In an effort to advance the internationalisation of higher education and create global citizens, the University of New England, or UNE, has opened a campus in Tangier, northern Morocco - the first American institution of higher education to open a campus in Africa for its US students.
"We know of no other American university that has built a state-of-the art campus, including science labs, for its students in Africa, or in any other region of the world," Anouar Majid, the university's vice-president for global affairs, told University World News. Majid is Moroccan-American and a native of Tangier.
Built on the grounds of the American School of Tangier, UNE's campus offers students a chance to spend a semester or year studying in Morocco, where they will learn Arabic, Moroccan history and culture, along with regular college coursework, and travel across the country, according to a press release.
On the Tangier campus, UNE is offering a suite of lab sciences and humanities courses to meet the needs of a broad range of undergraduate students. All courses have been approved by the UNE faculty and count towards the core or the major.
Students will also have the option of living with local host families to acquire a better appreciation of Morocco's unique heritage and culture.
Majid added: "Tangier is the perfect location to bridge African, Arab and Mediterranean civilisations, as well as the ideal place to introduce people to a moderate and modern version of Islam for UNE and US college students in general."
Asked about the benefit of such a campus for Morocco as a country and for students, he said: "American students studying here would probably become natural ambassadors for this country. Moroccan students from other colleges and universities would get to know their US peers and gain a better understanding of American culture.
"We are proud to be in Morocco, especially as Moroccan-American relations are possible the oldest the United States has with any nation."
Speaking at the 22 April inauguration ceremony for the new UNE campus, US Ambassador to Morocco Dwight Bush said that initiatives like this were important, now more than ever. "They provide students with the opportunity to be global learners, innovators and compassionate cross-cultural partners."
Bush's view was emphasised by a September 2013 report entitled US Students Study Abroad in the Middle East/North Africa: Factors influencing growing numbers, which said: "The political events of the last decade and the Arab Spring have made it more important than ever for Americans to understand the language, culture, and history of the Middle East and North Africa, or MENA, region.
"Study abroad is one important method that can significantly increase American students' understanding of the Arabic language and the culture of MENA.
"During the past decade, the number of US undergraduate students in the MENA region has increased dramatically, but there is still a great need for growth and understanding in this area."
According to a 2013 Open Doors report on international educational exchange, the MENA region and Sub-Saharan Africa are hosts to 3% and 5% respectively of the total number of American students studying abroad, which is comparable to the number of US students in Japan (2%), China (5%), and several European countries like Germany (3%), France (3%) and Australia (3%).
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