University leaders launch governance reform network

More than 100 university presidents from across the Middle East and North Africa have pledged to launch a network for higher education to support governance reform, benchmarking and knowledge sharing.

The university leaders had gathered in Rabat, Morocco, for a regional workshop aimed at developing a common strategy for higher education reform and the use of the University Governance Screening Card, or UGSC – a tool for measuring the quality of university management – the World Bank said in a statement.

The network will link experts from participating countries and international practitioners “to support ongoing research for the regular updating and refining of benchmarking tools and the promotion of knowledge sharing”, the media release said.

Use of the UGSC had risen rapidly in the two years since its launch, expanding from 41 universities in four countries in 2010 to more than 100 institutions in seven countries.

“The tool not only responds to the need in systems of higher education for methods of evaluating performance, but also to the regional imperative for more transparent institutions and better services, a key demand of many of the current regional political transitions,” said the World Bank.

The workshop, “Lessons Learned from Benchmarking University Governance in MENA”, was hosted by the British Council, the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the Marseille Centre for Mediterranean Integration and the World Bank.

It evaluated results from 100 universities that participated in the screening card process in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and the Palestinian Territories, and was attended by university leaders, senior officials, quality agency representatives and donors.

World Bank Education Specialist Adriana Jaramillo, who led the team that developed the screening card, said the size of the meeting clearly indicated regional commitment to change.

“There is a shared goal of creating universities that will equip young people with the skills they need to prosper, and the screening card and proposed network will help them achieve it.”

Jaramillo described the evolution of the UGSC into a network as a positive step towards universal adoption of best practices that would lay the foundation for healthier institutions and improved educational options for young people.

The British Council’s Regional Manager of Higher Education Sally Ward said many universities across the region had asked for support around governance issues, which were critical to achieving “better university outputs and as a result, a better educated and skilled workforce”.

The statement said the meeting found consensus on the impact of university governance on the quality of education, and that the UGSC had proven to be a valuable analytical tool for identifying strengths and weaknesses.

It had also been useful in enabling universities to compare themselves with international standards, define goals and establish benchmarks to assess the progress in achieving them.