AMMAN—Two Gulf countries have drastically reduced the number of Jordanian universities that they will recognize, calling into question the quality of Jordanian higher education.
A few days after Kuwait cut the number of Jordanian universities whose degrees it would recognize from 20 universities to five, Qatar followed by reducing the number of Jordanian universities it would recognize from 13 to six.
Most of the Jordanian institutions eliminated from recognition in Kuwait and Qatar are private universities. All but one of those whose degrees will still be recognized in the two Gulf countries are public institutions. The changes raise questions about the quality of education in the private universities, often viewed as a second choice for those without the high exam scores needed to get into the less-expensive public universities. (See a related article, “Are Private Universities Worth the Money?”)
“School and university education in Jordan needs a comprehensive review to reinforce the educational institutions and restore their prestige that we were proud of,” tweeted Mostafa al-Rawashdeh, a former head of the Jordanian Teachers’ Union. “Some Arab countries’ decision to disaccredit some public and private universities in Jordan is a serious indicator with negative repercussions on this important sector which, for decades, has been a Jordanian achievement.”
“The two decisions are not surprising,” said Fakher Daas, coordinator of Thabahtoona, a national campaign for student rights. “This is the result of the decline and deterioration of higher-education policies in the kingdom over the last 15 years.”
Kuwait Explains Its Decision
An article published by Kuwait’s Al-Qabas Daily said that Kuwait’s decision to reduce the number of accredited Jordanian universities came after repeated visits by Kuwaiti officials. The news article said the study methods and the general quality of the disaccredited universities did not meet the standards established by the Kuwaiti agency for academic accreditation and quality control of education. Accordingly, any educational institution in Jordan that granted Kuwaiti students any special treatment is no longer recognized by Kuwait, in the belief that some Kuwaiti students may have been given an easier path to a degree than other students.
Only five universities in Jordan remain accredited by Kuwait. They are the University of Jordan, the Jordanian University of Science and Technology, Yarmouk University, and the Hashemite University, all of which are public institutions, and Princess Sumaya University for Technology, which is a private nonprofit university owned by the Royal Scientific Society of Jordan.
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Qatar did not provide any public explanation for its decision.
Mu’tah University, a public university in the south of the kingdom and one of the universities whose accreditation has been withdrawn by Kuwait and Qatar, denied the assertions about the quality of its education. The university said in a statement on its Facebook page that the suspension of the accreditation of a number of Jordanian universities was simply a move by the two countries to cut the flow of students to Jordan, noting that more than 700 Qatari students and about 300 Kuwaiti students were studying at the university.
Jordan has 32 universities, 10 public and 22 private, attended by about 291,000 students. Opening a new university and getting a license for any academic institution in the kingdom is subject to complex procedures and requires approvals from multiple government agencies. However, the measures for quality control following the opening of an academic institution—as in most Arab countries—seems to be unclear or inadequate. (See a related article, “A Regional Survey: How Arab Countries Regulate Quality in Higher Education.”)
Jordanian Ministry Responds
In media statements, Walid Maani, Jordan’s minister of higher education and scientific research, did not deny the existence of negative practices in some Jordanian universities, both public and private. He confirmed in a radio interview that some Jordanian universities made it too easy to earn certificates, responding to social-media reports that some Qatari students received a bachelor’s degree within eight months from some Jordanian universities. In addition, he acknowledged that some Jordanian universities do lower their admission requirements for international students, who pay higher tuition than Jordanian students.
“Some universities have been offering off-campus master’s-degree courses,” the minister said. “We have received feedback and we have told universities to stop teaching at any off-campus facilities, as well as to cancel intensive classes aimed at reducing the duration of the study,” said the minister. Maani said that there are 42,000 expatriate students in Jordanian universities. Most of them are Palestinians, followed by Syrians and Iraqis, while about 5,000 Qatari and Kuwaiti students study in Jordan.
For his part, Daas of the students’ rights group Thabahtoona (the name in Arabic means “you have slaughtered us”) called on the Ministry of Higher Education to be tougher on the universities that hurt the kingdom’s reputation for educational quality. He alluded to the pressure that international donors have put on Jordan to cut subsidies to public institutions, including universities, and to the “parallel programs” that cut admissions standards for some students in return for higher fees to them.
“The foundations of university admission, the parallel program, and the foundations of the accreditation of public and private universities should be reconsidered within a comprehensive national perspective that gives the country’s first and foremost interest a priority away from the influence of the capital and international financial institutions on the educational decision in Jordan,” he said.