DUBAI: Quality assessment for Arab universities

The universities of the Arab world will receive a thorough check-up by education specialists from the United Nations Development Programme in a joint venture with the largest private foundation in the Arab world.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation and the UNDP will spend US$20 million over the next five years on the project. A note from the UN agency said it would undertake "a quality assessment of higher education in the Arab World".

The project will also publish a comprehensive Arab Knowledge Report, "a policy and advocacy tool" examining the state of knowledge in the Arab region.

The initiative arose from a realisation that although some Arab countries had generated vast wealth through oil, natural gas and other natural resources, they had not kept pace with more industralised countries in terms of scientific, management, financial and other economically important human resources.

There is a dire need in the Arab world “to revisit the 'knowledge' concept and to embrace the knowledge economy as the only path to success through the challenges of the third millennium," said Ms Amat Al Alim Alsoswa, regional director of UNDP's regional bureau for Arab states.

The Arab Knowledge Report will present new data and studies on recent trends in regional higher education and training. The UNDP said it would "identify lessons for the flourishing of an Arab knowledge society marked by high levels of quality education and a productive, diversified engagement with the global knowledge economy".

Chairman of the Al Maktoum Foundation, Mohammed Al Gergawi, said: "Our partnership with UNDP will help us impact a positive environment, offering equal opportunities that nurture the region's youth and create a promising generation of future leaders."

His foundation was launched at this year's World Economic Forum in Jordan, with a personal endowment of US$10 billion from Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Prime Minister and vice-president of the United Arab Emirates, and Ruler of Dubai.

The foundation will support a wide range of initiatives to boost the knowledge capital of the region, from funding research institutions and youth leadership programmes to providing scholarships and research grants. Its deal with the UNDP is the agency's first partnership with a private foundation in the region.