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Universities Through the Looking Glass

May 31, 2012

A Roadmap for Higher Education Modernization in the MENA Region

MARSEILLE, May 31, 2012 - A new tool for measuring governance is helping universities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) develop reforms that will allow them to be more responsive to the needs of young people, and become the sources of knowledge and innovation that will drive future growth. The ‘University Governance Screening Card’ enables MENA universities to compare themselves with international standards, define their own unique set of goals and establish benchmarks to assess the progress in achieving them.

In the wake of the global financial and economic crisis and the Arab Spring, young people in the Middle East and North Africa are demanding change,” says World Bank Senior Education Specialist Adriana Jaramillo, who led the team behind the screening card and subsequent report on its progress. “In particular they seek better opportunities to study and work, challenging universities and governments to improve their options for higher education.”

The report, Universities through the Looking Glass: Benchmarking University Governance to Enable Higher Education Modernization in MENA was prepared following the initial implementation, data analysis and validation of the screening card. The report discusses the conceptual framework within which the screening card was developed, the results of the tool’s implementation in 41 universities in four countries, Egypt, Morocco, West Bank and Gaza, and Tunisia, and preliminary recommendations for reform. The team has also prepared a new website with access to higher education indicators and innovative data visualization tools.

University governance has been a recent focus of tertiary education reform worldwide. It is particularly relevant in MENA given the region-wide demand for more responsive and accountable institutions. University governance addresses how universities and higher education systems define and implement their goals, manage their institutions, and monitor their achievements. There is a broad consensus on the role of governance in improving education quality. This is especially the case in MENA, where higher education representatives have expressed a specific need for a benchmarking tool.

In response to this call, the World Bank, in partnership with the Marseille Center for Mediterranean Integration, developed the screening card derived from a series of good practice assessment tools used in OECD countries. The tool acknowledges that there is no single model of “good governance” and that the context within which universities operate determine their best practice. Following the first phase of implementation discussed in the report, the groundbreaking screening card is now being implemented in three additional countries, Algeria, Iraq, and Lebanon, and universities from across the world have expressed an interest in joining the program.

This report is evidence of how much can be achieved by creating networks of institutions trying to answer the same questions, even if from different perspectives,” says Mourad Ezzine, World Bank MENA Education Sector Manager. “Universities that are willing to learn from each other will help them become the institutions that both young people and the region need to grow and prosper.”

The World Bank and CMI will host a launch of the report on May 31st with videoconference connections in Marseille, Washington, Rabat, Jerusalem, Cairo, Tunis, Algiers, Gaza, Paris and Beirut.

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