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 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?

Read more

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

HE News Brief 28.6.11

by Abby Chau



  • KENYA: Government’s plan to substantially increase student intake is criticised
  • SOUTH KOREA: The government pledges to cut tuition by 30% after a series of student protests
  • UNITED KINGDOM: White paper on higher education is anxiously awaited
  • SAUDI ARABIA: A new institution has its sights set for world class university status
    Read more

HE News Brief 22.2.11

by Abby Chau

  • The UK government’s plan on curbing foreign student numbers is lambasted by a recent study for the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi). Foreign students contribute approximately £5 billion a year to the economy. With devastating budget cuts planned for the sector, the study points out that the government plans to target visa abuse will only reduce crucial recruitment numbers, particularly if it targets the number of pre-university pathway courses, which is a set of English language courses and academic preparation courses used as a gateway for foreign students to study in the UK. The study also points out that the figures the government used to justify these new visa restrictions are based on unreliable statistics.
    Full Story: BBC News

  • Last December, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked universities from anywhere in the world to submit a proposal to build an applied-science facility in NYC. Now the buzz is that Stanford University is preparing a proposal for the venture. Stanford president John Hennessy says that the institution was the epicentre for the success of Silicon Valley and that the type of progress achieved on the west coast could easily be replicated on the east coast.
    Full Story: Wall Street Journal
    More: New York Observer
    Read more

HE News Brief 12.10.10

by Abby Chau

  • Former BP Chief Lord Browne today released his long-awaited report on higher education. It comes as no surprise that he is advising that the tuition fee cap be lifted. If the Coalition government takes on his recommendations, students may pay up to £12,000 a year for their degrees. This is a contentious issue as the Lib Dems are solidly against hiking tuition. In addition Lord Browne is recommending a 10% increase in student intake as well as advising that universities focus more on career advice, supporting part-time students, and empowering students to dictate which university should flourish.
    Full Story: Guardian
    More: BBC News
  • As university league tables grow in influence and prominence, the IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence, which first met in Washington in 2004, is serving as a watchdog of university rankings. At a conference last week in Berlin, they announced that an executive team will be conducting audits of producers of league tables to make sure they comply with certain principles such as transparency and accessibility of methodology.
    Full Story: Chronicle of Higher Education

Read more

HE News Brief 5.10.10

by Abby Chau

  • Higher Education institutions in Costa Rica lived in harmony with the government for years, with hardly a dispute regarding budgets, an issue that vex many public sector relationships. But as the demand for higher education has increased as well as escalating costs, the once friendly relationship is beginning to unravel. HE leaders say they need a 8 percent rise in their budgets in order to ensure quality as well as to accommodate the growing demand. Some say that education in general, with only a 73% high school enrolment rate (which falls below El Salvador and Panama), has been deteriorating and needs immediate attention. The argument also extends to private vs. public HE institutions and whether the former can adequately address these crucial problems.
    Full Story: Tico Times
  • In 1950, according to the Chinese Ministry of Education, there were 20 international students studying in China – and they were all from the Soviet Union. In 2009, this has grown to 240,000 foreign students with representatives from 190 countries. However, the MOE also admits that most of the 240,000 foreign students are from Asia.The MOE has just released a plan to augment this figure to 500,000 by 2020 by administrating more English language courses, increasing the availability of scholarships, and easing visa applications. They hope to spread their reach and with mutual degree recognition agreements with 34 countries, China seems poised to extend their influence.
    Full Story: The Independent
    Read more

HE News Brief 24.8.10

by Abby Chau


Here are this week’s news stories:

  • The glare on UK universities continue to mount as it was announced that over 150,000 potential students will not get a place at a university. Last year 130,000 would-be students were also disappointed. It seems as though, although worsening, this trend is not new. An article in the FT espouses the need for universities to be autonomous, as Whitehall still dictates the number of students who can study a specific subject at an institution.
    Full Story: FT
    More: Guardian
  • Asian countries, as oppose to their European and American peers, have well documented problems retaining the talents of young academics who often study abroad and take up residence in their host country. However there is hope that young and bright Indian professors will take a salary cut and return to their motherland. New opportunities in India as well as a chance to contribute to building their country’s higher education institutions, is a lure as western nations’ economic instability is making finding a job abroad a lot less likely. It is estimated that by 2020, 42 million 18-24 year olds will be competing for a place at a university and a 4.2 million lecturers will be needed to supply this demand.
    Full Story: University World News
  • Measuring student satisfaction has always been difficult but at the Inner Mongolia University of Science and Technology they are administering a student survey in the hope of discovering what students are thinking. In collaboration with Indiana University’s National Survey of Student Engagement and with the backing of Tsinghua University, they are joining 49 institutions this year who will look at results in order to drive up  students quality of life and teaching standards.
    Full Story: The Chronicle of Higher Education
      Read more