Higher Education MENA Conference November 20-Bridging The Regional Skills Gap

Bridging the Regional Skills Gap will be addressed on 20 November at the Higher Education MENA Conference, at the Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre. Expert panelist from higher education and industry will present their views on how to align higher education with the labour market needs in the Middle East Region.

The young higher education sector has an opportunity to develop tailored curricula to meet the issue of youth unemployment and underemployment and better align with the current labour market. Education institutions and the private sector needs to improve communication and collaboration to stimulate educational output in the region. How can market needs be communicated better into the higher education institutions? What steps can be taken to improve the alignment of post-secondary education output to national economic needs? What are the challenges that institutions are facing in meeting industry needs while operating in a highly regulated sector?

Moderated by Dr. Senthil Nathan, Managing Director of Edu Alliance Ltd. in Abu Dhabi, the panel will feature Professor Tod Laursen President Khalifa University, Professor Mohamed Salem President of the University of Wollongong in Dubai, Professor Ehab Abdel-Rahma, Provost American University of Cairo and Mohammed Al Raqbani General Manager Dubai Investment Industries LLC.

Dr. Senthil commented: “I was approached by the conference organizers to examine a critical regional issue in higher education. Edu Alliance strongly believes that the region’s higher education institutions and the industry have much more room to collaborate to address this Skills Gap challenge. That’s the primary motivation behind designing this panel discussion as well as to help this forum make the academia-industry collaboration as the main theme.”

Dr. Nathan was asked why he asked this eminent panel of experts to represent the different sides of the solution to this challenge.

Ehab Adel RahmanEhab Abdel-Rahman: Egypt has the region’s largest number of educated but unemployed youth. Provost Ehab Abdel-Rahman who represents the top-ranked university in Egypt that has almost a century of history in educational excellence is well placed to address this challenge.

 

 

 

profsalem_smallMohamed Salem: To fast-track progress in higher education, UAE hosts the world’s highest number of branch campuses of international universities. President Mohamed Salem represents the oldest and the largest of these branch campuses and will present the unique perspectives of international universities in addressing the skills gap in this region.

 

 

 

 

Al RaqbaniMohammed Al Raqbani: Regional industry represents the other side of the dialogue. Mr. Mohammed Al Raqbani – who heads a strong company that hosts or invests in a wide array of industries in Dubai – will offer a industry perspective on skills gap both from the region’s employers and also from the two universities that his company has invested in.

 

 

 

 

New_AURAK_provost_Prof_Wilhite_(Photo_ME_NewsWire)Stephen Wilhite: The American University of Ras Al Khaimah and its Provost Stephen Wilhite works closely with local government and industry to meet the skills gap in Ras Al Khaimah. They offer a wide ranging number of degrees that promotes advanced critical thinking skills, fosters creativity, and instills a commitment to lifelong learning. 

 

 

 

“I hope that the interaction between the panelists and the conference participants will spark an ongoing discussion to design a way forward that will bridge the regional skills gap by aligning graduate outcomes with employer needs.”

Background on Bridging the Regional Skills Gap

Youth unemployment rate in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is more than double the global average of 13%. There are many factors contributing to this major problem. As with many parts of the world, the skills gap is certainly a major factor behind unemployment– as evidenced by millions of expat staff recruited to the same region. A 2016 research report compiled by YouGov and Bayt.com on the skills gap in the MENA region, finds “a profound disconnect between the perceptions held by employers and the perceptions held by job seekers.” Of the top three recommendations made in this survey, two of them involve educational institutions and companies working together:

  • Companies, educational institutions, and governments should work together to predict future skills needs.
  • Companies and educational institutions should work together to provide students with the skills they need to enter the job market.

Another one in the top 5 recommendations in the top five is:

  • Educational institutions should teach students the skills they need to enter the job market.

About Edu Alliance: Edu Alliance is a higher education consulting services firm based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Its sister company, Edu Alliance Group, has offices in Indianapolis, Indiana USA. The company provides the experience and expertise colleges and universities need to expand and optimize their engagement with students and institutions around the world. We help universities think strategically and creatively about their international programs. Edu Alliance provides a diverse group of distinguished higher education professionals to research, plan, and execute international education programs.

For additional information or to arrange an interview contact: Dean Hoke, Co-Founder Edu Alliance Ltd. dean.hoke@edu-alliance.net : (USA) +001 502-257-1063: Twitter: @EduAllianceUAE: Website http://www.edu-alliance.net/

‘All of us can be harmed’ Update on Axact and Diploma Mills

Over the past few years I have written a great deal about groups such as Must University, California Paramount and the Axact scandal. Since the raid on Axact headquarters there has been an attempt to prosecute Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh the CEO of Axact. He was arrested on May 27, 2015 after the May 17th edition of The New York Times published an in-depth report exposing the fake degree business. However since then, he has been out on bail and never gone to trial.

There has been some progress in convicting others. Umair Hamid, a senior Axact official was arrested in the United States. According to the Pakistan paper Dawn  and numerous other papers in North America he pled guilty, sentenced him to 21 months in prison, and levied a fine of $5,303,020 for his role in an international diploma mill scheme.

The Axact operations sold phony degrees worldwide and generated a 1/2 billion dollars in sales or more. In a recent article by Canada’s CBC titled All of us can be harmed’: Investigation reveals hundreds of Canadians have phoney degrees,  it revealed more than 800 Canadians could have purchased a fake degree.  In the Middle East, ten’s of thousands were sold as legitimate degrees and the overall worldwide estimate is Axact sold over 200,000 of these documents.

The question is why Axact has not been convicted in Pakistan? The former special public prosecutor of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Zahid Jamil said that the case against Axact was very strong but it was not presented in court. Many of the people who worked on the case and multiple prosecutors from resigned from the case and left the FIA. There has been some articles published that indicated many prosecutors, investigators and families were threaten and rather endanger themselves, they resigned.

Unfortunately diploma Mills are still operating and selling degrees in the Middle East and elsewhere.  I would suggest If you are contacted by phone or email by a group offering you an opportunity to finish your degree be it Bachelor’s, Master or Ph.D be cautious and before accepting ANY offer.  Find out a great deal more about the school. For example, if you are in the Middle East go to the higher education publication Al Fanar and check their site Monitoring Quality in Arab Higher Education.  This will show you about accredited schools by country. In other countries Google search the school and check very closely who is giving accreditation. Even some agencies could be bogus so Google them as well.

A simple rule of thumb in checking if a school is legitimate or a diploma mill:

  • Consider the cost of the degree
  • What is required to obtain the degree.

If it’s cheap and you do little work to obtain the degree then question if it’s a bogus school.  Do not lie to yourself. The danger you risk is if you choose to get such a degree that is likely from a diploma mill and you present it to an employer who discovers it is bogus, you may well be fired and if an expat could be in some cases, sent home or arrested. Additionally many of these schools once you have signed up and received payment will want more money. If you don’t do it they have been known to threaten to expose you to the government or your employer. Is it really worth taking a chance?

For further information on questionable or bogus schools that are promoting such degrees go to my article Fake degrees: Nixon U and Paramount California U are back. I receive a number of comments on schools you may wish to avoid.