WENR, March 2014: Middle East


MOOC Provider Blocks Students from Iran, Cuba, Syria and Sudan

Federal regulations prohibit U.S. businesses from offering services to countries subject to economic sanctions – a list that includes Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan – but as recently as January, students in those countries were still able to access Coursera [1]’s massive open online courses, but a recent directive from the federal government has forced some of them to cut off access to students in certain countries.

Coursera explained the change [2] in its online help center:

“The interpretation of export control regulations as they related to MOOCs was unclear for a period of time, and Coursera had been operating under one interpretation of the law,” the website reads. “Recently, Coursera received a clear answer indicating that certain aspects of the Coursera MOOC experience are considered ‘services’ (and all services are highly restricted by export controls). While many students from these countries were previously able to access Coursera, this change means that we will no longer be able to provide students in sanctioned countries with access to Coursera moving forward.”

The only option for students in the sanctioned countries may be edX [3], the MOOC provider founded in partnership between Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Tena Herlihy, edX’s general counsel, said the company has since last May worked with the U.S. State Department and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, and has so far applied for and received company-specific licenses for its MOOCs to enroll students in Cuba and Iran (a third license, for Sudan, is still in the works).

Wamda [4]
January 27, 2014


University Campuses Continue to See Daily Protests and Crackdowns

Student demonstrations have become a daily occurrence at Egyptian universities. Reports estimate that a monthly average of 230 protests were staged on 24 campuses in the first part of the current academic year. Student mobilizations have grown in recent months in response to the unprecedented, forceful suppression of civil rights expressed through traditional channels of political activism, according to a recent article in Al-Monitor.

According to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, 692 students from universities across Egypt are currently being detained in a clampdown that has largely targeted the Islamist component of the anti-military opposition movement, but has also roped in liberal activists and students.

Dozens of students have been handed prison sentences of up to 17 years on charges related to demonstrating, belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and inciting violence. Local media have routinely called into question the independence of student political engagement, alleging that the upsurge in student protests is an extension of Muslim Brotherhood-backed activity in various parts of the country.

Al-Monitor [5]
January 28, 2014


Israel-Based University of the People Earns Accreditation

The University of the People, [6] a tuition-free online institution that aims to reach underserved students around the world, announced In February that it had received accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, [7] a U.S. national accrediting group.

The university currently has 700 students in 142 countries enrolled in business administration and computer science programs, according to The New York Times. About 30 percent are from Africa and 25 percent from the United States, most of whom were born outside the country. But the Israeli entrepreneur who started the project four years ago, Shai Reshef, said he expected it to expand rapidly now that it has accreditation, to as many as 5,000 students by 2016.

From the start, Mr. Reshef has said that he aimed to show developing countries that it is possible to provide higher education to all, at a low cost. Classes are deliberately low-tech, with text-based open-source materials, since so many potential students around the world have no access to broadband or video.

The University of the People, almost from the start, has attracted high-level support, with partnerships or backing from New York University, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the OpenCourseWare Consortium and many others. In August, Microsoft agreed to provide scholarships, mentoring and job opportunities to 1,000 African students who enroll at the University of the People.

The New York Times [8]
February 14, 2014

United Arab Emirates

Amity University To Build 5,000-Student Campus at Dubai’s DIAC

One of India’s biggest education groups, Amity University [9], has broken ground on what is to be the largest private university campus at Dubai International Academic City [10] (DIAC). Amity has added two new programs to bring its portfolio up to 28 offerings, in direct response to the demands of local industry.

The university’s new 700,000 sq foot campus will accommodate 5,000 students at full capacity. Dubai is the latest addition to Amity’s group of international institutions that has a combined student body of over 100,000 students at locations in India, the U.S., UK, Mauritius, Romania, China and Singapore.

Established in 2007, DIAC is the world’s only tax-free higher education zone. It currently has 21 of the UAE’s 37 international branch campuses, from 11 different nations, while hosting over 20,000 students from 125 countries.

The PIE News [11]
February 4, 2014


Citing Quality Concerns, Government Halts Scholarships for Study in Malaysia

The Higher Education and Scientific Research Ministry has decided to put an end to new Yemeni government scholarship programs for study at private Malaysian universities, due to perceived poor educational quality and high cost.

The ministry has also decided to withdraw financial support for students if their academic performance has been less than excellent. Ahmed Al-Rabei, director of scholarships at the ministry, told the Yemen Times that in Malaysia, a private university education is inferior to a public university education, and in addition the tuition and fees of private universities were triple those of public universities.

The cost of attending a public Malaysian university is approximately US$1,500 per year, while the cost of an education at a private university is about $4,500. There are approximately 9,000 Yemeni students studying in Malaysia – nearly 4,000 of them in private universities.

Yemen Times [12]
February 13, 2014