Complex Made Simple

Reforming higher education in MENA: Connecting governance and quality assurance for results

University leaders, higher education policy makers and experts from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region gather in Tunis to address quality assurance and governance issues in academic institutions and identify ways of advancing reforms in the sector.

“The question of university governance is particularly relevant in the MENA region where youth unemployment rates are higher than in any other region in the world – 21% in the Middle East and 25% in North Africa – and university graduates with at least an undergraduates’ degree make up nearly 30% of the unemployed” says Gerard Byam, Director Operations at the World Bank.

“There is a broad consensus on the role of university governance in improving education quality”.

The regional MENA event, “From Vision to Action: Strengthening the Governance-Quality Assurance Nexus in Higher Education in MENA” is jointly organized by the World Bank and the Center for Mediterranean integration in cooperation with the Tunisian Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research, Communications and Information Technologies, and in partnership with the Tunisian Union of Industry, Commerce and Handicraft (UTICA), the British Council and the Institut Français, Tunisia.

The event takes place on June 12-13, 2014, in Tunisia, and focuses on the nexus between quality assurance and governance, in order to enable universities leaders and policy makers to move ‘from vision to action’ with regard to efficient governance and quality assurance arrangements.

“Good governance and quality enhancement of higher education are at the heart of our work with the sector. This important event will help us shape future policies and strengthen our ties with partners and neighbors in the region” says Tawfik Jelassi, Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research, Communications and Information Technologies of Tunisia.

“There has been a ‘university-internal quality assurance buzz’ in various countries in MENA, with a multitude of events held on the topic as well as projects supporting the developments of quality assurance units and approaches within universities,” says World Bank Senior Education Specialist Nina Arnhold, who leads the team behind the University Governance and Quality Assurance Program.

“When it comes to ‘external quality assurance’ – quality assurance exercised by bodies outside the universities such as independent or semi-independent national accreditation bodies or Ministries – there is a huge heterogeneity within MENA.”

Participants include representatives from the 100 universities network in MENA, quality assurance agencies, higher education policy makers as well as regional, European and international experts. Discussions will focus on the many challenges institutions and countries face with regard to governance as well as internal and external quality assurance arrangements in their countries. Participants will have an opportunity to:
• explore to what extent quality assurance can further and support governance reforms, and vice versa;
• identify ways for developing external quality assurance bodies and mechanisms that contribute to the enhancement of higher education quality while taking into account institutional specificities; and
• share experiences and lessons learned from institutions within the MENA region and beyond;

The event will also be the occasion for the program’s network of 100 universities in the region to share and discuss their respective governance-related institutional action plans.