Regional quality assurance network planned

The Gulf states are planning to set up a network for quality assurance in higher education to reinforce the quality of education and academic accreditation in the region.

The network, proposed by Oman, was outlined in a statement approved at the 15th meeting of the committee of higher education and research ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

It will promote awareness of quality management and quality enhancement practices, dissemination of best practices, and stronger liaison between quality assurance bodies in different GCC countries. It will also provide a platform to bring policy-makers, higher education institutions and quality assurance agencies to share experience and ideas.

"I think it is a great opportunity for everyone," Mona Ismail, head of the quality assurance and enhancement unit at the Scientific College of Design in Oman, told University World News.

"The proposed initiative and regional network will facilitate exchange of valuable information and experiences to improve academic and administrative procedures,” Ismail said.

“In addition, it will provide a platform to discuss common issues in higher education in GCC countries such as strategic planning, quality awareness and so on. The proposed network will open new opportunities for collaboration on scientific research as well as a venue to share findings with everyone.”

To achieve control over 136 private higher education institutions, the meeting called for the development of guiding criteria regarding the equivalence of higher education certificates, to be presented to GCC leaders at their next summit in Bahrain.

Mohammed Kuchari, associate professor of microbiology at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, told University World News: “These initiatives are vital steps to foster the harmonisation of higher education systems as well as to ensure the production of a high quality graduate especially from private universities which are booming in the region."

Ali Al-Hassnawi, director of the Centre of Foundation Studies in Oman, said some serious challenges had to be considered, including the wide variety of higher education, quality assurance and accreditation systems in the six states.

“There is an urgent need to come up with common standards, criteria, specifications and mechanisms that would serve as a unified point of reference for any collaborative work to enhance the proposal.”