Higher Education in the Middle East: Opportunities and Challenges for U.S. Universities and Middle East Partners

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Higher Education in the Middle East: Opportunities and Challenges for U.S. Universities and Middle East Partners

The development and advancement of a system of higher education across the Middle East has been widely acknowledged by Arab elites. The western education is no longer exclusive for the Arab elites. For the region and its people to become completely integrated into the global economy, it is important for all Arab individuals to be receive education in their home countries. Operating on the assumption that oil revenue will decrease in the near future, Arab elites have come to accept the need for a highly skilled and educated domestic workforce to progress due to globalisation.

Public and private universities have operated in the Middle East for decades, however the number of institutions are insufficient to meet the population demand. Further, exceptional Middle East universities fail to adequately equip students with the skills needed for the local or global job market; and the scientific higher education and research have been overlooked.

In recent years, Arab governments and educational elites have constantly emphasised on the importance of higher education and carried out various initiatives that can bring out substantial changes. Universities in the United States have played a significant role in this process. As a group of states in the region, the states belonging to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, have invested billions to the development of new institutions in the past decade.

The public opinion poll data have reflected low Arab populated support for U.S. foreign policy, however, the popularity of American-style higher education in the Arab society is at an all time high. High education based on the American model has been widely recognised as being the best system for the young Arab generation. The best available higher education has always been of significant importance to Arab families because it is viewed as a mean to raise their social status. Hence, they are prepared to pay high tuition fees to do so. However, students in the region are not travelling to the United States for education due to the intense competition available at new, local Americanised universities.

The number of American universities that have established partnerships in the Middle East in recent years include both public and private institutions. While establishing and maintaining degree-granting regional campuses pose several challenges, many American universities have committed in less ambitious partnerships with several Arab institutions.  The enrollment of qualified students is not the only challenge confronting higher education institutions in the region. Faculty recruitment and retention has also been a critical issue.

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Join us in the upcoming QS-MAPLE 2019 from 25-27 February 2019 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as we discuss the topic on “Research in the Middle East and Africa: Overcoming the Barriers”.