MENA Association of University Presidents Dubai - Arab Today The MENA Higher Education Leadership Forum organised by the Center of Learning Innovations and Customized Knowledge Solutions (CLICKS) in collaboration with the Association of Arab Universities, the International Council for Open and Distance Education and the UT Global Initiative at the University of Texas at Austin has started yesterday its proceedings. The Forum which has received the gracious patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in the UAE, has attracted over 160 higher education leader, decision maker and expert from higher education from across 33 countries. “The MENA Higher Education Leadership is organised with the aim of bringing Higher Education leaders and decision makers from within the region and beyond to discuss latest trends, developments and challenges in the field and identify future strategies and roadmaps for cooperation, collaboration. The Forum also facilitates the sharing of experiences, the transfer of knowledge and the exchange of best. This year’s theme has been carefully selected to be in line with the growing attention institutions of learning have been giving to achieve a ‘world-class’ status that enables them to compete in today’s global market, maintain quality and enhance their public image while remaining competitive. The true meaning and definition of a ‘world-class’ university will be throughout the two days discussed and debated among leaders of higher education” said Dr. Narimane Hadj-Hamou, CLICKS’ CEO and the Forum Chair. The First day of the Forum’s proceedings started with the Forum Opening ceremony which witnessed the official launch MENA Association of University Presidents was launched. The formation of the association was signed by the 17 founding members representing 10 different Arab Countries. Among founding members were: Dr. Thomas Hochstettler, Acting Chancellor of the American University of Sharjah in the UAE; Prof. Maher Saleem, President of Middle East University in Jordan; Prof.rNabil Ibrahim, Chancellor of Abu Dhabi University in the UAE; Dr. Khalil Hindi from Birzeit University in Palestine; Dr. Abood Al Sawafi ,Vice Chancellor of Sharqiya University in the Sultanate of Oman; Dr. Driss Ouaouicha, President of Al Akhawayn University in Morocco; Prof. Donald L. Bates President of Gulf University for Science and Technology in Kuwait among others. “The Association will aim at advancing Higher Education in the MENA region through establishing a dynamic network of university leaders that influences policy making, proposes and debates new and innovative ideas, addresses emerging issues and trends pertinent to a number of core areas related to higher education including: quality, governance, access, technology, research and learning outcomes and promotes collaboration, community building and the sharing of experiences. “Dr. Hadj-Hamou added. The Opening Ceremony was followed by a morning plenary session, which tackled three keynote addresses by Prof. Jan Sadlak, President of the IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence, France; Dr. Laurence F. Johnson, CEO of the New Media Consortium and Gard Titlestad, Secretary General of the International Council of Open and Distance Education. The three keynotes tackled the concept of world-class universities , the role of leadership in developing and sustaining a ‘world-class’ university and the new shape of higher education in light of the latest technological development. The morning plenary also included an interactive panel discussion titled “Globalization and Internationalization of Higher Education: Challenges, Opportunities’ and the Way Forward” where four eminent experts representing different geographies shared their experiences and views on the opportunities and challenges presented by the globalization of higher education, and what strategies can be put in place to take advantage of such a shift. During the afternoon, over 20 institutional best practices in the areas of governance, research, technology integration and quality were presented by leaders of higher education. Best practices from leading institutions including the American University of Sharjah, the University of Abu-Dhabi Wollongong University, King Saud University, Middle East University, Hebron University, Kordofan University, among many others were shared. The second day of the Forum will continue discussing key issues including, quality assurance and accreditation, the role of research in higher education, and technology integration through four keynote addresses in addition to a panel discussion on Quality, Accreditation and Accountability which will be chaired by Professor Nadia Badrawi, Vice President of the Arab Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education. The Forum will be concluded by three post forum activities including two hands-on workshops organized by the Higher Education Academy in the UK on Key Strategies for Enhancing Teaching and Learning and the second organized by the University of Texas at Austin on Strategic Planning in Higher Education. In addition to a closed meeting catered for Presidents and Vice Chancellors of Universities only which will discuss strategies, recommendations and action plans for the advancement of higher education in key areas related to governance, quality assurance and teaching and learning and how these are enabled through sound research strategy, technology integration and mutual cooperation. Throughout the two days, the Forum will host more than 45 distinguished speakers, presenters and panelists who will be engaged with keynote addresses, panel discussions, best practices presentations and other activities bringing rich experiences from across the globe. The MENA Higher Education Leadership Forum received the generous support of Ellucian as a silver sponsor; Parthenon and Al Ain Distribution Company as a bronze sponsors; the Saudi German Hospital, Dubai University and C&K Management as supporters; Turning Technologies as Technology Partner; in addition to UAE Learning Network and Universities’ News as Media Partners. The MENA Higher Education Leadership Forum under the theme “Becoming a World Class University in a Modern Context: Challenges, Opportunities and Strategies Forward" has concluded its activities on Wednesday the 13th of November with a number of essential reaffirmations on the pivotal role higher education plays as a strategic enabler to the processes of sustainable development in our region. The Forum organized by the Center for Learning Innovation and Customized Knowledge Solutions (CLICKS) in partnership with Association of Arab Universities, the International Council for Open and Distance Education and the UT Global Initiative at the University of Texas at Austin brought together over 180 higher education leader, policy makers and experts from within the region and beyond to discuss issues pertinent to leadership development; quality assurance and accreditation; internationalizations and globalization, technology integration in higher education, teaching and learning and research in higher education. According to the various interventions and discussions which took place during the two-day event, regional cooperation among institutions of higher education and beyond has been seen as a crucial element to the advancement of higher education within the MENA region. Clear strategies for regional collaboration and cooperation need to be put in place to support higher education institutions in responding to latest developments and trends and overcome challenges and problems of common nature. Such collaborations are to tackle a number of areas including transferring knowledge across borders, exchanging ‘know-how’ and best practices, offering joint programs, sharing resources and expertise, engaging in joint research projects, faculty and students’ exchanges, among others. The post-forum activities involved in addition to two hands-on workshops a closed meeting which took place on the afternoon of the 13th of November and that invited presidents, vice chancellors and representatives from key government agencies and other NGOs to come to the table and discuss concrete collaborative actions to improve higher education in the region. The discussions primarily focused on the three key areas related to governance, quality and accreditation and teaching and learning and the role of research and technology as enablers for each of these areas. The meeting aimed at proposing generic roadmaps and action plans on how higher education institutions may work collaboratively to tackle these key areas and share expertise. Dr. Narimane Hadj-Hamou, CEO of the Center for Learning Innovations and Customized Knowledge Solutions (CLICKS) and Chair of the Forum added “the aim of the closed meeting is to stimulate and strengthen academic cooperation between leaders of higher education through proposing plans and strategies for action. We aspire at forming a community of practice that acts as a ‘think-tank’ to discuss key issues and developments and promote innovative ideas for the sake of the advancement of higher education “ Prof. Badr Aboul- Ela, Director of the Commission of Academic Accreditation in the United Arab Emirates, who chaired the closed meeting, added “Coherent and effective governance is essential in a higher education sector that is both increasingly globalized and diversified. It underpins the maintenance and enhancement of quality assurance and standards across all of a university's programs and operations. With technology-enhanced education, students are increasingly looking for flexibility to learn anytime and anywhere. Joint degree programs and the introduction of MOOCs are examples of new challenges which may require changes in both internal and external quality assurance systems. Improving the quality of teaching and learning under such developed education systems requires direct involvement of university leadership. This closed meeting provides a platform for university leaders to share experiences and views on these topics, and discuss the way forward for cooperation among institutions in meeting these challenges.” “Our work will continue beyond the Forum and we are delighted of the positive response and engagement of leaders of higher education.” Said Dr. Hadj-Hamou.