King Khalid U. Opens VR Technology Lab, Birzeit U. Starts New Doctoral Programme

Artificial Intelligence and Higher Education

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

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the hot topic of debate in academic circles these days. Questions swirl around it.

Are we too afraid of using AI applications? By focusing on their drawbacks, are we missing real opportunities to reap benefits from using these applications?

This controversy won’t be resolved overnight. The search for realistic answers requires two things. The first is transparency and dialogue, and the second is drawing lessons learned from the use of AI applications.

At Al-Fanar Media, we are doing our best to provide a transparent discussion of the pros and cons of AI applications and monitor the lessons learned from the application.

In this bulletin, we bring you stories and commentaries with different perspectives on the use of AI applications in higher education.

Mohammad El-Hawary 


News from the Region

King Khalid U. Launches Virtual Reality Technology Lab

Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid University has launched the Virtual Reality Technology Laboratory, a huge social network that includes a combination of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and three-dimensional (3D) environments.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, the lab aims to help develop online educational content in an interactive manner and improve learners’ experience by transforming online courses from traditional education to innovative, interactive methods.

Adel Qahmash, dean of e-learning at the university, explained that virtual laboratories are one of the main applications of VR technology in the field of education. The technology provides realistic educational experiences that help enhance students’ understanding and learning interactively.

Emirati and Russian Universities Open Joint AI Lab for Biomedical Research

A delegation from the University of Sharjah recently visited Skoltech, a STEM university in Moscow, to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, explore innovative opportunities, and strengthen collaborative efforts in research and development. During this visit, the two universities celebrated the opening of the joint Biomedically-InforMed Artificial Intelligence (BIMAI) Laboratory.

According to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), the laboratory signifies a transformative era in medicine, focusing on advancing tailored artificial intelligence and machine-learning solutions for biomedical applications.

The project is expected to deliver groundbreaking developments in complex disease diagnostics, prognosis, and treatment strategies, and accelerate the translation of research into commercial products.

King Khalid U. Opens VR Technology Lab, Birzeit U. Starts New Doctoral Programme
A partnership between the University of Sharjah and the Russian Skoltech to establish a laboratory in artificial intelligence (WAM).

Birzeit U. Opens Doctoral Programme in Educational Development 

The College of Education at Palestine’s Birzeit University has received approval from the National Accreditation and Quality Assurance Commission for a new doctoral programme in educational development.

In a news release, the university said the programme aims to prepare specialised educators in the fields of teacher training, school improvement, and educational leadership “in the Palestinian context, which is characterised by the occupation of a settler-colonial system”.

The university explained that the programme also aims to meet the need to develop faculty members in Palestinian colleges of education that offer teacher-education programmes for those who do not hold a degree in education, and to facilitate the professional development of senior specialised practitioners in government ministries.

ICESCO Calls on Young People to Develop Critical Thinking 

Salem bin Mohammed Al-Malik, director-general of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO), called on young people to develop their critical thinking skills in an era characterised by the massive flow of information.

He spoke at ADA University in Baku, Azerbaijan, which hosted a series of lectures and meetings to mark the launch of ICESCO’s new “Youth Dialogues” programme. Al-Malik stressed the centrality of young people in preserving the environment and contributing to creating a safe living space on Earth.

Other speakers at the event also emphasised the need to enhance the capabilities of young people through continuous education and upskilling, especially in a context characterized by digital transformation and AI mechanisms, and paying attention to the role of space science applications in achieving development.

Emerging Startups Win Awards at DMZ-Cairo Event

Several start-ups won awards at the business incubator DMZ-Cairo’s recent Demo Day 2023, where participating companies showcased their innovative business models.

Tutoruu and Credify, two startups that participated in DMZ-Cairo’s Incubator Cycle 2, won the opportunity to attend an advanced training called DMZ-YYZ, in Toronto, Canada, next summer. The programme helps startups at the global growth stage launch their businesses in North America.

At the same event, the DMZ-Cairo Fintech Bootcamp, powered by EBank (the Export Development Bank of Egypt), presented financial rewards to the three financial technology startups that performed best in its latest six-week bootcamp.

DMZ-Cairo is a partnership between the Universities of Canada in Egypt and The DMZ, a world-leading technology incubator based in Toronto. DMZ Cairo’s Incubator Cycle 2 was held in partnership with Egypt’s Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT) through the National Programme for Technology Incubators (INTILAC).

تكنولوجيا الواقع الافتراضي في تجربة تعليمية بجامعة الملك خالد.. وبرنامج جديد في التطوير التربوي بجامعة بيرزيت
Part of honoring representatives of emerging companies at an event for the business incubator “DMZ – Cairo”.

From Al-Fanar Media:

Why Study AI? A Guide to AI Studies and Jobs

There are good reasons for the surge of interest among Arab university students in artificial intelligence (AI) studies. Experts note the increasing importance of AI technologies in many fields, and an increased demand for AI graduates in the labour market. Al-Fanar Media offers a brief guide to the many academic disciplines involved in AI studies and the careers available to graduates in this rapidly expanding field. Read more in this article.


Don’t Ban AI, a Professor Argues. Instead, Use It to Transform Higher Education.

Zoe Hurley, an assistant professor at Zayed University, talks about the negative impact of the efforts made to ignore or ban generative artificial intelligence. This reflects the fears of some academics and universities of being replaced by machines in the near future. She points to interdisciplinary studies and the opportunities they provide to reimagine and evaluate the opportunities for students to benefit from AI technologies, in a way that maximises the advantages versus the disadvantages. Read more in this article.


Egypt University of Informatics Seeks to Prepare New Technology Leaders

As Arab higher education institutions strive to keep pace with the rapid growth in technological innovations, the Egypt University of Informatics (EUI) stands out as a private university specialised in information and communication technology in the Middle East and Africa. In an interview with Al-Fanar Media, Reem Bahgat, president of the university, said the university seeks to link students to the local and international labour markets through programmes and partnerships with international universities. Read more here.

Tips and Resources: 

9 Steps to Create a Successful Self-Learning Plan

The beginning of a new year is an opportunity to prepare a list of things you hope to achieve. But for dreams to come true, they must be translated into specific goals with a clear and measurable time frame. If you are a student, or a graduate looking to develop your skills, you probably aspire to be more productive in the new year. Increasing the rate of self-learning is the ideal way to achieve this ambition. Explore more in this article


‘Back to Alif’: Art Inspired by the Holy Letter of the Arabic Alphabet

The artist Nada Abdallah does not hide her devotion to the letter alif. “Alif is the beginning, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and the first letter of the name Allah,” she says. To express these many meanings, Abdallah has devoted her energy, time, skill, and knowledge of Arabic calligraphy. Explore 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 for study at universities around the world, 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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