HE tuning initiative for North Africa and Middle East

A three-year higher education Tuning Middle East and North Africa – Tuning MEDA – initiative was launched last month in the fields of law and good governance including human rights, healthcare and nursing, engineering and architecture, and tourism.

The project was unveiled at an event in Jordan from 2-4 May and is outlined on the website of the Association of Arab Universities.

"From the experience of limitations in previous cooperation, there is a need and a desire to have a project which could enhance the quality of programmes and degree profiles as a main goal of curricular reform and main force for enhancing quality, employability and social relevance," Pablo Beneitone, director of the Tuning Academy at Universidad de Deusto in Spain, told University World News.

The Tuning MEDA project aims to implement tools developed under the European Union’s Bologna process in Southern Neighbouring Area universities by building a framework of comparable, compatible and transparent programmes of studies.

Tuning MEDA will apply the ‘tuning’ methodology in participating universities through work in areas including curriculum development and delivery, the employability of graduates, recognition of degrees, higher education quality and staff training.

Those involved

The Association of Arab Universities, in collaboration with the University of Deusto in Spain, is coordinating the Tuning MEDA project.

Also involved are academic bodies and 23 Arab universities that are members of the association as well as universities from Cyprus, England, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, The Netherlands and Spain.

One third of participating universities are in North Africa including: the University of Omar Almukhtar and the Libyan International Medical University in Libya; Université Mouloud Mammeri de Tizi Ouzou and Université d’Alger 1 in Algeria; University Mohammed First and Université Moulay Ismail in Morocco; Cairo University and Suez Canal University in Egypt; and the universities of Monastir, Jendouba and Tunis in Tunisia.

Action plan

The project will focus on ‘tuning’ in the four subject areas, with tuning reference points being developed by determining the general and special abilities required of university graduates in those fields. Efforts will be made to improve degree programmes and promote cooperation between EU and southern universities.

It will build a well-established group of trained academics and managers – five trainings, each with 60 trainees – as well as four bachelor degree programme profiles and four student learning guides and degree curricula.

"Updated curricula will be developed with the aim of mutual recognition and arrangements between higher education institutions in the EU and in the Southern Neighbouring Area,” Hanan Malkawi, vice-president for research and international relations at Yarmouk University in Jordan, told University World News.

"T-MEDA is designed to adapt, restructure and test curricula in those subject areas using the European Credit Transfer System and recognition of degrees with particular focus on generic and specific competences, structure of content, teaching, learning and assessment methods, and enhancement of the quality of the teaching materials and educational process.”

The project will establish a multilingual, interactive website. There will be a focus on the exchange of students and academics between Arab and European universities, and joint research, conferences and seminars.

Expert's views

Constantin Spiridonidis of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece – one of the partner universities in the Tuning MEDA project, told University World News that the project was introducing a methodology supporting the development of educational structures and contents based on student-centred education.

“This approach wants to define the profile of the graduate in terms of knowledge, skills and ways of thinking and to organise accordingly the educational structures, processes and means to achieve this profile.

"It is an output-oriented approach and not an input-oriented one," Spiridonidis pointed out.

"The fundamental value of the tuning project is the respect of the local identities and traditions. The proposed methodology gives the possibility to take into consideration local particularities and to articulate them with international trends."

"It is against homogenisation, similarisation or implementation of prefabricated educational models. Its purpose is the harmonisation of higher education structures by protecting and promoting local cultural identities and particularities."