WENR, July 2013: Middle East
Combating Brain Drain in Arab Countries
An extraordinary 80 percent of Arab postgraduate students currently carry out their study abroad. Just over half of them – especially from the North Africa region – do not return home after graduating, which results in annual losses estimated at more than US$2 billion.
Several studies have highlighted a range of political, economic, social and personal factors that contribute to the brain drain. These include the slow rate of development in Arab countries, a failure to make adequate use of new technologies in the productive sector, low salaries and the relative lack of opportunities for scientific research. Broader factors include political and social instability in many countries in the region especially after the Arab Spring.
According to one report, The Brain Drain – Academic and skilled migration to the UK and its impact on Africa, universities in developed nations could help to offset the brain drain of skilled workers from poorer countries. This could be done through transferring resources, technology and knowledge to African nations via exchanges of staff and students, research collaborations and ‘twinning’ with institutions, along with developing partnerships and networks between scientists and research institutions, with a focus on training for young professionals. Incentives could also be developed to encourage students to return home.
Others recommend starting at home. Hassan Moawad Abdel Al, former president of the City for Scientific Research and Technology Applications in Alexandria, Egypt, told World University News that it was important to build domestic higher education capabilities and facilitate knowledge transfer into developing nations.
However, “North African countries must strengthen their postgraduate studies institutes to be able to produce scientific workforces at home instead of sending students abroad, which leads to the brain drain of the new generation of top talent.”
– University World News
June 28, 2013
Why Many Arabs From Israel Pursue PhDs Overseas
The United States is the main country of destination for Arab academics from Israel who intend to obtain a PhD abroad, because the U.S. grants Fulbright scholarships at the doctoral level in any field to students with academic excellence who are engaged in social activities and community service, and who have leadership abilities.
Arab students in Israel perceive higher education as an important stepping stone and sometimes the only means to advance their social mobility individually and as a group. There is no doubt that studying abroad is considered as a ‘second chance’ after non-acceptance to study in one’s homeland, reports University World News.
Despite difficult socioeconomic circumstances among Arabs in Israel, Arab families invest everything, even selling land, to finance higher education for their sons abroad. The top three reasons are: prestige, insufficient GPA (that is, grades are insufficient for entry into Israeli universities), and scholarships (offered by the host university).
Other reasons for choosing to study abroad include the curriculum or culture (an individual is interested in getting exposed to a new culture and way of study), additional language, and an invitation from the host university. The availability of scholarships seems to be the main factor driving individuals to pursue a PhD in the U.S. or Germany.
– University World News
June 1, 2013
New Information Center to Strengthen Academic Ties with Germany
The German Academic Exchange Service, DAAD, has set up an information center in Jordan’s capital Amman to consolidate and intensify academic links between the two countries. The center was officially opened in May.
The DAAD’s scholarship program for Jordan includes full PhD scholarships, masters scholarships for special programs that are relevant to developing countries, and funding for summer schools at various German universities.
The German-Jordanian University (GJU) is an example of cooperation between the two. Set up in 2005 along the lines of the German fachhochschule – universities of applied science – the GJU has 20 study programs ranging from chemistry through management to environmental engineering. Each of them is supervised by a German fachhochschule. The GJU is also supported by a consortium of fachhochschulen as well as the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), DAAD, and private industry partners. Around 5,000 students from Jordan and other countries in the Middle East are enrolled.
In addition to its information role, the center is to act as a permanent liaison office, collaborating closely with Jordanian universities and supporting projects and higher education partnership programs between the two countries.
– University World News
June 15, 2013
New Reforms for Higher Education, Thousands to Study Overseas
Libya has launched several initiatives to reform universities, in an effort to achieve global academic standards and match higher education graduates with local job market demands. The initiatives were announced by Bashir Eshteiwi, Libya’s deputy minister of higher education and scientific research, at the Arab Education Summit hosted by ArabBrains, a networking organization that connects innovative education, public and private sector leaders.
The reform initiatives are aimed at tackling Libya’s poor performance in higher education, which is the result of sub-standard teaching by underpaid and overworked lecturers and lack of support for students, who endure overcrowded lecture halls, among other challenges.
To face its higher education challenges, Libya is developing information technology infrastructure to connect universities via a modern communications network and build virtual higher education that it hopes will rival the world’s most advanced applications.
To tackle overcrowding and poor teaching standards in the system, the government has said it will send thousands of promising students abroad to complete their studies. The target is to send 10,284 students to foreign universities.
A package of incentives for researchers is being developed to encourage publication in international journals and patent registration, and there is a pilot program to fund research that serve the purposes of development. Also, international, regional and national cooperation will be promoted to transform research carried out at universities and research centers into start-up businesses and products.
– University World News
June 1, 2013
Encouraging Saudi Student Success in US Universities
Several sessions at the annual NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference in May focused on the rapidly growing numbers of Saudi Arabian students in the United States and the unique challenges associated with these students, who often arrive on campus with low levels of English and math preparation and with cultural values that can complicate their chances for success in an American classroom.
Cultural features such as focus on collectivist culture, tight-knit homogenous social groups and a predisposition for negotiation have led to misunderstandings. Christy Babcock, associate director of international student services at Boise State, said that “faculty and staff preparedness” has been a challenge given the rapid growth of Saudi students at an institution where professors are accustomed to teaching “white Idahoans.” The university offers faculty training workshops and just launched a once-a-semester “Cultural Lunch and Learn” event for sponsored Saudi and Kuwaiti students and Boise State faculty to provide them with a chance to casually interact.
In addition, there are more straightforward issues of academic preparation. The mean Test of English as a Foreign Language score for Saudi students in 2012 was 60, compared to 81 for all groups. Several speakers at NAFSA outlined how they deal with the language ability disparity: more strict attendance and guidelines for intensive English programs, diversifying ESL programs by nationality, and expanding opportunity for conversation practice
– Inside Higher Ed
May 30, 2013