Tag: Middle Eastern HE

Female-only university

Image: stock:xchng

The Saudi Arabian king has recently invested 5,3 billion US dollars to open worlds largest women-only university: Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University.

The introduction of a female-only university is linked to the extreme segregation in the Saudi society, where men and women are not even allowed to work in the same place, let alone be in the same room alone. The religious police monitors this and when caught, this usually would lead to a prison sentence or other type of punishment, arguably also used as a means to frame people win unpopular beliefs.

There are also arguments that despite a strong division, the public image of Saudi women is in a process of change. Already in 2003, E. Doumato argued in a book “Women and globalization in the Arab Middle East: gender, economy, and society” that while Saudi women still wear the all covering black abaya, changes are starting to happen and increasingly these outfits would increasingly be “slightly form-fitted, embroidered, flowing, and almost sensual” and women would not cover their eyes. While these changes might be small and incremental and perhaps something easy to overlook and underestimate in secular context, these are still important changes in an extremely rigid and traditional context such as Saudi Arabia.

The establishment of this new university means that there will be more study opportunities for women in Saudi Arabia. University World News (UWN) quotes Abdulkader Alfantookh, the Deputy Minister of Higher Education in Saudi Arabia who argued that this will be an important step by the government to improve the situation of women in higher education. Further, the article cites the University president Huda bint Mohammad Al-Ameel who said that “PNU has become a major symbol of gender equality and women’s education in Saudi Arabia“.  On the contrary to popular belief, the UWN article indicates that the majority of university students in Saudi Arabia are women, and the percentage of female researchers is higher in Saudi Arabia than for example Germany, Japan and Korea.

King of Saudi Arabia Creates University

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Campus.
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is the emulation of a decade-long vision of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. KAUST will serve as a graduate-level research university committed to “a new age of scientific achievement in the Kingdom that will also benefit the region and the world.” The university is set to open in September 2009 and has recently signed academic agreements with Stanford, University of California, Berkley, and the University of Texas at Austin. The university is funded by a multi-billion dollar endowment and will be governed by a board of trustees. Choon Fong Shih, the president of the National University of Singapore, was recently appointed as the first president of the university. Employment opportunities are now posted on the website.

Pakistan Part II: Foreign Faculty Hiring Program (The Brain Gain Initiative)

Written by: Muhammed Adnan Mughul, HEEM student
Foreign Faculty Hiring Program (FFHP) is one such unique scheme, to recruit highly qualified educators and researchers from abroad, which occupies centre stage in the HEC’s vast range of activities. This program proceeds on the premise that foreign faculty is a repository of “wealth of knowledge and research experience”.
Foreign Faculty Hiring Program cartoon.
FFHP was officially launched in October 2003 to attract foreign experts as well as expatriate Pakistani professors from all over the world with the aim to reverse the brain drain. The goal of this program is to hire approximately 1500 foreign professors, associate and assistant professors within the period of 5 years, 300 faculty members per annum, in the fields of natural and social sciences, to support currently under-supervised graduate students and to fill, what the HEC describes as, the “vast gap of qualified research academics and PhD supervisors in the higher education sector.” According to HEC, through FFHP, it aspires to bring a positive change in the culture of higher education institutions in all domains of academic activities including development of infrastructure, academic standards, curriculum, knowledge dissemination through refined teaching / examination / grading methodologies, industry-academia linkage, international collaborative research and fine supervisory acumen which would result in creation of knowledge.

Pakistan Part I: Higher Education Reform

Written by: Muhammed Adnan Mughul, HEEM student
Map of Pakistan.
The Higher Education sector in Pakistan has undergone a dramatic revival in recent years. The establishment of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) on September 11, 2002, repealing the University Grants Commission (UGC), was in recognition of the contribution of higher education to the socio-economical development of Pakistan. The aim of this revival is to reform higher education and transform Pakistan from an agriculture-based economy to a “knowledge-economy”. To improve the state of higher education, HEC has defined a strategy that identifies the core strategic aims for reform as: 1. Faculty development; 2. Higher Education infrastructure development; 3. Focus area support; 4. Industrial linkages; 5. Higher Education Quality Assurance/Assessment; and 6. Higher Education sector reforms. Accordingly, over the past four years, Pakistan’s higher-education budget has increased more than sevenfold, to about US$449million.

Dubai Ruler Invests Private Money in Education

In an attempt to continue the economical development of the tiny Arab Gulf state of Dubai, the ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, has donated 10 billion U.S. dollars (one of the largest contributions to date) to start up a new endowment foundation. The foundation will be used to increase the educational standards in the Middle East with a special emphasis on illiteracy, unemployment and scholarly development and recognition. According to the Guardian, Sheikh Mohammed said, “The foundation’s mission is to invest in knowledge and human development, focusing specifically on research, education and promoting equal opportunities for the personal growth and success of our youth.”