Happy Birthday Al-Fanar Independent Education News for the Arab World

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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.

ü  A Survey of Public-University Professors’ Pay

ü  Employment in the Gulf: Not Always What it Seems

ü  The Economic Struggle of Public-University Professors

ü  Graphic and FAQs: Arab Public-University Salaries

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.

If you have not subscribed for this free publication I would recommend you do so. Go to Al-Fanar Media and click subscribe.

Happy Birthday and keep up the good work.

Looking for a New Challenge

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In early January I made a decision not to renew my contract with Ankabut the United Arab Emirates Advance Network for Research and Education where I have work since October 2010. My resignation will not take effect until October 2014. I wanted to give Ankabut time to find a replacement and I have a few important projects to complete.

Some people I know when they learned that I’m leaving asked the question; “What Happened? Did they not renew your contract, or are you unhappy with the organization, the money, the title or the boss?” The answer to all these questions is NO.

Ankabut is alive and well and they didn’t let me go. Is it money or title? Naturally I would like more money or a better title but it wasn’t a game changer. I am not unhappy with the organization or my boss and I must say he is good for Ankabut and we like each other. He is approachable, respects my opinion and has a good sense of humor. Do we disagree at times, of course but he will listen. In the end the CEO has to make the call and especially in this region.

I honestly believe I have done what I can for the organization and reached the goals I set when I started. I could continue doing the same thing for Ankabut but I need a new challenge. What that challenge is has not been decided but I can safely say retirement is not in my plans for another 5-7 years, if ever.

So what’s next? That is indeed the question that I am still pondering. My wife and I do like the UAE and have developed a number of very good relationships with the expat and Emirati communities over the years mostly in the field of education. There is always a possibility I may be offered a position in the region by an organization with education ties that would offer more responsibility and new challenges. It’s also possible I may start or co-found a company, which focuses on a variety of educational services for the region. I have always had an entrepreneurial side to me. I co-founded The Connected Learning Network, an e-learning services company in the US back in 1999.  E-learning may an element of the company but would have a number of other services to support the education community.  I see a great deal of potential in support or outsourcing educational services. If I go that direction I will want to have a partner(s) who have similar interests.  The third option is to go back to the US and find a position, which would meet the responsibility and challenge needs. Unfortunately I don’t see that job existing near our home in Brown County Indiana. Perhaps Louisville our adopted home, Florida, Hawaii (why not), DC region or my alma mater Urbana University. We will see what the options are and make a decision then.

In the meantime these upcoming months will be busy. There are projects I need to complete which are important to Ankabut and its members.  I’ll keep you posted on where I go from here as well as writing about education in the region.