Editor’ note: Al-Fanar Media is a strategic partner of the Mediterranean Universities Union.
Misperceptions, political instability, language barriers and a lack of skills and strategies for international cooperation are among the obstacles to increasing the scale of higher-education exchanges between countries north and south of the Mediterranean, according to a study published in June by the Union for the Mediterranean.
The study, commissioned by Union for the Mediterranean and conducted by the Union of Mediterranean Universities, surveyed students, faculty members and administrators from universities in 10 countries—Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia—with a focus on mobility flows to and from each country.
The report, titled “The Internationalisation of Higher Education in the Mediterranean: Current and Prospective Trends,” cites the lack of reciprocity as a major problem. While European universities are willing to welcome students and academics from the South Mediterranean, they are reluctant to reciprocate for many reasons, including Islamophobia and their misperceptions of the region.
“There is always a perception of insecurity and instability in MENA and the belief that on the other side of the Mediterranean you have extremism, even if that is not always true,” observes Marco Di Donato, a UNIMED researcher and co-author of the report.
“Even parents are scared to send their children to universities there,” he added, “and it is very difficult to make them recognize that these countries have opportunities and possibilities.”
Government policies and relations between states also can facilitate or obstruct the internationalization of education in the Mediterranean region.