Aswan Hamza

  • The academic rationales for the internationalization of higher education: the case of arab countries in the Gulf region

    Aswan Hamza, Aden University

    Research paper

    Themes: teaching methods, assessment methods, supporting learners, faculty development methods and/or strategies

    Monday 7 September 2009, 15.45 - 16.45 in room 122

    One of the significant problems facing Arab countries in the Gulf region (GR) is their lack of capacity to meet the required demands of human development in today’s transforming world. Higher education (HE) is one of the important sectors receiving attention, through its improvement, it would be able to respond to the global challenges, and create sweeping changes in how HE prepares people to fulfill their civic responsibilities (Mourchid, 2003; UNESCO, 2003). 
    This qualitative study examines the implications of the internationalization of HE in the GR. It investigates the role that is played by American female faculty and administrators in internationalization of HE in these countries where they worked. It attempts to contribute to the ongoing question—why internationalization—by using de Wit’s (2002) academic rationales and their subcategories for the internationalization of HE as a conceptual framework. 
    Three criteria were used for selecting nine participants. Personal information questionnaires, phone interviews, and examination of documents and archival materials were the data sources. Thematic analysis of the transcripts was carried out using NVivo software program. Four themes emerged:

    • Broadening the Students’ Global Awareness
      The interaction of American academics with students facilitated dialogue which led to greater understanding of global political, and socioeconomic issues. Karen reported, “we would do readings on topics about globalization. … reading on Nike Corporation opening up in Vietnam. …reading on the United States and its political involvement...”
    • Faculty and Students Exchange
      Study abroad programs are the mechanism that ensures the continued flow of students around the world and engage with various cultures and gain different perspectives. Jennifer said;
      We will have students from Saudi Arabia, Oman, and UAE coming over to our university next summer… . In Saudi Arabia they took them to England and ... .And in the UAE they took them to France, England, …, …
    • Partnership and Scholarship
      They lead to more interdisciplinary cooperation. They help academics to communicate effectively and promote their global discussions through research. Jennifer said; “I have a federal grant for a Middle East partnership initiative…” Mika explained, “The Qatar foundation invited the [five U.S. universities] to open a branch campus,…”
    • Enhancing Education Quality 
      The international dimension provides students with a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with living, learning, and leading in the 21st century. Jean reported “We went back … later we found that the students we had engaged in the classroom and…. So I think we made a difference.”

    Conclusion, Implications, and Recommendations

    The study findings contribute to the literature to “why internationalization”. They support the conceptual framework by concurring that these rationales are the motivations for integrating the international dimension into HE’s research and teaching. While progress is recognized by the GR government efforts, there is still a need of educational reforms in order to keep up with the internationalization. Therefore; more resources should be assigned to HE to make it align with the labor market (Krieger, 2008). Research should be conducted by using de Wit, political, economic, and cultural and social rationales for the GR.


    • de Wit, H. (2002). Internationalization of higher education In the United States of America and Europe: A Historical, Comparative, and Conceptual Analysis.  Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
    • Krieger, Z. (2008). An Academic Building Boom Transforms the Persian Gulf. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(29), A26.
    • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), (2003). Higher education in the Arab region 1998-2003. UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in the ArabStates. Meeting of Higher Education Partners. Paris.
    • Mourchid, Y. (2003). Reflecting on local responses to globalization: The case of Morocco's higher education policy reforms. (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Southern California, 2003). Dissertation Abstracts International, 65, 1614.