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GLOBAL: New initiatives for boosting Arab- Southeast Asian universities cooperation

Wagdy Sawahel

Twenty-two Middle East & North African countries representing Arab states and ten Southeast Asian nations have unveiled a higher education cooperation plan that includes networking among universities, facilitating student and academic mobility and enhancing quality of university education as well as developing tools and mechanisms for measuring the performance of universities.

The 10 countries in North Africa are Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Somalia and Tunisia. The Middle East countries are the six Gulf States, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain, plus Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine

The ten member of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The cooperation plan was the outcome of the of the third Arab-ASEAN International Conference on higher education held under theme “Re-designed : Integrated university performance measurement and comprehensive quality … Successful models and strategies” in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur in the period from 24-27 June.

The conference organized by the International Islamic University   in cooperation with the Association of Arab Universities (AARU).

“This conference is crucial as it brings together leaders of universities and higher education institutions to address the most pressing challenge of re-designing higher education in the wake of new realities and sophisticated development in technology, social media, modes of driver, approached to management and governance, techniques of performance management and measurement…and the demand of local and global stakeholders”, Abdelaziz Berghout, Deputy Rector for Internationalization & Industry and Community Relations at  International Islamic University Malaysia, told IDB Alumni & Science Development Network.


“The conference brings Arab and Asian presidents of the Universities together in one place to know each other’s and discover the spectrum of the future cooperation through exploring the current circumstances of universities to help build a better future for university education, and to strengthen scientific and cultural cooperation between universities”, Ahmed M. Byomi, President of the University of Sadat City, Egypt told IDB Alumni & Science Development Network.


Dawood Al-hidabi, Director of International Cooperation and Scholarships at  International Islamic University Malaysia, told IDB Alumni & Science Development Network ” The recommendations of the conference include encouraging and organizing the exchange of students and academic staff between universities as well as facilitating joint supervision of post graduate students’ research along with working collectively to jointly develop proposals to seek research funds from local, regional and intentional donors.”

Al-hidabi who is also the director of Islamic Agency for Quality and Accreditation (IAQAA) said two quality frameworks for research and teaching universities will also be developed.

The conference also called upon all universities to support universities in conflict zones and countries for developing their capacities, Al-hidabi pointed out.


Measuring universities’ performance

The Islamic world includes 57 member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, 27 of which are in Africa.

“One of the major initiatives of the conference is introducing the Integrated University Performance Measurement and Rating Tool for the Islamic world.”, Berghout added.

This is an integrated tool to enhance the quality, performance, outputs and impact of university using certain criteria and indicators which take into account the socio-cultural and political-economic context of universities in the Islamic world, according to Berghout.

A Tool with 10 standards, 34 criteria and 70 Key performance Indicators, Berghout said.

“Three of the main standards are University value and cultural system, University societal impact and university financing and sustainability.”, Berghout pointed out.

“If this tool adopted and implemented it will become a good alternative in enhancing the global quality of higher education the Islamic world.”, Berghout emphasized

“We are collaborating with several global partners to implement the tool including; Morocco-based The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), Federation of the Universities of the Islamic World (FUIW) and Association of Arab Universities (AARU) …etc.”, Berghout pointed out.

To promote this direction, Al-hidabi said the recommendations of the conference included the followings:

  • The Bureau of the IAQAA, which is hosted by the International Islamic University, Malaysia, shall communicate with participating universities and those interested in implementing the Integrated University Performance Measurement Tool, with the purpose of piloting it, to further develop it, and to provide recommendations for the Agency’s office for the purpose of enhancing it.
  • Encouraging the universities to join the membership of the universities’ Quality and Performance Measurement Network at IAQAA, for the purpose of exchanging experiences between universities.
  • The office of IAQAA shall provide consultation and training on the implementation of the University Performance Measurement Tool to all interested universities taking into account the available consultants and experts in all Muslim universities. A data base for experts has to be developed by IAQAA.
  • Working together to have a gradual process for rating and ranking the universities of the Islamic world. The way forward

    “The conference created an environment of togetherness and networking among Arab and ASEAN universities sharing experiences and visions for the future of collaboration and quality of their institutions.”, Berghout said.

Several collaboration and partnership among the Arab and Asean universities were initiated which sow, for example, the International Islamic University Malaysia signed partnership pacts with over 36 universities at one time, Berghout pointed out.

“This is unprecedented, and we believe it will open way to many activities and programmes in the near future.”, Berghout indicated.

“I think for all our initiatives to succeed and make impact, we must take action”, Berghout emphasized. “The logic of action must prevail over the logic of just signing and talking and protocolling.”, he concluded.

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