, with 160 MBAs expected to graduate this year, compared with 110 last year.

Wall Street Journal [16]
May 17, 2011

Washington D.C.-Based Iraqi-Student Program Taken Over

The Academy for Educational Development [17], a Washington-based international-aid charity that administers higher-education projects in Iraq and other countries, has been taken over by another non-profit organization after several months of uncertainty about its future. Details of the takeover are still unclear, but the transition will not affect education and development work, said leaders from both charities.

The academy, best known as AED, announced in March [18] that it would close because of financial problems and was looking for a company or non-profit to which it could transfer its programs and staff members. The new arrangement will allow former AED programs to receive new financing from the federal government.

With more than 250 programs in the United States and 150 countries, AED operates a variety of health, education, and economic-development efforts. In higher education, it is best known for administering an exchange program to send top Iraqi students to colleges in America. The project, which is financed by the Iraqi government, had plans for some 300 Iraqis to come to the United States during the 2010-11 academic year. AED has also overseen a project that connects approximately six American universities to Iraqi institutions.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [19]
June 8, 2011


Government Announces Grant Scheme Designed to Reverse Brain Drain

The Israeli government has announced that it will develop 30 Centers of Research Excellence [20] with funding of US$350 million in a bid to entice back as many as 300 leading Israeli scholars from abroad. The first of three grants under the program was announced in June, with centers initially being established in molecular science, led by the Hebrew University [21] professor Howard Cedar; in cognitive processes, led by the Weizmann Institute of Science [22] professor Yadin Dudai; and in computer science, led by the Tel Aviv University [23] professor Yishay Mansour.

The three centers have already signed contracts with 11 Israeli scholars currently at U.S. institutions of higher education including Columbia [24], Harvard [25], and Yale [26] Universities and the University of California at Berkeley [27].

Jerusalem Post [28]
June 1, 2011


Without Funding, Libyan Graduate Students Abroad Left in Limbo

Thousand of Libyan graduate students across the world are unable to access their academic funding because the assets of their war-torn country are frozen, rendering all Libyan-sponsored scholarships in jeopardy.

One student, Hatem Gelani, profiled by the Boston Globe, had planned to attend a three- or five-year program at Boston University’s Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine [29] on a full scholarship through the Libyan North-American Scholarship Program [30], which finances education for Libyan students at host universities in Canada and the United States. It was supposed to pay for his tuition and provide an $1,800 monthly allowance for rent, health insurance, and other living expenses.

The scholarship program is funded by the Libyan government and administered by the Canadian Bureau for International Education, [31] an organization of more than 200 colleges, universities, school boards, educational organizations, and businesses. Currently, more than 2,000 Libyan students are pursuing graduate and postgraduate studies in North America through the scholarship program. All are in the same predicament.

The most recent update at the time of The Globe article’s writing in late May said officials at the bureau “anticipate that formal permits [from the United Nations Security Council] will be issued in the next few days’’ that will allow Libyan authorities to request bank transfers from a frozen offshore account so the scholarship program can continue.

Boston Globe [32]
May 30, 2011

U.S. Visa Rules for Libyan Students Eased

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has eased F-1 visa requirements for Libyan students at American universities, citing the financial hardships caused by the violence and civil unrest in their homeland. The move, which currently runs until December 31, allows the Libyans to maintain their visa status while reducing their academic course load and spending more time working on or off campus. Some 2,000 Libyan students are on scholarships in the United States paid for by the Libyan government. The program has been in jeopardy because of economic sanctions, raising concerns about the possible deportation of the students.

Government Security News [33]
June 10, 2011


1,500 Overseas Scholarships Announced

The government of Oman has announced that 1,500 scholarships will be given to students who wish to study abroad, in addition to the 148 international and 7,000 domestic scholarships already granted by the Sultanate.

The Times of Oman [34]
June 8, 2011


New University

The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development [35] inaugurated a new multidisciplinary and research university in May 2011.

The Hamad bin Khalifa University will combine the teaching and research carried out at branch campuses and other institutions located at Education City [35] in Doha. A range of new research and undergraduate programs, and further collaborations among academic, industry and public sector partners are also envisaged for the new university.

At the 15-square-kilometer Education City campus, a network of world-class university partners offer specific programs. To date, there are branches of: Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar [36]; Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar [37]; Texas A&M University at Qatar [38]; Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar; [39] Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar [40]; Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies [41]; Northwestern University in Qatar [42]; HEC Paris in Qatar [43]; and University College London in Qatar [44].

While the universities operate autonomously as overseas branches, they already collaborate by encouraging students to cross-register on each other’s courses, and by sharing some faculty appointments. A total of 243 students graduated this year – the most in the short history of Education City – in subjects ranging from computer science to design, Islamic studies, engineering, international relations and medicine

The number of graduating students per university is as follows:

Qatar Foundation News Release [45]
April 5, 2011