World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


GLOBALIZATION OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE ARAB WORLD - 1/2: Challenges and Chances (432) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: FRI 23, 11.30 am-1.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: CERAW - Institute of Geography and University of Mainz and SSRC

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Ala Al-Hamarneh & Seteney Shami

· NOT_DEFINED sponsor: SSRC-New York (USA) & CERAW-Mainz (Germany)

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: The economic liberalization of social services (education, health care, pensions) in the majority of the Arab countries has been progressing along three tracks; privatization, internationalization and strengthening of state supervision. The policies match the general global stance of opening local markets for international trade and direct investments (GATS, WTO) and cutting public expenditures, both of which are embedded in the discourse of neo-liberal globalization. The exceptional regional element in comparison with global trends is that the economic liberalization is not accompanied by political liberalization, de-centralization and deregulation. On the contrary, the first steps towards political liberalization that were taken in the 90s have been dismissed to a great degree in the name of security and stability. Education has remained one of the most state-controlled fields in the Arab World. Nevertheless, the higher educational sector has been partially economically liberalized to meet the demographic pressure, the technological demands, the financial constrains and the economic diversification strategies. The conflict between free market policies and state control has been to a great extent resolved by implementing special plans of liberalization of individual sectors and innovative models of cooperation between the state, private investors and international partners. A free economic zone of higher education (Dubai), state owned branches of international universities (Qatar, Abu Dhabi), restricted internationalization (Jordan, Tunisia, Syria) and locally registered joint-ventures (Egypt) demonstrate the richness of the modes of global cooperation and economic liberalization in the region. The process of globalization of higher education in the Arab world has provoked the questioning of numerous ‘side effects’ tendencies and dilemmas; the boom of the English language as an instruction language; the gender (de)segregation in private and internationalized colleges; the weakening of national identity building in international colleges; the commercialization of higher education; the strategies and aims of export of higher education by developed countries, etc. The panel aims, on the one hand, to explore the ongoing processes of globalization in the higher education sectors in the Arab countries in terms of models, modes and mechanisms of internationalization and global cooperation. On the other hand, the panel addresses various social impacts of the existing models and forms on the students, universities, development and economic strategies and societies in large. The panel includes 7 papers in two sessions: The first session deals with the general framing of the globalization of higher education, the privatization processes and the political backgrounds of various reform strategies. The second session deals with case studies from Qatar, Oman, Jordan and Egypt that aim to demonstrate the differences and similarities of the impacts of globalization of higher education in national contexts.

Chair: Gunter Meyer (CERAW - Institute of Geography, University of Mainz, Germany)

Paper discussant: Ala Al-Hamarneh (CERAW - Institute of Geography - University of Mainz, Germany)

Paper presenter: Florian Kohstal (Representation Office of the Berlin Free University in Cairo, Egypt), “Varieties of Internationalization: Higher Education Reforms in North African countries”
Internationalization has become the buzzword for higher education reforms, not only in Europe and North America, but also on the southern shore of the Mediterranean. North African universities engage in student exchange programs and joint research projects; they send their faculty abroad and apply foreign receipts to reform the university. This illustrates that internationalization takes different forms on the individual, on the university and on the state level. A careful assessment is needed in order to understand what internationalization means in singular regional contexts and within one region.
The paper compares different examples of internationalization in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, three countries with different higher education systems that all have reformed their universities in the last decade. While the two Maghreb countries seem to apply the French model, with an adjusted version of the Bologna process, Egypt tends to follow an Anglo Saxon model in its most recent higher education reform. A closer look illustrates however the complexity of policy transfer under way in these reform processes. It also exemplifies the importance of institutional heritage in the case of higher education.
Reform processes cannot be reduced to the adaptation of a specific model. They are to be addressed as a multilevel process that involves many models, many actors and, consequently, produces different policy outcomes. The paper’s wider objective is to provide a tentative framework to analyze these multilevel processes. It compares the reform steps taken in each country, the policymakers involved, and the impact of international actors on defining and implementing specific policy instruments. Particular attention will be given to the way national decision-makers translate international models into the domestic setting. The framework may thus shed light on varieties of internationalization and the unintended consequences of this facet of globalization in North Africa.

Paper presenter: Rahma Bourqia, (Hassan II University, Mohammedia- Casablanca, Morocco), “Public universities and globalisation”
This contribution will examine the challenges facing public universities. These challenges are due to a double trend: the first is related to the internal needs of their own economic and social environment, the second is related to the context of globalization.
Most public university have been created after the independence of their countries to train an elite who had to take the lead in constructing the national state and its administration. They have progressively become engaged in receiving masses of student who have finished the secondary education and facing financial constraints, along with fulfilling the needs generated by the process of economic and social development. At the national level universities are solicited to contribute to the democratization process, to the regionalization of higher education and to produce degree holders having the adequate skills and competence and able to be integrated in the labor market. These universities operate also in a global context dealing with the international competitiveness implying reaching the international standards.

Paper presenter: Iman Farag (CEDEJ – Cairo, Egypt), “Private and Privatized Higher Education in Egypt”
The growing part of private higher education in Arab societies is a fact. However, when engaging in a rough comparison between different situations, and having in mind Egypt as an example, one should note several remarks. Is this growth of private higher education political (ie. related to legitimization) and or demography? How does the categories private / public and the associated assumptions fits, notably when it comes to tuitions and to the campus as a part of the public space?
If we refer to an earlier description of the 1950’s (Matta & Akrawi) would it be possible to identify traces from the past and the way it is still acting?
I argue that “initial situations” counts and that we can draw on different landscapes based on private and privatized Higher Education systems.
It seems that we can identify three questions;
- Equity politics in private education vs. privatization in so-called public and the way they are applied and perceived
- Shaping social expectations from Higher education in relation to State responsibilities
- Models and criteria of ‘excellence’ were do they come from?