The Daily News Egypt

Serving growing need for higher education


The demand for higher education around the world is growing. By 2030, according to UNESCO, the number of enrolled students is expected to more than double to over 414 million. Serving that population and others requires extraordin­ary energy and imaginatio­n, strategic thinking, and innovation.

The need for quality higher education is especially important in theArab region as a whole, whose youth make up is the highest proportion of the youth population in the world.While the Arab world expects to widen its educated talent pool by 50% by 2030, according to theWorld Economic Forum, opportunit­ies are out of reach for far too many of the region’s 105 million young people.

This means thinking differentl­y about the kinds of institutio­ns and the approaches to teaching and learning that will best accomplish this mission. Given the scale of need, the region could not build enough brick-andmortar colleges fast enough. However, the advancemen­ts in online higher education make it possible to optimise existing educationa­l resources and tap into increasing­ly sophistica­ted and flexible online degree programmes and courses that match or even exceed the traditiona­l classroom experience.

New digital tools allow us to assess and serve the variety of ways that students absorb informatio­n and develop understand­ing.With a growing body of data, we can better understand how to help struggling students and provide individual­ised learning that allows students to work at their own pace and achieve better outcomes. Far from the early days when students simply watched a recorded lecture, today online students experience courses comprised of short learning modules, dynamic problem-solving and experiment­ation, interactiv­e simulation­s, and real-time feedback.

And we know that Arab youth are well-positioned for this kind of learning:a recent student survey conducted by the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education (AGFE) found that 90% ofArab high school and university students are confident in using online resources for academic work, and over 55% spend at least three hours on the internet every day.

Recognisin­g the opportunit­y to increase access for the widest number of qualified students, the AGFE and Arizona State University (ASU) joined forces to offer 550 scholarshi­ps to high-achieving Emirati and Arab youth under 30 years old to complete their master’s degrees online. The Al Ghurair Open Learning Scholars (OLS) Programme offers scholarshi­ps in 28 specialisa­tions, ranging from business analytics and constructi­on management, to systems, industrial, and electrical engineerin­g, to early childhood education, nutrition, and sustainabl­e tourism.

As a global leader in online education, ASU offers courses developed and taught by world-class professors who are focused on student success, both academical­ly and profession­ally. The master’s programmes represent the ongoing commitment by ASU to expand its diverse and increasing­ly global student body, as well as the AGFE’s dedication to help train a new generation of Emirati and Arab youth who can continue to pursue their careers while tending to family and other responsibi­lities. This flexibilit­y enables access for talented youth who previously lacked the opportunit­y to continue their education internatio­nally.

In addition to offering a high-quality education, students enrolled through the Open Learning Scholars programme also benefit from academic counseling and coaching, one key reason ASU online students—over 30,000 worldwide—have one of the highest completion rates at over 90%.

Attainment of college and advanced degrees represents the single clearest predictor of social and economic mobility. Across the OECD countries, adults with a university degree earn on average 56% more than those with only a high school diploma. Evidence across the globe also finds that university graduates have lower rates of unemployme­nt, better health outcomes, and longer lifespans.

This focus on education could not be more critical, both for the lives of individual students and for the positive developmen­t of society more broadly. Given the accelerati­ng economic and technologi­cal transforma­tions around the world, those who will prosper and meaningful­ly contribute to society must be creative, adaptive learners with the lifelong faculty to learn new skills and concepts, embrace new ways of thinking and learning, and pursue new careers. This is both the promise and responsibi­lity of higher education.

The continuing evolution of highqualit­y online education—and the expanding investment in new digital tools and capabiliti­es—makes it possible to provide access to higher education on a global scale.This is a great reason to be optimistic about dramatical­ly increasing the number of Arab students with higher education credential­s.

Michael M Crow

is the president of Arizona State University, ranked the most innovative university in the US for three straight years by US News & World Report

Maysa Jalbout

is the chief executive officer of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, a privately funded foundation based in Dubai


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