WENR, July/August 2014: Middle East


Regional Harmonization Project Launched in Middle East, North Africa

A three-year higher education project to align subject-learning objectives in the Middle East and North Africa (MEDA) was launched in May in the fields of law and good governance including human rights, healthcare and nursing, engineering and architecture, and tourism.

The Tuning MEDA [1] project aims to implement tools developed under the European Union’s Bologna process in Southern Neighbouring Area universities by building a framework of comparable, compatible and transparent programs of studies. The so-called Tuning project is outlined [2] on the website of the Association of Arab Universities.

Tuning MEDA will apply the ‘tuning’ methodology in participating universities through work in areas including curriculum development and delivery, the employability of graduates, recognition of degrees, higher education quality and staff training. A number of European universities will partner with 23 AAU member universities on the project.

The project will focus on ‘tuning’ in the four subject areas, with tuning reference points being developed by determining the general and special abilities required of university graduates in those fields. Efforts will be made to improve degree programs and promote cooperation between EU and southern universities.

University World News [3]
May 29, 2014


Academia Opens to the West

In what many view as a sign of new academic openness in Iran, the University of Tehran in March hosted Immanuel Wallerstein, a Yale sociologist, who spoke about women’s rights and other issues rarely discussed there.

Hassan Rouhani, a moderate cleric who was elected president last year, has lifted some restrictions on the country’s universities and encouraged greater collaboration with foreign professors. At the same time, as a sign of somewhat improving relations between Iran and the United States, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has eased economic sanctions to allow American colleges to establish partnerships with their Iranian counterparts.

American scholars have been able to visit Iran over the years for limited academic purposes, but the recent changes have led to hope for more robust international exchanges and greater academic freedom in Iran. However, despite such signs of renewed academic relations, many observers of Iran are wary of declaring a new era of openness, with some saying Mr. Rouhani has a lot of work to do to reverse the limits placed on higher education by his conservative predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

During Mr. Ahmadinejad’s eight years as president, starting in 2005, students who actively supported the political opposition were expelled and religious minorities such as Bahai students remained largely excluded from higher education. Some courses and programs seen as incompatible with Islam, such as women’s studies, were eliminated, and other humanities and social-science programs had their content altered to reflect Islamic principles.

The Chronicle of Higher Education [4]
June 2, 2014

MOOC Provider Restores Access to Iranian Users

Coursera announced recently that it would once again make available courses to students in Iran, after they were blocked in January under the U.S. economic sanctions regime.

The massive open online course provider announced [5] in June that it had restored access to students in Iran and Syria – although those students still can’t access courses in advanced STEM fields. The company is still working to be able to offer courses to students in Cuba and Sudan, according to a recent blog post [5].

BBC News [6]
June 3, 2014


A Long Road Back for Higher Education

Iraqi universities were celebrated as some of the best in the region in the 1960s and 1970s. Yet they lost this reputation in the 1980s due to the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, wars and economic sanctions. And, according to a recent article in Al-Monitor, there is nothing to suggest much in the way of improvements in the coming years, although there are a few bright spots.

Al-Monitor contacted the Information Department at the Ministry of Higher Education to learn more about the quantitative development in higher education in recent years. So far, 8,500 students have been sent out of Iraq as part of delegations to foreign universities. Moreover, the amount allocated for these delegations grew to US$450 million in 2014.

The ministry has also worked to establish new universities, most of which are in specialized fields, and five universities have been established in the past four years. With regards to the trend toward specialized universities, there are, for example, plans to establish an oil and gas institute in Basra.

Al-Monitor [7]
May 23, 2014


China–Israel Academic Ties Boosted in New Bi-National Research Project

Two top universities from Israel and China announced recently that they are starting a US$300 million research project focused on nanotechnologies, the latest move in booming ties between Israel and China, according to a recent article from the Associated Press.

Tel Aviv University and Beijing’s Tsinghua University said they would exchange graduate students and faculty members to work in a joint research center [8] based at the two institutions. The cooperation initially will focus on nanotechnology, but may later be expanded to other areas including raw materials, water treatment and environmental issues, according to officials from both universities.

Israel is still a tiny partner for the Chinese giant, but trade between the two countries has been growing, reaching US$8.4 billion last year, compared with US$6.7 billion in 2010, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Beijing seeks access to new technologies in fields where Israel is considered a leader, including agriculture, water desalination and medicine, while the Jewish state is eager to gain a foothold in the huge Chinese market.

Last year Haifa’s Technion Technology Institute and Shantou University, located in the southern Guangdong province, signed a smaller cooperation agreement valued around $150 million.

Associated Press [9]
May 19, 2014

United Arab Emirates

Popularity of UK Transnational Degrees Skyrocket

The number of students studying for British transnational education awards in the United Arab Emirates has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, including a 37 percent increase in the number of students during the past two years – bringing to 15,000 the number studying there for UK awards.

This is according to the findings of a recent study by the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), a Review of UK Transnational Education in United Arab Emirates: Overview [10]. It also found that in the UAE, there are more than 100 higher education institutions enrolling some 120,000 students, with about 37 international branch campuses from 11 countries catering largely for expats.

The UK has nine branch campuses and is the highest sending country – in fact, the number of British students in the UAE has almost doubled in two years. This increase is most noticeable among those studying in an overseas branch campus of a UK institution, accounting for 44 percent of all British transnational education delivered in the UAE, up from 32 percent in 2010-11. Heriot-Watt University and Middlesex University enrolled 78 percent of UK students in the Dubai free zones.

The reviewers visited the following universities in the UAE, with a separate report published on each one: City University London, Cass Business School; Coventry University and Emirates Aviation College, Dubai; Heriot-Watt University, Dubai; London Business School; Middlesex University, Dubai; Middlesex University and SAE Institute, Dubai; University of Bolton and Western International College, Ras Al Khaimah; University of Bradford; University of Exeter; University of Manchester; and University of Strathclyde.

University World News [11]
June 11, 2014