Editor’s note: This is the lead article in a package based on research by Al-Fanar Media into job benefits and protections for professors in universities in 11 Arab countries. See additional articles from Sudan, Tunisia and Lebanon.
University professors in Arab countries have long complained about poor wages, but recent interviews and research by Al-Fanar Media also found widespread dissatisfaction with other work conditions, such as a lack of basic benefits and short-term contracts that make their livelihoods precarious. Many are also discouraged by the absence of independent faculty unions to defend their rights.
These conditions—and governments’ and universities’ failure to respond to them—make some professors regret choosing an academic career and contribute to an exodus of academic talent from the region.
To learn about professors’ work conditions, Al-Fanar Media collected information about hiring policies and terms of employment from government and university websites, and conducted interviews with 75 professors at public and private universities in 11 countries: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Qatar, Sudan, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
This research found that while professors at private universities often have good salaries compared to their counterparts in public universities, many say they still do not get basic benefits such as social or health insurance, but work under contracts that specify their teaching tasks and their pay, without any other allowances.
Many professors also lack basic job security because they work under contracts that university administrations can terminate without prior notice and without paying compensation. Moreover, public universities, which usually pay lower wages, have recently started to move towards concluding temporary contracts with many professors under the urgency of calls to hire more faculty members and the lack of funding needed to achieve this. As a result, many professors work today with low salaries and without benefits. (See a related article, “The Economic Struggle of Public-University Professors.”)