University Challenge

Jordan is nowhere to be seen on the Center for World University Rankings’ latest list of top 1,000 higher education institutions. The head of the Jordanian branch of the Arab Open University Mohammad Abu Qudeis, believes a big overhaul of the Kingdom’s university system is needed to raise standards.

What are the main problems with Jordan’s higher education system?

Jordan’s public universities have trouble raising funds to provide good programs and education. The government abandoned them in the 1990s when it stopped delivering large investments, instead establishing admission fees for the infamous parallel program in an attempt to tackle budget deficits. This created discrepancies in the academic levels of students, negatively affecting the outcomes of the education process. The quality of Jordan’s graduates does not meet the labor market’s requirements and development, while research areas are very poor.

What should the government do?

Of Jordan’s 34 universities, 11 are public. The government should really focus on them again and increase its investments. If Amman wants to improve the economy and the country at large, it should put its efforts into reforming and working on its public institutions. Currently the government provides $100 million to public universities, and the total amount of money raised via admission fees exceeds $600 million. But this only covers universities’ basic expenses and minimally contributes to the improvement of their development and research areas.

What could the private sector do?

Establishing a partnership with the private sector would be a good idea to improve our universities’ services and their competitiveness. The market is made by the private sector as it is also the country’s largest employer. Thus, it should play a major role in determining the country’s higher education through financial support and internships, while its representatives should join universities’ committees to show what the market needs from the students. This would work as a sort of feedback, leading universities to correct and improve their curricula.

What should universities do on their account?

We should look at the European and American benchmarking systems. Adapting our practices to international standards will improve the quality of our education. We should start an internal learning process led by self-evaluation and self-improvement. All this advice is included in a new draft report called “Revolutionize Education” that my colleagues and I recently submitted to the government calling for its swift implementation.