Fear of the New
In our new bulletin, Al-Fanar Media brings you our most prominent news and stories about higher education in the Arab world.
Renewal and change are life’s constant laws. Human beings by nature fear the unknown, and feel worried and suspicious about anything new.
Personally, I am not from the generation that was born in the age of technology, nor am I one of its antagonists. I have used a dial telephone, a push-button telephone, a wireless telephone, a mobile phone, and then a smartphone.
As a journalist, I have used “dasht” paper, the beige recycled scrap paper we used to write our stories on. I remember how many newsroom colleagues complained when they had to switch to writing on the computer. Some of them actually quit.
Development and innovation are continuously reshaping the news industry, from the Internet era, new systems and applications in the newsroom, and now artificial intelligence.
In education, development and innovation have not proceeded at the same pace. There are continuous attempts, but they require more speed.
No one can stop change. It may move slowly, but it remains strong. What is important is managing the process of change and renewal, before we search for the scrap paper in our past memories.
Al-Fanar Media Editor-in-chief
From the Region:
Birzeit U. Calls for Papers on Forced Migration of Palestinians in Gaza
Birzeit University’s School of Graduate Studies is asking researchers to contribute to a series of working papers on the forced migration of Palestinians in northern and central Gaza towards the south. This new series, hosted by the Forced Migration Unit within the School of Graduate Studies, seeks to engage academics in exploring the challenges associated with forced expulsions that Gazans have endured since October 7, when Israel launched its war in Gaza after a deadly Hamas attack in Israel.
In a statement, the university said: “The urgent situation unfolding in Gaza of genocide against unarmed families, women and children, of expulsion of Palestinians from their ancestral lands and the aggravating humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by the harsh winter conditions, demands immediate attention from the global community.”
Saudi Arabia Launches New Round of AlUla Scholarships
The Royal Commission for AlUla, in Saudi Arabia, has launched the fourth round of the AlUla Scholarship Programme. The commission is a Saudi government body that oversees efforts to develop tourism in AlUla, a picturesque cultural heritage site in the desert northwest of Medina. According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the scholarship programme aims to prepare young men and women for active roles in the transformation of AlUla, in line with the commission’s goals.
The scholarships cover study in several fields, including agriculture, archaeology and museums, arts, communication management, environmental sciences, facilities and services management, history, tourism and hospitality, and urban planning. Recipients are expected to strengthen the local labour market, take leadership roles in the diversification of AlUla’s economic and cultural landscape, and contribute to enhancing its position as a center of knowledge, culture and environmental leadership.
Jordanian Students Invent a Chip to Track Suitcases
On Sunday, a group of students with special needs at the University of Jordan discussed a project in which they created an electronic chip to track suitcases. In a statement, the university said the project was co-produced by eight deaf students from various majors and nationalities.
The idea for the project was to invent an electronic chip that would reduce the chances of luggage getting lost during travel and avoid wasting time in recovering lost suitcases. The project was part of an elective course that introduces students to the concepts of creativity and leadership, and provides them with knowledge and skills to turn ideas into viable projects.
Egypt Hosts Competition for University Students in Environmental Sustainability
In a statement, Diaa Khalil, executive director of the Innovators Support Fund, said that the competition encourages students at Egyptian universities and higher institutes to develop innovative ideas that support environmental and social sustainability and have a positive impact on society, in keeping with the National Strategy for Higher Education and Scientific Research 2030.
The first-place winner will receive a prize of 100,000 Egyptian pounds (approximately $3,250 U.S.) and will represent Egypt in the global Hult Prize 2024 competition, which carries a $1 million top prize.
Qatar-Oman Forum Discusses Tourism’s Role in Establishing Gulf Identity
The five-day Oasis of Dialogue Forum, jointly organised by the national debate centres in Qatar and Oman, kicked off on January 5 in Muscat, Oman. A session this week focused on tourism’s role in establishing Gulf identity, bringing people from across the region closer, and fostering cultural exchange between the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and the world.
The forum has welcomed a number of GCC officials and over 50 talented youth from various Gulf countries for a series of workshops, panel discussions, and other sessions. On the topic of tourism and Gulf identity, Qatari student Mohammed Al-Buainain, from Texas A&M University, said that recreational tourism may to some extent undermine regional identity with the revamping of tourist destinations to entertain foreign visitors, but “it also contributes to fostering cultural exchange between people from the Gulf and other nations.”
From Al-Fanar Media:
In its first-ever classification, the Arab Ranking of Universities Council has released the 2023 Arab Ranking for Universities, which evaluates 115 universities in 16 countries. The ranking evaluates institutions based on four indicators: education and learning; scientific research; creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation; and international and local cooperation and community service.
Saudi Arabia’s King Saud University took first place in the classification, which was issued on December 21. Egypt, with 28 ranked universities, was the country most represented on the list. Read more about the new ranking in this article.
Seventy-two universities in Arab countries are included in the QS World University Rankings on Sustainability for 2024, more than four times as many as last year. The classification, published by the British higher-education analytics company QS Quacquarelli Symonds, evaluates how universities are taking action to tackle the world’s most pressing environmental and social issues.
The American University of Beirut was the top-ranked Arab institution, placing 152nd, which put it in the top 11 percent of all 1,397 universities ranked. Egypt was the most represented Arab country, with 18 ranked universities, followed by Saudi Arabia with 17.
Read more in this article.
The victims of Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza include a top Palestinian scientist, Sofyan Taya, who was killed along with his family in an Israeli airstrike on Al-Faluja neighbourhood, north of Gaza City, on December 2, according to news reports.
Professor Taya was president of the Islamic University of Gaza and was a professor of theoretical physics in its Faculty of Science. He was born in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip and graduated from its schools. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees in physics from the Islamic University, and had recently been appointed Unesco’s chairman for astronomy, astrophysics and space sciences in Palestine. Read more in this article.
Tips and Resources:
As Arab university students get busy with their academic lives, they should keep in mind that participating in extracurricular activities can boost their soft skills, help them develop latent talents, and benefit their lives at school and after graduation. Explore more in this article.
Armed conflicts, violence, human-rights violations, and natural disasters have displaced millions of people around the globe, including an unknown number of scientists, doctors, engineers, and others with advanced technical training. Unless more is done to support them, the world risks losing a generation of scholars and their expertise, the Egyptian academic Tarek Kapiel writes in an essay for Al-Fanar Media.
The international scientific community can and should do more to ensure that displaced scholars can continue contributing to their local communities and the world, says Kapiel, who is an assistant professor of biotechnology in the Faculty of Science at Cairo University.
Art and Culture:
The unrealistic, stereotyped views of the East that flourished under Orientalism are still reflected in modern culture, according to speakers at a recent Doha Debates event. “Orientalism is not just an artistic movement,” the Pakistani journalist and author Fatima Bhutto said. “It can have real-world implications on how people view each other, and can reinforce harmful stereotypes.”
Bhutto was among several art scholars, critics and journalists who spoke during a panel discussion called “Orientalism Demystified: Eastern Insights on Western Myths”, as part of the Doha Debates Town Hall series. The panel members explored how Orientalist art shaped Western views of the East through its portrayals of Arab, Asian, and North African people, places, culture and history. They also discussed whether museums should still display Orientalist works, given the often negative connotations these artworks carry. Read more about the debate in this article.
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