Newsletter

Bulletin: New Academic Studies on Palestinian Identity, New Programmes in AI

The Most In-Demand Majors in Saudi Arabia

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

Today, I want to focus on some trends predicted in a consulting company’s recent report on higher education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

According to the report, “Higher Education in KSA: Changing Demand in Line with Vision 2030”, the kingdom will see strong population growth among youth of traditional college age, and growing demand for study programmes in artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies.

Saudi Arabia had an estimated population of 36.8 million people in 2022, and some 3.8 million of them (10.3 percent) were between the ages of 18 and 24. The number in this age group is expected to nearly double by 2030, to 7.1 million, or 15.7 percent of a total population of 45 million.

According to the report, about two million of those aged 18 to 24 were enrolled in higher-education institutes in 2022, with 95 percent of them attending public institutions (1.9 million students), compared to 100,000 students enrolled in private universities.

Figures show that females’ enrollment rate in universities, at 54 percent, is higher than males’, though the proportion of male students is significantly higher (86 percent) at other types of public postsecondary institutions offering technical, vocational, and military courses.

The most popular majors in 2022, by share of enrollment, were business administration and law, with 27 percent; humanities (22 percent); natural sciences (8 percent); and health and well-being (6 percent).

The group that prepared the report, Colliers Education Advisory & Valuation Services, expects Saudi Arabia will see an increase in demand for study programmes in artificial intelligence, robotic sciences, nuclear energy, renewable energy, and solar energy, influenced by the kingdom’s economic transformation priorities under the Vision 2030 plan.

Mohammad El-Hawary

Al-Fanar Media Editor-in-chief

From the Region:

Book Offers 9 New Academic Studies on Palestinian National Identity

On Tuesday, Palestine’s Birzeit University announced the publication of the second volume of the book: “Conceptualising Modern Palestine: Examples of Liberating Knowledge.”

According to a statement, the university said that the new publication includes nine academic studies examining the elements of Palestinian national identity through its land, people, and narrative, at the levels of imaginary Palestine, field Palestine, and cultural Palestine. Eight candidates from the doctoral program in social sciences at Birzeit University participated in the volume, in addition to the editor, as a contribution to the meanings of Palestine as an identity and cause.

Contributing to the book are Orouba Othman, Natalie Salama, Muhammad al-Sherbini, Bilal Shalash, Yasmin Qadan, Rula Sarhan, Suhaila Abdel Latif, and Muntaha Abed. They are doctoral candidates in social sciences at Birzeit University, and students of the second batch (2020-2021) in the course “Understanding Modern Palestine,” which is supervised by Abdul-Rahim al-Shaikh. Al-Shaikh, the book’s editor and also a contributor, is a professor of philosophy and cultural studies. For more details, click here.

Hamad Bin Khalifa U. Discusses Importance of Palestine to Islamic Civilisation 

The Mohammed Bin Hamad Al Thani Center for Muslim Contribution to Civilization at Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s College of Islamic Studies hosted Dr. Mohammad Al-Majali, a professor at Qatar University, for a public lecture on the significance of Palestine to Islamic civilisation.

The university said that Al-Majali drew insights from the Qur’an and the Sunnah to outline the historical connection between Palestine and Islam, exploring the historical journey of Palestine as the first qibla and the revered land of the Prophet Ibrahim and the Prophet Isa (Jesus). The talk also reaffirmed the significance of Palestine in the Islamic faith and Muslims’ religious identity. Al-Majali noted its pivotal role in shaping Islamic consciousness throughout its rich history, while also urging the Muslim community to reflect on Palestine’s importance to their faith in light of the ongoing crisis in Gaza.

Bulletin: New Academic Studies on Palestinian Identity, New Programmes in AI
Dr. Muhammad Al-Majali, professor at Qatar University, during a lecture on the importance of Palestine in Islamic civilization (Qena).

China Offers Scholarships for Palestinian Students

On Tuesday, Palestine’s Ministry of Higher Education announced the availability of several scholarships in the People’s Republic of China for postgraduate students (master’s and doctoral) in various majors for the year 2024/2025. The courses will be taught in either Chinese or English.

In a statement, the ministry explained that applicants must be of Palestinian nationality and must not have previously obtained a scholarship in China. Master’s degree applicants must not be older than 35, and doctoral candidates must not be older than 40. Applicants must also have achieved high grades in their previous studies. For more details, click here.

Saudi Arabia to Host the Al-Baha Hackathon for AI within Days

The Al-Baha Artificial Intelligence Hackathon, organised by the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) and Al-Baha University, will kick off on January 14 and will last for three days.

According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the Al-Baha Hackathon will be attended by over 200 male and female students from the university and the region’s technical colleges. The entrants will compete in developing smart solutions that use technology to improve life quality in cities. They will tackle challenges in four tracks: transportation services, tourism, security, and the environment.

U. of Fujairah Launches Programmes in Data Science and AI 

The University of Fujairah has obtained approval from the U.A.E. Ministry of Education’s Academic Accreditation Commission to offer two new specialisations in its Bachelor of Computer Science programme: “Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning” and “Data Science”. In addition, a specialisation in “Networks and Information Security” has been re-accredited and is also offered under the Bachelor of Computer Science degree. All three programmes are now open for admission and registration.

According to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), Professor Ghassan Al-Qaymari, chancellor of the university, said: “The University of Fujairah is proud to offer these specialisations in accordance with the insightful vision of the wise leadership in the United Arab Emirates,” which has directed all bodies and institutions in the country to make artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies part of their strategic plans in providing services and analysing data. 

From Al-Fanar Media

Mauritanian University Students Demand Better Education and Services

The National Union of Mauritanian Students says protests that it started in mid-December to highlight its demands for improvements in educational and campus services at universities will continue until higher-education officials adequately respond. The protests began on December 13, more than two months into the new academic year. In the most recent protest, held on December 28 in the new university complex of the University of Nouakchott, students marched from the teaching faculties to the university restaurant. Read more in this article.   

In Conflict: 

How Can Arab Academics Support the Palestinian Cause? Professors Offer Ideas

In a new episode of Al-Fanar Media’s series of panel discussions, Arab academics recently discussed the role university professors can play in supporting the Palestinian cause. The discussion took place on December 11, more than two months into the current war Israel launched on Gaza in October, in response to a deadly Hamas attack inside Israel. The participants’ suggestions included networking with other academics around the world who support the Palestinian cause, and teaching younger generations to take up the issue on knowledge-based grounds, using logical argumentation rather than an aggressive “us/them” posture. Read more in this article.

Tips and Resources: 

Academic Advisers and Their Role at Arab Universities

From a student’s first days at university to their final exams, most Arab universities now provide academic advisers to smooth the path. Al-Fanar Media has been looking at the role of these advisers and what academic advising consists of. We gathered the thoughts of several academics and their institutions about the types of information and support academic advisers provide, including helping students identify educational and career goals in line with their personal abilities, values, and interests. Read more in this article

Opinion: 

Al -Fanar Media’s New Year’s Harvest in Service of Arab Higher Education

Throughout 2023, Al-Fanar Media worked hard to complete efforts to make its content more diverse, including in-depth news stories, feature stories, interviews, op-eds, and special coverage of topics and events, including impacts on higher education, research, and culture in conflict zones. We also presented new podcast episodes, online panel discussions, and higher-education newsletters and news bulletins. We also provided professional, reliable content, adhering to independence and high standards of credibility, on topics of interest to Arab youth, including university students, those preparing to enter university, and fresh graduates. Read more the work we have started and our plans for the year ahead in this article

Podcast: 

‘Experiences in Teaching Media Literacy’: New Episode of Al-Fanar Media Podcast

A new episode of Al-Fanar Media Podcast focuses on experiences in teaching media literacy to university and pre-university students in the Arab world. In the episode, Mohammad El-Hawary, Al-Fanar Media’s editor-in-chief, discusses Jordan’s experience in teaching media literacy and trying to provide Arab youth with skills they need to know about verifying information, in light of widespread bias and misinformation in media outlets.

The episode also presents academics explaining how to scrutinise information, and their opinions on the concept of media literacy in the West and in Arab societies. You can listen to this episode, and others in the series, on SoundCloud, Spotify, or YouTube.

Scholarships 

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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