Reforms needed in higher education to meet the needs of youth in the Middle East and North Africa

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Reforms needed in higher education to meet the needs of youth in the Middle East and North Africa

There is a positive correlation between higher education and development. Universities play a fundamental role in the creation of new knowledge and skills that can lead to economic growth. They are also key to the establishment of democratic societies. While, investment rates for higher education in MENA region are relatively high, the results have proved ineffective to a certain extent. University systems in the MENA region have been observed in failing to provide graduates with skills needed to thrive in today’s job markets.

In addition, the higher education systems in the MENA region are currently under immense pressure because of the challenges put across by the ‘Arab Spring’. One of the key questions and demands from the ‘Arab Spring’ and young generation in the Arab world, is specifically how to achieve good quality education and a good job. Therefore, universities need to act in response in ways that will allow them to address this vital demand, and equip the young generation with relevant skills needed in today’s workforce.

While the MENA region demonstrated growing access to higher education for women, they do not necessarily have the same employment rates as men and fail to get the same types of jobs. The social and economic benefits that one would expect from expanded enrolment failed to exist. Further, while access to higher education is a critical objective, the price of quality cannot be overlooked. Society expectations, particularly that of the younger generation, cannot be met just be increasing access to low quality services. Therefore, the challenge for policy makers is how to achieve a balance between these competing goals: access, quality, relevance and equity. Most universities in MENA are public, however there is now a shift towards private universities and many MENA countries have included education in their private sector development strategies as means of enhancing access and/or quality.

Saudi Arabia are also exploring the success in the endowments of US universities. Leveraging on philanthropic resources has been found to be a success in the United States, and therefore can possibly be applied in the MENA region. There are challenges both in establishing and managing this model as it demands the development of a culture of philanthropy and financial skills to manage the funds in the long run. The MENA diaspora makes a critical economic contribution to education within the region. Once established, the funds need to be appropriated and managed for the long term. While this method is challenging and time consuming, it is worth looking into.

Source: World Bank

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”.