WENR, April 2015: Middle East


Network of Diploma Mills Preys on Students from Middle East

A global network of fraudulent online universities is using high-pressure sales tactics and phony scholarships to extract money from students who end up with worthless degrees, according to Al-Fanar Media. MUST University appears to be the main chain in the link, claiming enrollment from over 180 countries.

Graduate schools and potential employers who verify the legitimacy of applicant degrees are not accepting qualifications from the institutions in this network, leaving any graduates from the institutions unable to move on in their professional or academic careers.

The universities in the network, which typically say they are based in the United States, actively encourage students from the Arab world to enroll by offering what appear to be generous scholarships. But that financial aid comes with a hook – the students are supposed to pay the rest of the fees immediately. The network also operates a fabricated accreditation agency it calls the “Middle East Office of Academic Regulation & Examination,” a common practice among diploma mills.

Al-Fanar Media [1]
February 24, 2015

Regional Universities Seek International Accreditation

With its business school, language center and computer science program already accredited by agencies overseas, Morocco’s Al Akhawayn University, which teaches in English, is now seeking international accreditation at the institutional level. Seeking to raise educational quality, enhance the value of offered degrees and claim prestige, a growing number of universities and programs across the Arab world are seeking accreditation from external agencies, largely in Europe or the United States.

International accreditation, of course, is not the only game in town when it comes to measuring the quality of higher education. Some Arab countries have their own procedures in place for licensing universities and checking the standards of teaching and curriculum. The Arab Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education [2] has been a leading organization in this effort.

“Curiously, two of the more established American-style universities in the Gulf region were predesigned with accreditation in mind,” academics Neema Noori and Pia-Kristina Anderson wrote in an article published by the International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society in February 2013. The American University of Sharjah and Zayed University were established with structures in place to facilitate accreditation, according to the article. The U.S.-based Middle States Commission on Higher Education now accredits both institutions.

Another accrediting agency active in the Middle East is the Brussels-based European Quality Improvement System, which certifies business schools. U.S.-based accreditor AACSB International also accredits business programs across the globe. The U.S.-based Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is another example of an agency accrediting individual degree programs—ABET alone accredits more than 260 of them in the region. In fact, about two-thirds of all programs certified by ABET outside the United States are in the Middle East and North Africa, led by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

AACSB International sees growing interest for accreditation in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. However, many institutions will be turned down for accreditation. When it comes to MBA programs, “there are actually very few that meet our standards,” said Mark Stoddard, director of operations at the London-based Association of MBAs.

Al-Fanr Media [3]
March 15, 2015


Iranian Universities Develop Regional International Branch Campuses

In a move aimed at easing Western sanctions and its economic isolation, along with promoting higher education development and regional cooperation, Iran is continuing to establish more branch campuses of its universities across the Arab world.

In March, a senior official in Iran’s ministry of energy said a technical university [4] specializing in the power industry and renewable energy sources would be built in Iraq. In February, the Iranian government announced plans to open two new offshoots of its universities in Iraq, including a medical sciences university [5] and a branch of the Islamic Azad University [6].

Iran has also established a number of branch universities in the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai campuses of Islamic Azad, the Shahid Beheshti, and the Payame Noor universities. As well as its branch in Dubai, the private, non-profit Islamic Azad University has expanded into other Arab states, including in Lebanon where it opened its first offshoot in Beirut in 1994. Syria had also agreed to open an Iranian campus, the Farabi University, in the north-west Syrian port city of Latakia; however, this project appears to be on hold due to the worsening political and security situation in the country

Other plans to establish in other Arab states are reportedly in the works, including in the Union of the Comoros. A member of the African Union, Comoros is a sovereign archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Africa.

University World News [7]
March 20, 2015

United Arab Emirates

First Chinese International Secondary School Planned for Dubai

Dubai’s first Chinese international secondary school will open in around two years’ time, it has been announced, as new government statistics show the Emirate’s private international schools sector continues to boom.

Eleven new private schools have opened in Dubai this year and last year, and a total of 26 in the last three years, according to new statistics published by Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority [8]. Annual fee revenue from the international schools sector has now reached US$252 million. And there has been almost 5 percent growth in enrollment in private schools since 2013-14, bringing the number of students studying in the city’s private institutions to over 255,000, KHDA’s infographic report [9] shows.

Investments from China and the UAE for the new school are expected to reach close to US$33 million. The school will teach a curriculum in Mandarin to students, answering growing demand for the language in Dubai, according to Lucy Chuang, who has responsibility for the Chinese International School project.

The PIE News [10]
March 19, 2015

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Embassy Representative Criticizes UK Higher Education

UK universities’ eagerness to recruit more overseas students has resulted in a “lowering of standards” and “incompetent graduates sometimes,” according to a critique delivered by a representative of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London.

An International Higher Education Forum hosted by Universities UK and the UK Higher Education International Unit in March included a session titled “Seeing ourselves as others see us: global perceptions of UK higher education and the impact on your international strategy.”

One of the speakers, Faisal Abaalkhail, cultural attaché at the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, told the gathering in London that the “very, very positive perception of institutions of higher education in the United Kingdom has been changing; hopefully we will be working towards restoring whatever confidence is needed,” while noting, however, that the weaknesses related to only a “very small number of institutions – they are the exception.”

In the UK, higher education was “now branded as an education export,” Dr Abaalkhail said, and “wherever there is fast growth, there are a number of negative factors.” There had been a “lowering of standards, poor student experience and satisfaction, and more emphasis on generating revenues,” he said.

Times Higher Education [11]
March 26, 2015