of Higher Education in MENA: Policy Issues Associated with Skills
Formation and Mobility. Report No: 63762-MNA. This paper was prepared by
a team led by Adriana Jaramillo, Senior Education Specialist at the
World Bank, with contributions from Alan Ruby, Senior Fellow, University
of Pennsylvania, Fabrice Henard, OECD, and Hafedh Zaafrane. Download the Report. Download the begining of the Report.
7. A Regional Approach to Accreditation
93. A regional approach to accreditation and recognition of
qualifications requires a level of consensus on the goals and reference
points to be used by the national agencies in charge of quality
assessment and evaluation. This should not be approached by assembling
all of the standards and indicators in use in the region or by gathering
detailed descriptions of the evaluation/accreditation procedures
relevant to and applied within each national system. Neither approach
offers the necessary analysis of the relevance, utility, applicability,
or transferability of standards or processes to different national
settings. They fail to provide any information on the links between
standards and procedures and the constraints and requirements of the
national system. While assembling this information will provide
knowledge on what exists, it will not produce an effective regional
approach to QA (ENQA, 2005).
94. More progress can be made by identifying the values that underpin
commonly accepted notions (like independence, transparency, and peer
review) used across MENA countries. At times there will be differences
in how these values are prioritized and expressed and these need to be
examined systematically and thoughtfully to build mutual understandings
and trust among agencies and hence make it easier to accept decisions of
other parties about institutional accreditation and degree recognition.
There have been some successes using such a process. For instance, QA
agencies in Europe have delineated some key principles to shape their
work together with an aim of recognizing each other„s accreditation
decisions. In summary, these principles are that:
- There will be regional standards for internal and external QA, and for external QA agencies;
- Regional QA agencies will be externally reviewed regularly;
- Regional agencies which meet the agreed standards will be identified in a publicly accessible register; and
- The register will be maintained by agencies acting together to maintain standards.
95. Such a public register assists consumers, employers, and students to
identify professional and credible agencies, strengthens procedures for
recognizing qualifications, and enhances the public standing and
authority of QA agencies.
8. Principles for Accrediting Accreditation Bodies
96. It is easier to build trust between agencies when there are some
common standards to assess the authenticity and integrity of an
accreditation agency. The U.S. Department of Education has benchmarks to
guide its recognition processes of the numerous national, regional, and
programmatic accrediting agencies. The following principles, drawn from
those benchmarks and from good administrative practice, could be the
basis of a MENA framework for recognizing QA or to develop mutual
recognition of agencies.
To be successful, an accreditation agency must follow the following core operating principles:
- The agency should be singular in purpose; i.e., involved only in QA and not in the design or delivery of educational programs;
- The agency should have sufficient intellectual and fiscal capacity; i.e., be solvent and appropriately staffed;
- The agency should be separate and independent, not subject to
direction or control in accreditation decisions by state funding
- The agency should be not for profit;
- The agency should be accepted by peer agencies, the academic community, employers, and relevant professionals;
- The agency should encourage public participation and transparency in governance;
- The agency should maintain accurate and open records of accreditation decisions; and
- The agency should be experienced and recognized for its work in the region, discipline, or programs of study.
The status of current quality assurance structures in MENA countries is as follows:
- There are QA agencies in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Bahrain, Libya, Oman, Palestine, Yemen, Sudan, and the UAE.
- The Arab Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ANQAHE)
has sixteen member countries, which already have, or are in the process
of establishing, a QA agency.
- Most QA agencies are independent or semi-independent, and accredit programs and institutions.
97. QA is an important driver to improve the quality of tertiary
education, and QA methods and systems are being revised worldwide to be
more efficient in serving students, institutions, and governments. One
important trend is the need to measure tertiary learning outcomes in
meaningful ways. In addition to serving domestic purposes, recognition
of degrees obtained abroad or through foreign institutions operating in
the home country is critical to promote student mobility as well as
successful return of students who go abroad.
98. To make the most of cross-border tertiary education, international
and/or mutual recognition of diplomas is critical, as it can facilitate
student mobility and allow students with foreign qualifications to work
in their home country or, more generally, in the international labor
market. To promote student mobility and recognition both in the home and
host country, MENA countries could engage in a regional and a
cross-regional dialogue to promote mutual recognition of diplomas, and
increase its engagement in the international convergence of QA
practices. More information sharing could facilitate the recognition of
domestic degrees and the understanding of foreign qualifications in
9. Maximizing the Returns from Cross-border Education
99. Overall, cross-border tertiary education can assist developing
countries in strengthening their higher education systems and fostering
economic development. Cross-border education can expand domestic access
to post-secondary education, through outbound student mobility and
inbound program and institution mobility. Student and faculty mobility
builds international networks, which underpin national innovation and
research and development systems. Partnerships between local and foreign
universities through program and institution mobility can improve the
quality of domestic education services.
100. MENA countries choosing to use cross-border tertiary education to
build capacity and complement domestic provision face several policy
challenges. To benefit from cross-border education, countries should
create a framework that:
- Facilitates participation in cross-border education and co-operation
between foreign and domestic tertiary education institutions;
- Sets clear goals and targets for the different forms of internationalization linked with the development needs of the nation;
- Develops sound QA principles and processes to ensure that cross-border
education meets the needs of students and is relevant to meet national
goals and labor market needs;
- Establishes policies and procedures for ease of movement of students,
faculty, and skilled labor, including visa and immigration policies;
- Sets goals for intra-regional student mobility and for student and
faculty flows into the region through accreditation, student and faculty
exchange, hiring incentives, and research infrastructure, including
competitive research grants and a clear policy on the “export of
educational services and private investment in higher education”;
- Aligns regional and international agencies to promote mutual recognition of degrees and credit transfer; and
- Fosters innovation and research and development capacity to adapt and
respond to a continuously evolving technology-driven environment.
10. A Basis for National and Regional Dialogue
101. The observations, data and examples set out here can be used as a
basis for debate, discussion, and analysis with and between MENA
102. Regional cooperation could begin with shared efforts to understand
the complex interactions between student mobility, domestic higher
education, and the economic and social development priorities of the
MENA countries. Topics of mutual interest include a better understanding
of student flows and the programs they study in other countries. This
would provide some insights into areas of under-provision in the region
and assist in labor market forecasting. Joint work on the relative
successes of students studying abroad, in the region, in branch
campuses, and in national institutions, including measures such as time
to first job on graduation and relative earnings, would also have policy
relevance, as would cross-national work on longer term destinations of
skilled citizens, and the effectiveness of different incentives to
return to the home country. An illustrative research agenda is presented
in box 3.
103. The outcomes of such work can frame and inform a dialogue between
ministries, governments, institutions, and stakeholders about the
strategic directions for skill formation and the development of higher
education within individual countries. They can promote systematic
examination of different scenarios for the creation and application of
human capital and provide opportunities for participation in policy
formation for a wide range of constituencies. Similar suggestions were
made in the World Bank (2009) report on longer term perspectives on
labor and job mobility in the MENA region, which recommended a three
stage process to assist the smooth integration of the region to the
globalized skill market. Those steps would involve improving basic
demographic and labor force projections and scenario building around the
policy options in education, migration and social protection; and would
be open to national governments and intra- and inter-regional
cooperation between agencies.
104. The same observations, data, and examples supplemented by the
outcomes of national discussions can inform an intra-regional discussion
between principals (i.e., ministers, senior officials and institutional
leaders) on the opportunities and benefits of regional cooperation on
matters of common interest in the area of cross-border education and the
mobility of highly skilled people. There are clearly synergies and cost
savings from sharing expertise, experience, and development work in
areas such as recognition of qualifications, QA, diversification of
programs, and the due diligence appropriate for cross-border provision.
Key Topics for Regional Policy Options
- Efforts to develop a regional approach for accreditation and setting up qualifications framework need to be strengthened.
- The above needs to be coupled with a mutual recognition of qualifications between home and host countries.
- Joint research on building better pathways for student and skilled
labor mobility will strengthen countries‟ individual capacities.
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