WENR, March 2016: Middle East

Turkey seeks to increase Chinese higher ed enrollments

As part of a push to ease the bureaucratic obstacles facing inbound foreign students, Turkish universities plan to seek bilateral education agreements aimed at increasing enrollment among Chinese students. There are now 1,000 Chinese students are studying in universities throughout Turkey.

Shanghai Daily [1]
February 17

Saudi government’s largesse dries up, along with oil wealth

A drop in oil prices from more than $100 a barrel in June 2014 to less than $30 a barrel in early 2016 has drained the Saudi budget. The sudden shortfall also “[poses] a threat to the unwritten social contract that has long underpinned life in the kingdom,” says The New York Times. Seventy percent of Saudis are under 30. In the past, young university graduates, some 250,000 of whom enter the job market annually, could expect cushy government jobs and other benefits. But such perks have all but disappeared. Other items in short supply may also include King Abdullah Scholarships, which in 2014 supported more than 200,000 Saudis (and their dependents) at higher ed institutions around the world. The scholarships have been in place since 2005.

The New York Times
February 16

Criminal investigation of 1100+ Turkish scholars sounds global alarm

A crackdown on 1,128 Turkish academics who signed a petition calling for an end to the military campaign against Kurdish separatists in southeastern Turkey has raised concerns about the nation’s increasingly authoritarian government. The academics are all under criminal investigation for their participation. The Scholars at Risk network coordinated a letter by 30 scholarly groups and higher education institutions, urging the government to respect academic freedom. “Turkish academia, long considered among conservative circles to be a bastion of secular, modern and antireligion intelligentsia, is being overhauled,” said A. Kadir Yildirim, a research scholar at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, in an editorial for The Washington Post.

Inside Higher Ed
February 12

Syrian universities establish wartime campuses

In the midst of a civil war that has displaced half the country’s pre-war population — more than 11 million people — it should come as no surprise that many private Syrian universities have established makeshift campuses, with the hope of providing students and scholars with greater safety. Classes on these campuses often run late into the evening, and mortar shells remain a risk. Electricity and heat are sporadic, while professors are also an increasingly rare commodity. Enrollments have also dropped precipitously. “We have 50 new students this year; two years ago we had more than 300,” says one administrator.

Al-Fanar Media
February 5

Tighter rules for Saudi scholarship program

The Saudi Arabian government outlined new requirements for the multi-billion dollar scholarship program that supports hundreds of thousands of young Saudis abroad. Tighter eligibility requirements could reduce student mobility. For instance, students must now enroll in one of the top 50 academic programs in their field, or in the top 100 universities globally, to receive funding. (The Saudi Ministry of Education will assess rankings.) Students must also maintain minimum grade point averages. More than 207,000 individuals were covered by the King Abdullah Scholarship in 2014, at a cost of 22.5 billion riyals (US$6 billion).

February 1