GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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A practitioner’s perspective of the challenges of higher education in the Gulf, with particular reference to Qatar
Paper Proposal Text :
To a large extent, the debate on the mission and mandate of universities, especially national universities, in the Gulf is reflective of the wider debate on the identity, present situation and future course of Arab Gulf societies.

In that sense, the debate is not entirely unique. Historically, institutions of higher education around the world have been the homes of the intellectual elite, and as such, both the source and object of heated debate on the social policies and political courses of their countries. That is not to say that there are no particularities to the situation in the Gulf. For example, with the small size of the national populations, universities in the Gulf have been staffed to varying degrees by Arab and western expatriates whose influence and place in society are now themselves at the heart of social debate.

The latter example leads naturally to a discussion of nationalization (Qatarization, Emiratization, etc.). The voices calling for nationalizing key positions in the labor force are getting louder in the Gulf, though policy makers and industry professionals must grapple with some very real and difficult- to-ignore demographic limitations. At the same time, the nationalization dilemma is also faced by the educational institutions which are tasked with the education and preparation of qualified graduates. To what extent can universities and other institutions of higher education be nationalized? To what extent are universities in the Gulf producing scholars and researchers who are contributing to the academic debate on identity, social change, and the effects of globalization? Here again, universities find themselves grappling with oft-opposing forces and contradictions inherent in the very nature of academia, an area which thrives on diversity and which has also traditionally faced difficulties in competing with industry for the best and brightest minds.

The Arab Gulf is now, perhaps more than ever before, due in part to the influences of the Arab Spring, gripped in a tug-of-war between preserving the national identity and Islamic heritage of Gulf countries and those countries\' lightening-speed social changes driven in large part by economic imperatives of a global labor market.

This tension is not only a theoretical question to be debated, but one that actually has very real implications for the everyday workings of national universities, insofar as it has affected major policy decisions regarding the language of instruction and even the social culture on campus.

The presentation focuses on the challenges of nationalizing higher education institutions given the current structure of financial and non-financial incentives for young men and women, and the impact on nationalizing key positions in the labor force. However, the presentation will imperatively touch on the problem of low enrolment of men in higher education, which impacts nationalization and has farther-reaching social implications such as increasing the educational gap between men and women that reflects on gender relations, the results of educational reforms in schools on university graduates and the relevance of the outputs of higher education, not only to the labor market, but also to the social and political challenges facing the Gulf region. This talk provides a practitioner\'s perspective on the higher education scene in the Gulf, with special reference to Qatar.
A word about methodology: This presentation is based on long term structured and semi-structured observation and on official university of Qatar statistics over the last 3 years.