How Should Higher Education Institutions and the Private Sector Partner in the Arab World?


By Maysa Jalbout, CEO at Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education

[Excerpt from original article published in Harvard Business Review Arabia]

In the knowledge economy, employee recruitment has become more challenging than it has ever been. Attracting highly skilled talent is fiercely competitive and seen by employers as one of the biggest challenges for companies globally. Companies that recruit the best talent in the world have strong partnerships with universities that prioritize student success. It is time to establish those types of partnerships in the Arab world.  

Over 30 % of the Arab region’s private sector think the low skills of graduates is the key hurdle to growth. According to a report by the International Finance Corporation in collaboration with the Islamic Development Bank, many universities are still reluctant to take responsibility and do their role in the preparation of students and providing them with the professional skills they need. It is not surprising then that higher education-private sector collaboration in the region is still nascent and is often limited to short-term activities and sponsorships.

To be sure, universities’ first and foremost job is to prepare young people to learn how to learn; to develop the skills they need to continuously reinvent themselves for a future of work we do not yet fully comprehend, but one we know will include very different jobs from those that exist today. But, this does not preclude universities from being more invested in student success, especially in helping them prepare for and secure their first job.

As the results of a recent regional student survey conducted by the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation indicate, Arab students are expecting much more than academic training from their universities. More than 90 % of 3000 students in 19 Arab countries believe preparing for their careers was the most important outcome of their university education. The results are encouraging : they point to a strong awareness among students about what they need and high expectations from their universities.

Yet, the survey results also give good reason for concern. Two thirds of students thought they did not have enough college and career information, counseling and work experience opportunities – all of which are critical to their successful transition to the workforce. To solve for this problem, higher education and the private sector in the Arab world would both do well to work together.

For more information, please visit the original article published in Harvard Business Review Arabia.


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