40 Countries Represented at the QS Middle East and Africa Professional Leaders in Education Conference

MApleBy John O’Leary

More than 300 academics and administrators from 40 countries attended the biggest-ever Middle East and Africa Professional Leaders in Education (QS-MAPLE) conference in Abu Dhabi this month. The proceedings were streamed live to 30 countries.

Over 100 of the delegates stayed on for a separate consultation the following day on plans for a new QS ranking of universities in the Arab World. Debate centred on whether the ranking should cover only Arab countries or the whole of the Middle East. But there were a number of proposals on the measures to be used in the exercise and for sources of data to ensure the widest possible coverage of research in Arabic.

The session, which took place at Khalifa University of Science and Technology, followed two days of discussion and networking in the main conference. The university, founded in 2007 with a strong research brief, was one of the two main sponsors of QS-MAPLE, with the Abu Dhabi Education Council.

Among the plenary speakers was Professor Sultan Orabi, Secretary General of the Association of Arab Universities, who appealed for stronger investment in the region’s higher education systems and more autonomy for its universities. He said that talented academics were often denied promotion in favour of longer-serving colleagues and paid too little to prevent them joining the brain drain.

Almost a third of qualified graduates were leaving for Western countries, he said, half of them trained doctors. Instability in the region since the ‘Arab Spring’ had accelerated the process. Universities could only reach their full potential with political stability and better salaries and incentives.

The conference saw the award of two scholarships to two students from Khalifa University. Derek Bastienne, who is studying aerospace engineering, and Abdul Rahman, an undergraduate in mechanical engineering, received $6,000 from the QS Education Trust. The trust uses the surplus from delegates’ fees at QS conferences for scholarships and other philanthropic activities.

There was also a new series of QS Asia Creative Awards for university website and marketing materials, won by Dar Al-Hekma University, in Saudi Arabia; Nanyang Technological University, in Singapore, and the University of Newcastle, Australia. At the same session, the University of Malaya was awarded 5 QS Stars, University of Malaysia Perlis 3 Stars; and the University of Babylon, in Iraq, 2 Stars.

Next year’s conference will be in May 2015 in Doha, with Qatar University as the host institution. Universities in Sub-Saharan Africa will have their own conference in Rwanda later in the year.

HE News Brief 2.11.10

by Abby Chau

  • A fiscal crisis in Mexico is threatening the existence of 33 public universities. The estimated $35bn financial turmoil, caused by a pension shortfall is deemed critical for ten universities, including the Autonomous University of Mexico State, the University of Veracruz, and the Autonomous University of Morelos. The government is now proposing to double the years of service required for professors and administrators to take part in retirement schemes from 20-25 years, to 40 years. The powerful teachers’ unions have already taken to the streets in mass protest.
    Full Story: The Chronicle of Higher Education

  • As the government is looking to announce plans to raise university tuition fees later on this week, the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (Hecsu) issued a report saying that 8.9% of the 2009 graduate class, or 21,000 students, were still unemployed in January 2010. The last time the graduate unemployment level reached such a high was in 1993.  The findings also found that IT graduates were hardest hit, with a 16% unemployment rate. This is in contrast to approximately 10% of unemployed graduates who read media studies, engineering, or architecture.  Students with law and geography degrees fared the best, with a 6.2% and 7.4% jobless rate.
    Full Story: BBC

  • Measuring 17 countries, Canadian research firm Higher Education Strategy Associates (HESA) has published the ranking results of the most affordable and accessible higher education systems.  The Global Higher Education Rankings 2010: Affordability and accessibility in comparative perspective looks at Australia, France, Mexico, Portugal, Estonia, Japan, and others. Surprising results include the United States coming in at 12th for affordability but 4th for accessibility which indicates that lower costs is not the only factor to accessibility in higher education. Finland comes out on top, ranking 1st in both categories.
    Full Story: University World News  Read more

HE News Brief 21.9.10

by Abby Chau

Here are this week’s news stories:

  • Up until a few years ago, Dubai appeared to be financially invincible, it boasted the tallest building in the world and even the SATC girls were paying homage to the city. But fast-forward a few years later, and the economic recession has hit the real estate sector and now many are worried that it will also affect Higher Education. George Mason University of Virginia in the UAE closed a few years ago and recently Michigan State University’s foreign branch in Dubai also shut down its operations. However the executive director of Higher Education Warren Fox, says that the forecast is actually encouraging – in 2004, four foreign campuses operated in the free zone and now the number is close to 30. Fox remains optimistic, saying that it can take a few years before foreign campuses can find an audience.
    Full Story: New York Times
  • Portugal is looking to revamp their higher education system, much in the same way vein as Asia’s institutions. Secretary of State for Higher Education Manuel Heitor says that in order for a country to compete in the economic realm, they must invest in HE. In the 80s, Portugal invested .4 percent of gdp in education, and in 2008, that figure jumped to 1.55 percent. After years of oppression, Portugal has slowly been rebuilding its infrastructure but now it has partnerships with Harvard Medical, MIT, University of Texas at Austin, and Carnegie Mellon.
    Full Story: Chronicle of Higher Education
    Read more

HE News Brief 1.9.10

by Abby Chau

Here are this week’s news stories:

  • University rankings hits its zenith in autumn, with different league tables pronouncing their take on a world-class university. The Chronicle of Higher Education has devised a nifty chart to compare Rankings and sheds a bit of light on which indicators are predominantly used, and which ones are ignored.
    Full Story: Chronicle of Higher Education

  • In a shocking directive, the Ethiopian Ministry of Education decreed that there is to be a ban on distance learning programmes across the country.  Stating that distance learning is unnecessary at this point in the country’s higher educational development, the Ministry also said that quality assurance is a major priority. This will have a drastic effect on the estimated 64 private institutions in the country, as well as vocational education. Critics argue that this directive goes too far and does not offer solutions to the current problems facing higher education.  Others are worried about the impact on current students – St Mary’s University College for example currently enrolls 75% of its students in distance learning courses.
    Full Story: Addis Fortune Read more

HE News Brief 6.7.10

by Anisa Siddikah


From Students studying a Masters degree to new graduates working in low-paid jobs, here are this weeks news:

  • In Dubai more and more students are returning back to higher education, in particular studying for a Masters or a Postgraduate Diploma due to the downturn in the job market. Students are incurring a huge financial burden but are anticipating securing a job in this tough climate.
    Full Story:
    The National
  • Universities in Pakistan are going to have a tough job of verifying degrees of  high ranking officials, such as law makers and members of parliament. The Higher Education Commission has barred the Al-Kahir University from admitting any new students from last year as the university failed to meet government approved criteria for what is classified as a ‘degree’. Universities, including University of Punjab, Peshawar University, University of Karachi and The Pakistan Military amongst others have until the 13th July to verify these degrees:
    Full Story
    Read more