Reconnecting Higher Education to the discourse of inclusive sustainable knowledge-based economy in the Arab Region
Thursday, 2nd February 2017 from 14:00 to 17:00 (BST)
Board Room (EB 1.39) Dockland Campus, University of East London, London, United Kingdom
14:00-15:30 Session One
15:45-16:45 Session Two
Target audience Academic, researchers, higher education officials, students, professionals, research, youth, NGOs, civil society groups, businesses, and other stakeholders.
Focus Arab Countries
World Association for Sustainable Development (WASD)
Middle Eastern Knowledge Economy Institute (MEKEI)
Kuwait Cultural Office, UK
Centre for Innovation Management and Enterprise (CIME), University of East London
The Keynote Seminar aims to critically discuss the future of higher education (HE) in the Arab countries towards achieving sustainable knowledge-based inclusive development in the region. The Keynote Seminar will therefore explore the role of academic and research institutions as recommended by the World Bank’s World Development Report 2016 to enable countries in the region reap the digital benefits form the global growth in the digital economy particularly for the country’s Digital Natives (Youth). Moreover the Keynote Seminar also aims to discuss a range of questions relating to strengthening the linkages between universities and research institutions as well as reconnecting these institutions to the knowledge-based economy (KE) discourse by exploring the role of HE institutions in transforming the Arab countries into knowledge-based economies. In doing so, a number of issues relating to the role and relevance of HE institutions to the contemporary discourse of Arab countries’ sustainable inclusive knowledge-based development will be examined such as: what is the role of Arab’s HE institutions in supporting and enhancing the process of economic and social development in the region?; what are the major obstacles that HE institutions face in Arab countries?; are there governmental components to these? if so what?; are there societal components to these? if so what?; and how can these obstacles best be overcome?
The Keynote Seminar brings together senior and high level intellectual and practice-based contributors who will help develop a framework for the analysis of the role of Arab HE institutions in achieving sustainable inclusive knowledge-based development and help policy-makers to constructs an “ideal role” for HE institutions in Arab countries and outlines how performance can be evaluated in pursuit of the goals of KE. There are clearly opportunities for academic and research institutions and societies in Arab countries to support and enhance the process of transforming the Arab countries to advanced, knowledge-based societies led by sustainable innovation and social advance. As knowledge production sites, the University’s engagement in national economic growth and the broader development agenda is nothing new. Ever since the beginning of modern science, knowledge has been sought from the University and today, more than ever before in human history, the wealth – or poverty – of nations depends on the quality of its higher education. According to UNESCO, universities are not just for teaching purposes, but also contribute through research in science, technology and innovation (STI) and in the social and human sciences, to the advance of knowledge, to the creation of new knowledge, to cultural development and fulfillment, to the solving of the problems with which the society is faced, to sustainable development (SD).
Whilst there has been a tremendous growth in size, the expansion of HE in almost all Arab countries has caused average quality of education to decline as resources are stretched increasingly thin. Essentially, the expansion has been less differentiated and, therefore, ill-planned to confront emergent development needs. Rather, what is evident is a stupendous replication of traditional disciplinary-based techniques of knowledge production. These have, nevertheless, increased the richness of knowledge about the universe we live in but without apparently translating or transforming the catchment societal environments in terms of measurable productive capacities. There are also grave concerns that HE in most Arab countries is becoming increasingly obsolete which, in part, is why development programmes are stultified even from the outset. Therefore, Arab HE institutions must confront the ‘new realities’ evident in the environments in which they operate. Many scholars and policy makers have called for a transformative innovation agenda which embraces radical change for new synthesis and approaches for transforming HE in the Arab countries.
Youth in the Arab region are growing fast and governments in the region expect their universities and research institutions to make a leading contribution by producing graduates ready to grasp the various opportunities generated in the digital economy. It is therefore important that all Arab HE institutions and societies to consider the youth in all their curriculum design, programs development as well as fulfilling their role as major agents in the realisation of the various future strategic visions in most countries in the region. According to recent reports by the World Bank, with a large youth representation and youth unemployment ratio, the Arab region faces a potential crisis and the education sector should be reformed to include specific qualifications and specialisations in the digital economy. The private sector can play a larger role in helping governments and academia focus investments on high-priority and high demand skills, thus young students are ready for employment the moment they graduate.