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.

The future of branch campuses

by Susan Gatuguta Gitau

A recent article featured in University World News highlighted Qatar’s aspiration towards developing a hub of academic excellence in the Arab world through the proliferation of foreign universities in the country. The growth of satellite universities in developing countries attracts arguments, for and against them. Of particular interest is the impact of foreign universities on the nations’ brain drain dilemma.

Brain drain refers to the emigration of well-educated, skilled professionals from their home countries. This problem is most prevalent in developing countries. By setting up satellite universities in these countries, it’s believed that local talent will be persuaded to stay and more local students would enrol. In Qatar’s case, it is argued that brain drain has been stemmed by adopting these institutions. In addition, the nation is now attracting international students. These institutions equally provide an opportunity of brain gain as promising academics are attracted back home.  Read more

HE News Briefs 11.1.10

by Abby Chau

  • With tuition fees set to rise to up to £9,000 in 2012, applications for places in 2011 will see record levels. According to Ucas, there has already been a 2.5% increase in applicants. The figures also show that applications from under-18s have fallen while applications from older students have increased. Although ministers approved an extra 10,000 places last year, there is still a dramatic gap with one in three candidates not finding a place. Other trends show that the number of females applying have also increased, 199,000 compared to only 145,000 male students.
    Full Story: BBC News
    More: Guardian

  • Qatar is positioning itself as a new foreign higher educational hub with six US universities including the Carnegie Mellon University, Texas A&M University, and Northwestern University, already establishing branches there and interest from a French graduate school. The Education City is a 14 million square metre site boasting research facilities and  is a project of the Qatar Foundation, which is a private non-profit organisation overseen by Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser, the Emir’s wife. According to the Foundation, opening foreign branches has successfully combatted the emirate’s brain drain, with more domestic students deciding to stay in Qatar.
    Full Story:  University World News
    Read more