More than 100 university presidents from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) gathered to develop a common strategy for higher education reform and the use of the University Governance Screening Card (UGSC), a tool for measuring the quality of university management. The meeting agreed to launch a Network for Higher Education linking experts from participating countries and international practitioners to support ongoing research for the regular updating and refining of benchmarking tools and the promotion of knowledge sharing.
“The size of this meeting was a clear sign of the regional commitment to change,” said Adriana Jaramillo, World Bank Education Specialist and leader of the team that developed the screening card. “There is a shared goal of creating universities that will equip young people with the skills they need to prosper, and the screening card and proposed network will help them achieve it. “
The regional workshop, Lessons Learned from Benchmarking University Governance in MENA, was hosted jointly by the British Council, the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), the Marseille Center for Mediterranean Integration (CMI), and the World Bank. It was organized to evaluate results from over 100 universities that had participated in the screening card process. University presidents from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and the Palestinian Territories, were joined by a range of senior government officials, representatives of quality assurance agencies, students and members of both US and European international and donor organizations.
“The British Council works with universities across the region; many of which have asked for support around governance issues. Governance is critical as good governance leads to better university outputs and as a result, a better educated and skilled workforce. The British Council is pleased to be in partnership with World Bank and ISESCO around this initiative which we believe will in the longer term, impact meaningfully on the quality of higher education in the MENA region,” said Sally Ward, Regional Manager of Higher Education in the British Council.
There was broad consensus on the impact of university governance on the quality of education, and that the UGSC had proven to be an invaluable analytical tool for identifying strengths and weaknesses. It had proved especially useful in helping universities compare themselves with international standards, define their own unique set of goals and establish benchmarks to assess the progress in achieving them. The demand for the USGC, from inside and outside the region, has been growing steadily as a result of the positive results from those institutions which first adopted it.
“The network will be an invaluable resource for universities,” said Martin Rose, British Council Country Director for Morocco. “Their efforts to become more effective and responsive institutions will be supported by a vast interconnected system of people, expertise and ideas.”
In the two years since its launch, the use of the UGSC has expanded quickly, driven by demand from many regional universities. What began in 2010 as 41 universities in four countries has now grown to more than 100 universities in seven countries. The tool not only responds to the need in systems of higher education for methods of evaluating performance, but also to the regional imperative for more transparent institutions and better services, a key demand of many of the current regional political transitions.
The evolution of the UGSC into a network represents a positive step in the region toward the universal adoption of a set of best practices which will lay the foundation for healthier institutions and improved educational options for young people, said Jaramillo.