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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Economist: GCC’s Western universities “at risk of failing”

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Western universities located in the GCC are “at risk of failing,” says an economist who is studying and has written a research paper about higher education institutes in the region.

John Willoughby, economics department chair at the American University in Washington, made his assertions at a conference in Kuwait last week.

They were reported in The National and accompanied by a picture of Qatar’s Carnegie Mellon University, which struck us as a bit incongruous.

A picture of George Mason University in Ras al Khaimah, which closed in 2009, or Michigan State University in Dubai, which cancelled its undergraduate programs in 2010, would have made more sense.

Regardless, Willoughby made some interesting points. Difficulty recruiting quality students is indeed a major problem in Qatar’s Education City, as is the declining number of nationals enrolled in EC’s schools.

The National reports:

Despite the huge diversity of the new schools, their collective preference for teaching in English with Western-oriented coursework is changing the face of higher education in the region. Critics say the institutions are relegating Arabic to a second language and giving foreign academics an advantage over nationals. Other Western ideas, such as coeducation, do not sit well with the conservatives in the region.

“These criticisms imply that many of the higher-education experiments sweeping through the region are culturally insensitive and academically inappropriate,” Willoughby said.

What do you guys think? Is the situation as dire as Willoughby makes it sound? Should Western universities be more sensitive to local cultures?

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