Monday, December 10, 2007


Najem, Tom Pierre and Hetherington, Martin. (2003) Good Governance in the             Middle East Oil Monarchies. London: Routledge Curzon

Official brochures from the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Embassy of the State of Qatar and Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia

UAE’s Ministry of Education website

Commission for Academic Accreditation website (

Supreme Education Council of Qatar website

Ministry of Education Saudi Arabia website


The three Middle Eastern monarchies have many similarities in their public higher education systems. First, education is a priority in all three countries. Second, public tertiary education is free in these states and institutions of higher education are sufficient and offer diverse programs. Third, the states and academe have made extensive linkages with industry.

These states only differ in their focus in higher education. In UAE, the focus is on research and development. In Qatar, the state has allowed more institutions that can compete and complement public higher education. In Saudi Arabia, the state has built and expanded universities and colleges.

The unique features in UAE are the high application participation rates in public tertiary education. In Qatar, the government has shown great initiative in reforming education, as seen in the “Education for a New Era” program. In Saudi Arabia, Islamic values and principles contribute in higher education.

In conclusion based from the study, the public tertiary education in these three countries are high-quality and can compete with other educational systems around the world. This signifies that the standard of living in these states are high and it is an indicator of good governance.

Part 3 - Findings: Data Analysis


Who or what government agencies are in charge of public tertiary education in your country? What is the scope of authority of the persons or agencies in charge of education?

Qatar created the Higher Education Institute (HEI) to ensure that their citizens get the best tertiary education. The HEI has three main functions and sections. First, the Advising and Career Center gives information and guidance on educational, career and professional opportunities to secondary and tertiary students and employees. Second, the Scholarship Office offers many educational grants to enable citizens to study in the best institutions at home and abroad. Third, the Institutional Standards Office evaluates and accredits institutions and develops benchmarks for higher education. The HEI oversees the premier higher education institution in the country, Qatar University.

In Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Higher Education is in charge of all universities, colleges and other tertiary institutions. The ministry has a long-term plan to train citizens with knowledge and skills to enable them to manage the Saudi Arabian economy. One aim of the ministry is to create new public tertiary education institutes and to expand and improve present universities and colleges. Moreover, the Supreme Higher Education Council forms unified policies and regulations on public tertiary education. There are several universities and colleges in Saudi Arabia. The six largest public institutions are the following: King Saud University, Islamic University, King Abdulaziz University, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, King Faisal University and King Khalid University.

The Ministry of Higher Education is responsible for public tertiary education in UAE. The Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) of the Ministry of Higher Education oversees the licensure of higher education institutions and the accreditation of the offered programs. The CAA guarantees that the UAE’s universities and colleges offer the best and highest quality of tertiary education that can compete with its international standards. The Ministry of Higher Education is also in charge of the undergraduate admissions in the five largest higher education institutions in the UAE, namely: UAE University, Zayed University, Higher Colleges of Technology, University of Sharjah and Gulf Medical College.

Is education the number one priority in government services?

Though Qatar has many oil and natural gas reserves, the state regards its people as its greatest resource and believes that the “intellectual wealth” of the Qatari people would maintain the country’s long-term development. The state of Qatar launched the “Education for a New Era” and the Supreme Education Council to reform, improve and direct the country’s schooling to ensure that its citizens are globally competitive. The government gave more scholarships for Qataris to enter top universities and improved the public higher education system to international standards. The Qatar Foundation created Education City, a 2,500-acre campus composed of branches of some of the world’s leading universities, libraries, research institutes, science and technology parks, teaching hospitals and other facilities.

Saudi Arabia has focused more attention and investment in higher education as the country experienced rapid growth since the 1970s. The state allocated the highest amount of its budget to education in 2006, which gave $US 283.28 billion to schools, universities, technical and vocational training. Besides building new universities and improving existing institutions, Saudi Arabia has improved higher education in three ways: 1) offering more degrees in new fields; 2) promoting more cooperation among the universities, colleges and institutes; and 3) giving more independence and involvement to faculty and teachers in the operations of their universities or institutions. King Abdullah has recently approved 17 new colleges in the country, including several programs for women. Several institutes offer vocational and specialized courses, give adult education and teach the physically and mentally handicapped.

UAE considers its population the “wealth of the nation” and so with the increase in population, investments in education as well as in other social services like health care have been constantly improved. UAE aims to maintain its high standards of living, thus investments in education have been reaping its benefits for the people. Currently, UAE is known for its grand-scale infrastructure projects and an evidence that education is one of the priorities of the government is the incorporation of education infrastructure projects. Dubai is setting-up a 2.33-million-square-metre, multi-university complex, Dubai Knowledge Universities (DKU), in the heart of its ‘Academic City.’

What laws have your country passed to improve public tertiary education?

Qatar has passed laws and launched programs to improve higher education. First is the Emiri decree #37, which created the Supreme Education Council and the Higher Education Institute. Second is the “Education for a New Era,” a reform plan to improve the standards of education from preschool to university. Qatar had many improvements as a result of these laws and reforms. Public tertiary institutions have international accreditation and benchmarks. Scholarship programs are offered to 1,500 Qataris to study in leading universities at home and abroad; this number is likely to rise. Applications to state institutions and government scholarships are now in electronic format. Students now use more educational software, such as Blackboard and Microsoft Learning Gateway, and some schools provide tablet computers to their students.

In Saudi Arabia, the government is focused on developing higher education. The government has created several new universities and colleges and improved current institutions. With so many universities and institutes, Saudi students can earn degrees in almost any field. They can later seek specialization abroad with government scholarships. For instance, King Abdullah has approved 17 new colleges in the country, as well as several programs for women. The King also laid the foundation stone for a university for science and technology worth $US 2.6 billion in Taif. The previous ruler, the late King Fahd, introduced changes in the Higher Education Council and the University System to improve the efficiency and quality of Saudi universities and colleges.

Although UAE has reached very high academic standards, the government recognizes that there should be constant updating of policies and continuous infrastructure developments. There is a current educational strategy employed by the Ministry of Education, composed of five-year plans that will last up to 2020. The main objective is to include IT education at all levels, including at the college level. For example, one of the goals is to provide a computer for every ten children in kindergarten, every five pupils in primary schools, every two students in preparatory schools and one computer per student in universities. Another important educational policy is the collaboration between the public and private sectors. The Abu Dhabi Education Council, an independent corporate body, was formed to develop education and educational institutions in the emirate. The “Public-Private Partnership for Public School Managements” is one of its initiatives to improve the quality of public education. ADEC issued a decree in 2006 abolishing fees at model schools in Abu Dhabi. ADEC has also entered into an agreement in which Zayed University will assist in developing the English language skills of elementary level students at four model schools. Furthermore, the UAE University partnered with Mubadala Development Company for a 30-year concession agreement in 2004 that will enable the development of the new facilities on a BOOT basis (Build Own Operate and Transfer).

Data Analysis:

Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have similarities in their legal framework regarding public tertiary education. The three countries all place priority in education. Both Qatar and UAE believe that human resources are part of the wealth of their nations, thus the need for human development through education. Saudi Arabia’s government believes in the inculcation of Islamic faith in higher education that will complement its development goals.

All three countries have policies that aim to improve public tertiary education; the difference lies in the focus of each country. Qatar is focusing on acquiring international standards by creating connections with Western universities such as Georgetown University. UAE is focusing on research and science and technology, particularly information technology. Saudi Arabia is improving public tertiary education by building more colleges and universities.


How many people are enrolled in colleges and universities in your country?

Qatar has a small and young population with high educational attainment. Even though majority of people of Qatar are young, the number of citizens with university education in 2004 was 92,292 or 14.7% of the population. People with a diploma beyond high school numbered 24,319 or 3.9% of Qataris. Those with higher diplomas, masteral degrees and doctoral degrees comprised 1.2% of the population or 7,772 people.

In Saudi Arabia, around 200,000 students were enrolled at Saudi universities and colleges for the 2003-2004 academic year. More than half of the students are female in the universities for both male and female. There are also several universities only for women. Many male students study abroad or at foreign universities at home.

UAE has one of the world’s highest application participation rates in tertiary education in the world. Ninety-five percent (95%) of all females and eighty percent (80%) of all males who enrolled in the final year of secondary school apply for admission to a higher education institution or to study abroad.

Are the costs for public tertiary education affordable?

Qatar provides free education from preschool to university to all citizens. Support, advice and guidance are provided by the state to help students and families choose the best schools and career options. Scholarships are given to citizens who are qualified to study at home and overseas. Many private institutions with state support exist in Qatar.

Education is free in Saudi Arabia at all levels, from preschool to university. Those who wish to study overseas can apply for scholarships. Some private institutions exist in Saudi Arabia, though not as many as in other Gulf states. The educational system gives free tuition, books and health services. Some students can also qualify for allowances.

Education at all levels, from kindergarten to university, is free for all citizens of the UAE. There is also an extensive private education sector in the country should nationals wish to study in private institutions. Additionally, students may opt to pursue higher education abroad at the Government’s expense.

How many state colleges, universities and other tertiary institutions exist in your country?

The premier state university is Qatar University, which has six colleges and two programs: foundation and pharmacy. The colleges deal with the following disciplines: education, arts & sciences, Sharia & Islamic studies, law, engineering, and business & economics. Qatar University focuses on general education, research and linkages with industry and has 27,000 graduates. Qatar also has other colleges and vocational institutes.

Saudi Arabia has twenty public universities and many colleges and other higher education institutions. The six leading public universities are the following: King Saud University, Islamic University, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, King Abdulaziz University, King Faisal University and King Khalid University. King Saud University is the oldest public tertiary institution in the country. This university has some 25,000 students and offers undergraduate until doctorate degrees in various disciplines. Islamic University is the center for Islamic studies and culture with many branches in other countries. King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals is a leading institute in science and engineering, especially in petroleum technology and environmental concerns. Both King Abdulaziz University and King Khalid University offer a variety of programs and degrees. King Faisal University is noted for its agricultural and veterinary science programs and experimental farms. Women are able to study in public universities and in colleges exclusively for females. Higher education in Saudi Arabia impart Islamic values and principles and help students reach the development goals of the country.

There are several government institutions for higher learning in the UAE, including vocational schools. The three leading government institutions are the UAE University (UAEU), Zayed University (ZU), and Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT). UAEU is the country’s flagship national university. It offers over 70 undergraduate programs and a number of graduate programs in various disciplines. UAEU is focusing more on research and graduate studies and is moving from an open enrolment to a more restricted policy. ZU was established with the purpose of educating the women of UAE. It is organized academically into five colleges: Arts and Sciences, Business Sciences, Communication and Media Sciences, Education, and Information Systems. The students are expected to be bilingual, proficient in both English and Arabic, as well as proficient in IT and quantitative and research skills. HCT is a system of UAE colleges designed to offer a more technically oriented education. At present, 12 men’s and women’s colleges in the various emirates provide a diversity of programs to over 15,000 students in modern, technologically equipped campuses.

Data Analysis:

All three states are the same in that they provide free education for all their citizens from pre-school to university. They even send students abroad on government scholarships. All three countries have reputable state-run universities. It can be concluded that public tertiary education in all three countries is highly accessible to their citizens. One unique feature of the UAE is the participation application rate in tertiary education, which is one of the highest in the world. 95% of females and 80% of males in the final year of secondary education apply for college.

Variable 3: LINKAGES     

Do your college and university graduates have high employment rates?

In Qatar, economically active citizens amount to 77.1% of the population or 444,133 people. Those who are not yet part of the labor force include the following: housewives, 11.9% of the population; students, 8.6%; and the unemployed, 2.1%. For the employment statistics according to economic sectors, construction has the most number of employees, with 26.8% of the labor force. Trade, public administration and domestic service hold around 12% each of the working population. Manufacturing captures 9.2% of the workforce while education has 4.5%. According to an estimate in 1999, around 70% of the population are expatriate workers, many from South Asia. Though foreign workers tend to dominate the private sector, unemployment among Qataris tend to be low since many are absorbed in the public sector or state-owned industries.

Saudi Arabia has a very young population. People aging from 15 to 39 years comprise 38% of the population in 1999. In 2001, the total labor force in Saudi Arabia amounted to 6,089,767 people. However, a little more than 3 million of the labor force are foreign workers while the rest are Saudi nationals. The population not part of the labor force amounted to more than 6 million in 2002. Most of the work force fall under the following sectors: service with almost 1.8 million people, professional/technical with more than 1 million, and production with almost 1.5 million. Since the population of Saudi Arabia is very young, this factor has become a challenge for the government. Job creation is an vital national goal and the process of Saudisation has been started to enable nationals to take over much of private sector employment.

The UAE is one of the very few countries in the world where foreigners dominate the private sector, both as employers and employees. At present the majority of the national workforce (88%) is working in a public sector that has reached saturation point and is, therefore, incapable of absorbing the 16,187 nationals entering the job market in 2006. This figure will rise to 19,610 in 2010 and 40,000 by 2020. At present, UAE nationals account for a very small percentage of the total workforce in the private sector, while private sector employment accounts for 52.1% of the jobs in the UAE. Therefore, the creation of job opportunities for national graduates in the private sector is a situation that the Federal Government is anxious to address. One strategy put in place was the establishment in 2001 of the National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority (Tanmia), an independent body whose main objectives are to create job opportunities for UAE nationals, especially in the private sector, reduce the unemployment ratio, enhance the skills and productivity of the national workforce through relevant training, undertake policy-oriented research on a multiplicity of labour-market issues and make recommendations to the Government.  

What is the percentage of graduates who are employed domestically and internationally? What do public tertiary educational institutions do to enable their students to become employed or be competitive?

The economically active Qatari citizens comprise of 77.1% of the population with a low rate of unemployment at 2.1%. Those with post-secondary and university degrees comprise of 15% of the population while people with higher degrees amount to 1.2% of citizens. Much of the education system in Qatar have international accreditation, from elementary until the university level. Qatari citizens can study and work in many schools and universities, knowing that their degrees are comparable or have equivalent standards to other institutions. The state organizes job fairs, advising centers and professional training to students and employees to improve their skills and career opportunities.

Saudi Arabia has a labor force of 6 million divided almost equally between Saudi nationals and foreign workers. A great number of citizens work in the public sector while many foreigners are employed in companies and the private sector. The major public universities in Saudi Arabia have international accreditation but not to the same extent as Qatar and UAE.

Most of the universities in the UAE have international accreditations so graduates are qualified to work internationally. In the UAEU, international accreditation has been awarded to the professional academic programmes and the non-professional programmes undergo periodic external evaluation by international experts to ensure that they meet international standards. 

What are the companies and organizations that recruit in public colleges and universities?

            Qatar University has established long-term linkages and alliances with industry and the government. Moreover, the state has established the Qatar Foundation, which promotes scientific, educational, and community opportunities and collaboration. Many leading universities have branches in Education City, a campus in Qatar outside Doha. Education City has a science and technology park, many libraries and research institutes, and extensive linkages with the government and industry.

            King Saud University has a Riyadh Knowledge Corridor, Riyadh Technology Park and a Nobel Laureates Program. King Abdulaziz University is part of the International Standards Organization and the Saudi Scientific Community. King Fahd University has linkages with Intel, Ingenia and Arabian Fuel and is near the Dhahran Technological Valley.

In the UAEU, students are opened up to new opportunities because of collaboration with international institutions. ZU is successfully innovative in its collaboration with private companies. Smart Square, located in Dubai Internet City (DIC), is a cooperative venture between ZU and IBM. This established a new business partner in the UAE for private and public institutions to create and enhance their e-business and communication activities. Tanmia sponsors a section of the graduate on-the-job training for projects undertaken by Smart Square as part of its policy of equipping nationals with the necessary skills for today’s demanding work environment. ZU also organized the “Women as Global Leaders” conference that prepares the students for active participation in society. The HCT has a commercial arm, The Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training (CERT). CERT has strategic alliances with multinational business organizations and prestigious international training institutions to respond quickly and effectively to current needs in the regional and international work place, and to provide professional development and lifelong opportunities for the UAE, the Gulf region as well as other parts of the world through its online training courses. CERT is collaborating in applied research with industry leaders such as Intel, Microsoft and IBM. In 2006 it became the first organization in the region to offer supercomputing power through its acquisition of the IBM Blue Gene, the fastest computing platform in the world. CERT’s clients are large public and private sector organizations in the region, including the UAE Military and the Presidential Court.

What are the challenges and issues in higher education that your country is currently facing? How is the government addressing these challenges and issues?

Though Qatar has a high income per capita, the state cannot simply rely on its oil and natural gas reserves. The citizens must become highly educated and be updated on global changes. Another challenge is the influx of foreign workers to Qatar. However, the state is addressing these challenges by being pro-active and creating programs and vital technology to deal with change. For example, the “Education for a New Era” has changed schooling from preschool to the university level. Scholarships are competitive but career advice and educational guidance are given to everyone for free. Qatar has reduced its quota on foreign workers and has focused on making its citizens more competitive.

Saudi Arabia has some challenges in higher education. Though public schooling is free, there is great discrepancy between the quality of education in different schools at home and abroad. To address this problem, the government has increased the number of scholarships to deserving Saudi students. Another issue is the dominance of foreign workers in the private sector. The state and the university system is addressing this issue by increasing skills and knowledge training for students and employees. Though Islamic values and principles are still important in higher education, the academe has focused on developing the national economy.

The main challenge that the higher education sector in UAE is constantly addressing is focusing on research and training especially in science and technology, to complement the country’s excellence in modernization. Hence, the public universities like UAEU and HCT are focusing on research and IT, respectively. Another remarkable evidence is the strong linkages of the higher education institutions with IT leaders like IBM and Microsoft, proving that IT is the focus of the government in education. Since educational infrastructure is already in place in the UAE and the infrastructure also constantly improves, the focus of the government is to ensure that the youth are prepared to enter the work place with a 21st century setting. Also, to ensure that there enough jobs for the emerging graduates, emiratisation of the workforce is being encouraged by the government, especially in the private sector, where UAE nationals account for a very small percentage of the total workforce. Some progress has already been made in banking, insurance and human resources.

Data Analysis:

Most universities in UAE and Qatar have internationally accredited programs, thus making education competitive with international standards and making their graduates internationally qualified professionals.

There is also a similarity in the three countries with the dominance of foreign workers in the private sector, which their respective governments are trying to address by encouraging the private sector to employ Qatar, UAE and Saudi nationals.

            Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s public tertiary education systems have extensive linkages with companies and organizations that provide opportunities for their graduates. Qatar Foundation facilitates the linkages of the universities with different organizations. UAE has strong linkages with IT industry leaders such as IBM, Microsoft and Intel. Saudi Arabia has created more science and technology parks.