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Head of Bahrain’s Royal University for Women Is Keen to Tackle the Global Skills Gap

Arab high school graduates do not have the applied science and technical skills that the local and international labour markets want, says Yusra Mouzughi, president of Bahrain’s Royal University for Women.

“They also lack the soft skills that would make them future leaders. Such data double the responsibilities of universities to provide students with the skills needed by the global labour market,” she said in an interview with Al-Fanar Media.

Mouzughi, who took up her role last year, added that new standards and different skills had become essential for all university graduates and confirmed the need for a continuous dialogue between universities and the labour market.

Steps she is taking as president of the Bahraini institution include merging some of the university’s faculties and changing the organisational structure to try to react to market needs. These changes are awaiting the approval of the University’s Board of Trustees.

She also fostered the development of the university’s new undergraduate programme in Digital Media and Interactive Technology, which will commence in September.

British-Libyan Background

Universities have a responsibility to provide students with the skills that local and international businesses want, says Yusra Mouzughji, president of Bahrain’s Royal University for Women.

Born in Libya and educated in the United Kingdom, Mouzughi has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Richmond College in London, an M.B.A. from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, and a Ph.D. in knowledge management from Liverpool John Moores University.

She has led Bahrain’s Royal University for Women since May 2021, after previously serving as president of Muscat University, in Oman, for three years.

Mouzughi told Al-Fanar Media she had found it very difficult starting work in her current post in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. A key concern was trying to ensure the continuity of education for her female students despite the difficulties of online learning.

The university opened in 2005 after its accreditation by Bahrain’s Higher Education Council as the kingdom’s first international university dedicated exclusively to women.

Mouzughi’s plan after arrival involved improving faculty members’ online learning skills and linking the curricula to the labour market. She also wanted to increase research output in quantity and quality, to ensure the university’s standing and finances.

Mouzughi said she was also keen to empower female graduates to be able to join the labour market, by enhancing their skills and following up on their professional and practical development later on.

Women’s Issues Are Workforce Issues

Mouzughi told Al-Fanar Media that women’s entitlement to education and work was well established in the Gulf countries and that the issue had now become people’s competence to take up positions, regardless of gender.

“Our university aims to empower women in their society, through excellence in educational curricula, character building, and enhancing their practical and professional experiences.”

Yusra Mouzughi

She believes the obstacles Gulf women now face are global ones, and not specific to the nature of these countries’ societies. Family responsibilities and domestic duties are the most prominent factors limiting a woman’s ability to keep pace with changes, she said.

Mouzughi thinks educational institutions for women have changed their role since women’s entry into higher education became the norm in recent decades.

“Our university strives to provide an experience that fits the way women learn, apart from mere segregation from males,” she said. “The way women learn is different from that of men. Female graduates of universities dedicated to females are more self-confident compared to graduates of mixed universities, and more able to assume leadership positions.”

While some families prefer to enroll their daughters in universities for women for religious and social reasons, Mouzughi said the majority of students who choose such universities do so because these institutions provide what other universities do not.

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“Our university aims to empower women in their society, through excellence in educational curricula, character building, and enhancing their practical and professional experiences,” she said. “This will reflect positively on their community.”

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