Arab universities should apply the quality assurance criteria set by the Council of Quality Assurance and Accreditation to ensure that their graduates meet the standards and requirements of the job market, higher education experts said on Wednesday.
Sultan Abu Orabi, secretary general of the Association of Arab Universities (AAU), said the criteria include improving the scientific research environment, sources of funding and number of laboratories, in addition to having extensive book libraries and issuing a scientific journal.
He explained that adopting these criteria “will help a university improve the quality of its output to compete in the international job market”.
Orabi made remarks at the opening of a workshop titled “A Holistic Approach to Achieve Quality in Higher Education”, organised by the AAU with the support of the British Council.
He explained that the AAU’s Council of Quality Assurance and Accreditation was established four years ago and “is helping AAU members adopt these criteria”.
Out of the 450 universities in the Arab world, 205 are members of the AAU.
“Although member universities are not obliged to adopt the quality assurance standards, they are encouraged to and the council helps them implement these criteria,” Abu Orabi told The Jordan Times on the sidelines of the workshop.
He explained that if Arab universities seek to develop their international rankings, they are encouraged to adopt the quality assurance criteria, “especially the one related to scientific research, which is still weak in the region”.
The number of students pursuing their postgraduate studies in Arab universities is low and should be increased, according to Orabi, who noted that out of the 10 million students currently studying in Arab universities, only 10 per cent are enrolled in postgraduate programmes.
Marc Jessel, country director of British Council Jordan, said the UK quality assurance model for higher education institutions will be helpful for Arab universities.
“As the UK’s agency responsible for the promotion of educational and cultural links, we see this partnership with the Association of Arab Universities as an excellent opportunity to collaborate with an impressive network of universities from across the region,” he said at the opening of the two-day workshop.
“I think that the UK model is an interesting one, in part because quality assurance systems have been in place for a long time, and as a result quality has become a part of what people do on daily basis, rather than something added on," Jessel added.
"But this is not about introducing a UK model of quality assurance to the Arab world. Attempts along these lines have previously failed for a range of complex reasons. What is important is that Arab universities develop their own system, having analysed the strengths and weaknesses of other systems around the world,” he noted.
Representatives of 50 Arab universities attending the workshop are scheduled to discuss opportunities and challenges relevant to implementing quality assurance criteria in their institutions.