Higher Education in Saudi Arabia: Achievements, Challenges and Opportunities: 40 (Higher Education D

the influence of economic statues in higher education in Saudi opportunities for students. in Saudi Arabia: Achievement, Challenge, and Opportunity.
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Education in Saudi Arabia

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However, the degree is awarded by AGU. Table 6 below presents a detailed overview of the current status of institutions of higher education. What can be noted is that private institutions offer academic programs that are in line with the needs of Bahraini economy, which is a prerequisite for accreditation of a given degree. Thus, humanities are in general discouraged and the stress is put on applied sciences. The recently opened public institution, Bahrain Polytechnic, also provides training in the areas defined by the economic needs of the country.

Higher education institutions in Bahrain. Information Technology ; Business Studies ; Science. College of Health Sciences. Interior Design ; Computer Graphics. Administrative and Financial Sciences. Business Administration ; Accounting ; Political Science. Engineering; Information Technology Business Administration. The existing institutions present Bahraini students with a broad choice of disciplines of study and available degrees. For instance, a twinning program offered through Ahlia University created the second possibility for Bahrainis to obtain a Ph.

Moreover, a choice of international programs is an opportunity for the large expatriate population in Bahrain as well as for inhabitants of neighboring Gulf countries.

On the other hand, British or American degrees are considered to be an asset when applying for jobs at international companies in the GCC. The costs of education are the most affordable at public institutions 5 , however the number of seats is limited. Private institutions aiming at attracting students had to target different segments of society. As an example of such practices we can mention the AMA International University that was founded in Bahrain in with a mission to provide education affordable to all Bahrainis and subsequently offered fees comparable with public institutions.

Moreover, a higher number of institutions offering similar programs provides graduate students with more choices to find a flexible timing in order to combine work and study. The traditional education in the Middle East focuses on memorization and hierarchy, while American and European curricula aim at providing the student with skills necessary for independent thinking and self-reliance. In the long run, foreign private universities can make a cultural change in this very traditional environment.

Furthermore, other researchers Mashood et al. Currently the private sector is reluctant to employ local workers due to lack of right skills, poor command of English language and their attitude towards work. Foreign universities in the GCC can produce a change by equipping their graduates with better skills to meet the expectations of the labor market. High demand for education creates a vacuum that needs to be filled quickly with new educators.

Because of the weaknesses of the national supervision and regulation system, educational institutions may suffer from a lack of qualified academics to deliver the courses, inadequate funding and consequently, may provide a very low quality of education Martin, These issues have been visible in Bahrain: A study conducted in by the newly appointed Council of Higher Education revealed a number of academic and administrative irregularities such as the issuance of degrees without the required credits, Toumi, b , the trespassing of the required student-faculty ratio, or the delivery of courses and degrees without the proper license Toumi, The concerns about low quality education were voiced in public and institutions found guilty of irregularities were named.

The situation required a consistent approach towards higher education quality improvement. Subsequently, the National Employment and Training Programme emphasized the need for adequate training and educational opportunities in order to improve the employability of Bahrainis. Furthermore, in a National Strategy for Bahrain was formulated to ensure continuous economic growth and sustainable development. Education was identified as a priority concern and subsequently, a national reform of the entire educational system was launched in The reform prompted important changes in the legal system regarding the quality control of higher education.

In order to implement the law, a Higher Education Council General Secretariat was established in within the structures of the Ministry of Education. The council was charged, among others, with tasks such as setting the conditions and criteria for granting licenses to higher education institutions, the issuance of licenses for new private educational institutions, the review of annual reports submitted by private institutions; following up the work of higher education institutions and monitoring their programs and supportive services, the quality of their performance and outputs AlSaleh, The council deals primarily with private institutions.

Bahrain’s tertiary education reform : a step towards sustainable economic development

Institutions that were found in breach of the regulations were imposed a set of deadlines to comply with all the requirements or alternatively, have their licenses suspended or revoked. Suspicions of fraudulent practices were subject to investigation and public prosecution. This comprehensive program of national development published in by the BEDB is based on three pillars, namely economy, government and people. Within the scope of social development, the Vision stressed the importance of education. Unlike the council, the HERU reviews public and private institutions as a whole and conducts institutional as well as program reviews.

Its role within the educational system includes the enhancement of the quality of higher education in Bahrain by conducting reviews; the enforcement of the public accountability of higher education providers, and the promotion of quality assurance in higher education. The program review is based on four broad criteria.

Since the QAAET has been conducting reviews of universities, which include self-evaluation reports, student and faculty interviews and on-site surveys of the institutions. So far 12 private institutions were assessed and we are going to base our research on these case studies. The HERU concluded that three institutions made substantial progress in quality since their establishment; two institutions given their recent year of establishment were on the right track, while all the remaining received negative assessments.

A common shortcoming is the lack of research activities. Although "research is a fundamental purpose of universities" Knight et al. HERU panel found evidence of one institution that implemented a comprehensive research plan. Another major concern is the lack of adequate quality assurance systems within the institutions to monitor quality and its improvement through surveys and feedback analysis as well as benchmarking. To begin with, two out of five branch universities were found to operate like businesses rather than educational institutions in order to maximize their profits.

This is one of the challenges pertaining to the internationalization of education, when profits may compromise the quality of higher education. This business venture approach was also found in one local university. Furthermore, branch universities did not have a sufficient autonomy but were all dependent on their mother campuses, which hindered in return their administration and management. On the other hand, the operations of local private universities were hampered by specific challenges. Two universities presented a clear lack of governance, planning and management; one of them showed a lack of integrity by submitting a plagiarized strategic plan of development to HERU.

Two other universities were unable to adequately coordinate their efforts, due to a rapid growth of their institutions. They lacked a detailed strategic plan of development to support their educational mission. Only 3 private universities along with the only public university examined, received a positive assessment.

The remaining institutions obtained limited confidence in four cases and a lack of confidence in other four, from the part of the HERU. This constitutes a serious concern given the existing skills gap of national labor force in Bahrain Tamkeen, Due to its status of national university it constitutes, according to the QAAET, an important asset in the realization of the goals of the Bahrain Vision The role of private HEIs in the process of labor market nationalization and transition to a knowledge-based economy is more problematic.

It is interesting to note that the performance of some branch campuses, whose mother institutions boast significant achievements abroad, was assessed by the QAAET as insufficient and, in certain cases, poor. Internationalizing educational services may as well lead to the lowering of educational standards, especially in places like the Arabic Peninsula, where students are primarily interested in quickly obtaining a degree instead of obtaining adequate skills. Furthermore, job and salary expectations are merely based on the possession of a college degree.

These considerations lead us to believe that without a co-ordination of efforts to enforce standards and review processes, private HEIs will be unable to sufficiently contribute in the transformation towards a knowledge-based economy in Bahrain. Moreover, unlike in other GCC countries namely Qatar or the UAE, where private educational institutions may get a partial or full support from the authorities to relocate, in Bahrain they have to rely on their own resources.

This can lead to a stiffer competition between private institutions and ultimately to a business-like approach to providing educational services where quality may become of secondary importance. It is important to note that the quality review process was not initiated by institutions but by the Bahraini authorities in a bid to reform the educational system. The QAAET declined so far to comment on its achievements in Bahrain, given that the evaluation process was not fully finished; it emphasized its role as a long-term partner in the quality assurance process, where the QAAET acts as a support to improve educational standards more than as an auditor.

The second review is still in progress, yet one institution has already improved its ranking. In the long run, HEIs may find it of primary importance to improve their standing as negative reviews will tarnish the reputation of the concerned HEI and decrease the students' enrolment. They are part of a large strategy of economic development that stresses education as a mean of nationalizing the labour market. The initial lack of formal systems of supervision of higher education institutions led to low standards and market oriented approach in the case of many private institutions.

The steps undertook by Bahraini authorities are vital to enforce a culture of quality. Indeed, the lack of compliance with the new requirements led to a temporary suspension of enrolment in 6 private universities by the Higher Education Council in We acknowledge the fact that our study is not complete due to current lack of HERU reviews of public institutions at the time of writing. However we believe that it provides an important insight into the problems of tertiary education in Bahrain given the lack of research in this area.

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