In April 2012 David Wheeler formerly Managing Editor, Global Edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education asked if I would be interested in attending a workshop and giving my input in the potential launch of a journal/paper. The basic idea was to hear from the participants their views on a potential new publication with the tentative name of the Arab Journal of Higher Education. The Workshop was organized and sponsored by the Alexandria Trust and was held in in Cairo May 12-14.
Forty eight of us including many Arab academics and western expats who worked in the region were in attendance during the two and half days. It was a passionate group who had varied and strong views about what a new publication should be, but unanimous in the view a higher education publication which focused on the Arab world was needed. Al-Fanar as it’s now called states its mission is to, “publish independent news and analysis and serve as a platform for dialogue among institutions within and beyond the Arab world.”
One year ago Al-Fanar began publishing its online paper in English and in Arabic. It has slowly but surely progressed and has been gaining a loyal audience.
On the 11th of January, 2014 Al-Fanar ran a series of articles on the compensation packages of professors in the Public-university in 12 Arab countries.
The series brought to light the economic status of higher education professors through the region. In Graphics and FAQs Arab Public-University Salaries they stated:
This survey is the first regional survey of the compensation of Arab public-university professors. The vast majority of Arab youth are educated at public universities, and so the professors at them are responsible for shaping the next generation. But in many countries, they have little or no economic motivation to take up this important profession. While money isn’t the only motivation, it is an important one, and compensation can show the priorities of governments and societies. This survey is not necessarily an argument for more spending on higher education–economic data indicates that education spending in many Arab countries is strong, but does not always seem to effectively produce qualified graduates.
The series broke new ground showing the economic challenges of being a professor in the Arab world. The stories were well written, presented data not well known to the higher education community, and will be a bench mark on compensation for future studies.
I was excited when David Wheeler told me of his plans in 2011 while I was visited him in DC and honored to be one of the people asked to attend the Workshop in May 2012. With Al-Fanar just finishing its first year of publication it’s apparent to me they have succeeded as an independent news platform for higher education in the Arab World.
Happy Birthday and keep up the good work.