Kuwait’s recent decision to rescind its recognition of some universities in other Arab countries has left many students with nowhere to go, a student leader claims.
Faisal Al-Kandari, head of the Kuwaiti Students’ Union in Egypt, said the union supported cancelling Kuwait’s recognition of low-quality universities, but “we are facing a real disaster unless alternatives places are provided for students.” Al-Kandari said there were about 8,000 Kuwaiti students enrolled in Egyptian Universities.
The decisions, which were approved by Kuwait’s minister of higher education, Ali Fahad Al-Mudhaf, specified which Egyptian and Jordanian higher-education institutions Kuwaiti students may attend for undergraduate and graduate programmes.
Kuwaiti students in Egypt have to choose among nine universities to enrol in one of 106 approved majors, covering engineering, science, medicine, arts, law, business, accounting, and others.
The nine Egyptian universities are Ain Shams University, Al-Azhar University, Alexandria University, the American University in Cairo, Assiut University, Cairo University, Helwan University, Mansoura University, and the Academy of Arts. The last three of those were not included in the previous list of Egyptian universities approved by the ministry, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida.
“We support the decision if it is defending the quality of education and a way to find high-value programmes. However, we want the ministry to provide us with details and justifications for their decisions … in order not to harm students.”Faisal Al-Kandari Head of the Kuwaiti Students’ Union in Egypt
In Jordan, the Kuwaiti Ministry approved 111 majors in four universities, compared to five in the previous list. The institutions on the new list are the University of Jordan, Jordan University of Science and Technology, Yarmouk University, and Princess Sumaya University for Technology. The new list excludes the Hashemite University.
Questions About the Ministry’s Reasoning
Representatives of students affected by the decision attended a panel called “Pursuing Studies Is a Constitutional Right” on YouTube last week. In his speech to the panel, Al-Kandari, the student union leader, said: “We support the decision if it is defending the quality of education and a way to find high-value programmes. However, we want the ministry to provide us with details and justifications for their decisions and take into account the dates of implementation, in order not to harm students.”
“Where will these students go?” he asked.
Hamad Almatar, head of the Kuwaiti National Assembly’s Education Committee, also questioned the ministry’s action. “The decision is wrong; the number of universities cannot be reduced,” he tweeted. “All we want to know is the academic basis for such decisions.”
While he supports cancelling Kuwait’s recognition of majors at universities that do not meet the required standards, including private universities, Almatar is against dropping recognition of some majors at institutions such as Cairo and Ain Shams Universities.
The Kuwaiti Society for Education Quality, however, welcomed the decisions, saying “they came in response to the society’s pressure to exclude some universities.”
The society hopes the decision will be a first step toward the ministry blocking student scholarships at all Arab universities in all majors, approving instead only the most prestigious universities in the Gulf and in foreign countries, which it says are scientifically, technically and academically more advanced. It sees this as part of a future plan to ensure the quality of education and successful employment outcomes.
“The decision is wrong; the number of universities cannot be reduced. All we want to know is the academic basis for such decisions.”Hamad Almatar Head of the Kuwaiti National Assembly’s Education Committee
Al-Kandari criticised the “clear confusion” in the way the recent decision was taken.
He said the Kuwaiti Students’ Union in Egypt had supported an earlier decision, taken in 2018, that reduced the number of Kuwaiti-approved Egyptian universities from 30 to seven because it was “based on clear foundations, after a working team visited all Egyptian universities to evaluate them.”
The latest ruling, however, was “incomprehensible,” he said.
Al-Kandari also criticised the decision to suspend scholarships to study dentistry in all Arab countries, saying it “was not based on real data or information.”
He said he understood that the decision was initially based on the huge numbers of dentistry students, and the Ministry of Health’s assessment that it did not need more dentists. “However, the Civil Service Bureau issued a statement expressing its need for dentists,” he said. “This shows a kind of contradiction among Kuwait’s government agencies.”
Al-Kandari added that Kuwait’s Civil Service Bureau was the body entrusted with determining the country’s long-term employment needs, not the Ministry of Health.
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“The Ministry of Higher Education’s decision cited reports from the Kuwaiti Ministry of Health stating that the training and educational level of graduates of medical and dental faculties from Arab and Egyptian universities is very low,” Al-Kandari said. “The universities must be specific. We cannot make such broad statements without studies.”
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