Bulletin: Libya Seeks Universities’ Help after Derna Floods; Damascus U. Wins Key Accreditation 

AI in the Classroom: Ban It, or Embrace It?

In our new bulletin, Al-Fanar Media brings you the most prominent stories and news about higher education in the Arab world.

As AI chatbots and other artificial intelligence applications expand and their uses multiply, discussions among academics continue about whether the benefits of using these tools in the classroom outweigh their potential negative impacts on student learning.

Some professors argue for embracing AI chatbots in university education, while others are more focused on ways to confront and mitigate the misuse of these applications in students’ writing and research.

In this newsletter, we offer several news articles and commentaries that approach these concerns from multiple points of view. As AI tools steadily advance, Al-Fanar Media will continue to monitor conversations about the best uses of technology in education, always striving to present to you the visions of all sides.

Mohammad El-Hawary
Al-Fanar Media editor-in-chief

News from the Region:

Libyan Universities’ Expertise Is Sought in Response to Derna Floods

An academic committee in eastern Libya met this week in the devastated city of Derna to discuss ways universities could assist in efforts to support those affected by Storm Daniel. Floodwaters from the storm claimed the lives of more than 4,250 people, left thousands more missing, and displaced an estimated 40,000 people, ReliefWeb has reported.

According to a statement published by the University of Benghazi on September 25, the committee discussed cooperation between Libyan universities in many fields related to the challenges facing the country. The committee discussed the possibility of using university buildings to shelter people displaced by the floods and the importance of providing them with the necessary support in a safe and dignified environment.

The participants also touched on the expertise that colleges of medicine, agriculture, and natural resources could contribute to relief efforts, and discussed the readiness of the Centre for Psychological and Educational Research and Studies at Derna to assist in psychological support operations.

The committee stressed the need to make scientific research findings available to the authorities addressing the crisis, and for government agencies to benefit from those findings and make the necessary decisions.

U. of Sharjah to Host Student Championship in AI

On September 30, the University of Sharjah will host a national artificial intelligence competition, organised by the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Education in cooperation with the university’s College of Computing and Informatics. 

According to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), students from public and private schools will participate in the tournament, which focuses on developing students’ capabilities and talents in advanced technologies. The effort is part of a national educational, economic, and industrial strategy that promotes universities as an incubating environment for AI projects and smart innovations that contribute to future AI-based solutions.

لجنة أكاديمية لدعم النازحين من فيضانات درنة.. واعتماد عالمي للتعليم الطبي بجامعة دمشق
The University of Sharjah announces its hosting of a national championship in artificial intelligence. (Photo: WAM)

Damascus U. Faculty of Medicine Acquires International Accreditation

The Faculty of Medicine at Damascus University has obtained accreditation from the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME), Syria’s Ministry of Higher Education and Research announced.

According to the Syrian Arab News Agency, the medical faculty at Damascus University is the first in Syria to receive such accreditation. The university’s president, Muhammad Osama Al-Jabban, said this was a great breakthrough that would contribute to the recognition of the faculty’s diplomas internationally.

This accreditation ensures that graduates can practice their profession worldwide and can pursue further studies in medical specialisations abroad, Al-Jabban said.

Egyptian Doctoral Students at U. of Essex Get a Break on Tuition 

An agreement between Egypt’s Ministry of Higher Education and the University of Essex, in the United Kingdom, will provide lower tuition fees and other assistance to selected Egyptian students seeking doctoral degrees at the British institution.

The agreement, signed on the sidelines of an Egyptian-British forum that took place in Egypt’s New Administrative Capital this week, aims to enhance academic and research cooperation between the two sides, and provide support to Egyptian students studying at the British university, especially those in graduate programmes.

Under the agreement, the ministry explained in a statement, the British University will provide a 30 percent discount on tuition fees to Egyptian doctoral students nominated by the ministry, starting this year.

لجنة أكاديمية لدعم النازحين من فيضانات درنة.. واعتماد عالمي للتعليم الطبي بجامعة دمشق
British and Egyptian officials sign a memorandum of understanding that will benefit Egyptian doctoral students at the University of Essex. (Photo: Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research)

King Saud U. Cooperates with Company on Projects Linked to Labour Market Needs

King Saud University has signed an agreement with Elm, a company that specialises in digitisation and innovation, with the aim of cooperating in applied research and technical projects that advance knowledge and produce outcomes that apply to labour market needs.

According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the agreement will contribute to advancing research and innovation in the fields of science, engineering and technology. Company and university officials said the partnership would contribute to the building of a knowledge economy with optimal employment in science and technology, and help achieve the goals of the Kingdom’s “Vision 2030” plan for social and economic reforms.

From Al-Fanar Media:

Academics Map Opportunities to Benefit from AI in Arab Universities

Millions of jobs will be automated in full or in part by artificial intelligence (AI), reports say. That’s why academics are discussing the importance of reforming and reinventing higher education to equip students and graduates with the skills needed to find a place in the labour market. In conversations with Al-Fanar Media, several academics talked about how Arab universities can maximize the benefits of AI in higher education and avoid some of its negative effects. Read more in this article.  

Tips and Resources: 

The Best AI Tools to Help Students with Writing and Research

Artificial intelligence is infiltrating almost every aspect of daily life, including education. On the plus side, some AI tools can help students sharpen their writing and research skills. Al-Fanar Media asked some education experts about were the best for that purpose. They mentioned platforms that can help students analyse data and research, make predictions based on patterns and trends, and write accurately and correctly. They cautioned, however, that chatbots are imperfect and can produce biased, wrong, or even “hallucinated” results. The final fact-checking and tone of an article are still the student’s responsibility. Find out more in this article.  

Tools for Detecting AI-Assisted Writing and Research

Since ChatGPT was released last November, an increasing number of students are using artificial intelligence-powered, text-generating tools to write or assist them in writing research papers and other university assignments, or even to do their exams. Al-Fanar Media has been looking at some of the smart tools that university faculty members are using to help them spot signs of AI assistance in student writing and research. Learn more in this article


How Should Universities Respond to the Challenges of ChatGPT?

With ChatGPT, anyone can enter a question and have a unique answer generated in whatever format they desire, such as an essay or even a complete term paper with with realistic-sounding but possibly fake reference citations. This is far different from a conventional internet search, which identifies already existing texts related to your query.

While ChatGPT has limitations, developers are likely to address those swiftly. This presents some obvious integrity challenges for academia. What should universities and professors do in response? Logan Cochrane, an associate professor in the College of Public Policy at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, offers some ideas. Read more here.


‘Room 207’ Wins New Fans for Authors of Egyptian Horror Fiction

Based on a novel by the late Egyptian writer Ahmed Khaled Tawfik (1962–2018), the drama series “Room 207” is the latest in a string of popular screen adaptations of Egyptian horror, fantasy, and detective fiction. The show, which now tops the most-watched list on the Shahid streaming platform, presents a series of episodes in which characters who stay in a particular hotel room undergo soul-changing experiences. The audience follows Gamal, a hotel employee, as he attempts to solve the mystery of Room 207. Read more in this article


Al-Fanar Media maintains a database of quality scholarships available to Arab students, which we continuously update. To stay up to date on the latest scholarships available in international universities, check the Scholarships section here, and watch for updated feedback on free learning opportunities in our News and Reports section, here.

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