HE News Brief 30.1.12

by Abby Chau


  • SOUTH KOREA: A third of universities have announced the intention of dropping tuition fees by at least 5%
  • SAUDI ARABIA: The government has announced that it hopes to have 50,000 graduates from the world’s top 500 universities by 2020
  • UK: Application rates projected to fall by 10% for the autumn 2012 term amidst tuition fee hikes and budget cuts
  • GERMANY: A different take on foreign students?

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Classifying higher education institutions in the MENA region

By John O’Leary, executive member of the QS Global Academic Advisory Board


Universities in seven Arab countries have been classified as part of an international project that is intended to lead to a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of higher education across the Middle East and North Africa.

The Institute of International Education (IIE) and the Lebanese Association for Educational Studies launched their findings at last month’s World Innovation Summit on Education, in Qatar.

Research for the classification was carried out at the height of the Arab Spring, which restricted its scope. Egypt would have been the largest higher education system to be surveyed, but the researchers eventually settled for a classification of universities in Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.

The draft report stressed the rapid development of higher education in the seven countries, where the number of students grew from 2.9 million in 1998-9 to 7.6 million in 2007-8. The number of universities had grown from 174 to 467 in a decade, supplemented by countless other higher education institutions, many of them privately owned. Dr Rajika Bhandari, deputy vice president of research and evaluation at the IIE, outlined some of the challenges. “It was difficult to get education ministries to cooperate, even before recent political events in the region,” she said. “There needs to be more complete data before we can say this is reliable and valid.” However, the research underlines the diversity of higher education provision in the region.

Universities are classified according to 11 different dimensions, from the student and faculty profiles to their cultural and religious orientation, and regional and international engagement. The report suggests growing use of English throughout the Middle East and North Africa. In the countries surveyed, 23 per cent of universities were using the language for administration, 36 per cent to teach the humanities and nearly 47 per cent to teach the sciences.

This trend reflects an increasingly international outlook. Some 35 per cent of universities had international offices, although 42 per cent were considered to have no or only a low level of international engagement.

The authors do not claim that their research is yet representative of the region as a whole. In particular, they found it difficult to extract complete data from private institutions, many of which were relatively new. Classifying Higher Educations in the Middle East and North Africa: a Pilot Study is available on the IIE website.   A full report is also available.

Public spending and university quality: is there a link?

by Martin Juno

Broadly speaking, higher education systems range from those relaying almost entirely on public funding to those mainly supported by private sources. Of course, there are a variety of options between those extreme points and most countries try mixed schemes.

Which system provides the better outcomes in terms of university teaching and research quality?

An interesting exercise that may provide a general answer to this question is to compare the relative performance of institutions operating in different funding environments. In order to conduct this analysis we used the higher education finance indicators provided by UNESCO (available here) , establishing four range groups (or quartiles) of public spending on tertiary education as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the countries . Then the top 400 QS World University Rankings (QSWUR) institutions – available on topuniversities.com- were distributed among each spending level quartile and the average scores for every group were calculated.
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HE News Briefs 27.9.11

by Abby Chau

  • AUSTRALIA: Visa restrictions have been lifted for international students
  • UNITED STATES: Admission officers feel pressure to look at students who can pay their own way
  • SAUDI ARABIA: The country has been building partnerships around the world but some warn caution
  • SPAIN: Finding it difficult to implement its second year plan for the Bologna Process
  • BRITAIN: Tuition fee hikes have made some consider other routes for students Read more

Middle Eastern universities begin to make their mark

by Martin Ince

They may be at an early stage in their development, but investment schemes of Middle Eastern nations are beginning to pay dividends.

Across the Middle East, nations large and small are developing plans for higher education. Some have immeasurable sums of oil wealth to spend on this ambition, but even those that lack billions of petrodollars see no reason to be left behind.

Some Middle Eastern nations want universities for the new knowledge they generate, with an eye on replacing oil money with high technology employment. But others are aware of the soft power potential of universities in the struggle for world prominence. They would like universities that are good enough for their elites not to assume that their children have to go to Harvard or Oxford to complete their education. Read more

HE News Brief 5.7.11

  • UNITED STATES: U.S News & World Report recently announced that it will produce a ranking of online colleges
  • GERMANY: Hamburg is set to eradicate tuition fees in 2012, leaving just two states planning to continue charging out of seven
  • UNITED KINGDOM: White paper on higher education causing a furore
  • ABU DHABI: Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research reiterates the country’s 2019 goal for higher education
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