QS Higher Ed Summit: Middle East and Africa
12-14 March 2023
Theme: Envisioning a meaningful future: Purpose-driven higher education in the Middle East and Africa

Universities in the Middle East and Africa have set their sights on creating a landscape that provides meaning to and enriching the lives of their communities as well as on a global stage. Through this goal, they seek to create a purpose-driven system that maintains autonomy while also highlighting intercontinental collaboration. Environmental and societal sustainability, education reform and innovation, and skills, technology and employability remain front of mind.

The QS Higher Ed Summit: Middle East & Africa 2023 explores the meaningful prospects that higher education institutions can bring into the region, such as enhanced access to quality education, the valuable potential of lifelong learning, and the gradual but important progress towards achieving sustainable development goals.

Tracks and Topics:

Higher education institutions in the Middle East & Africa have had to adapt to survive and, more importantly, to thrive. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated future-of-work trends such as digitisation and automation, putting more pressure on universities to update their curriculums to ensure students have the latest skills and higher qualifications. How have universities sustained and scaled successful digital learning to last beyond the pandemic and embed such successes into their curriculum? This track also looks at:

• What should the strategy of a university be as they plan for an unknown future, while also being agile and adaptable?
• What are the region’s immediate, and long-term priorities for education as it looks to be a knowledge-based economy?
• What are the important lessons from the pandemic? Can collaborations and partnerships be developed virtually?

With the emergence of new technology, the skill sets needed by the next generation of graduates in the region are likely to evolve. At the same time, faculty and students alike will benefit from being reskilled with high-demand competencies such as creativity, emotional intelligence and collaboration. According to the World Economic Forum, investing in the skills of primary and secondary school learners alone could create an additional $266 billion for the Middle East economy by 2030.

This track looks at what institutions in the region are doing to support their students and staff in honing relevant, practical, and holistic skills. It also investigates:

• Why is it crucial for teachers and faculty in the region to undergo regular professional development programs and trainings?
• Who are institutions collaborating with to ensure that students can participate in relevant programs and initiatives so that they have the required skills for the working world?
• What can be learned from the success of other countries that can be applied to the Middle East & Africa?

While research from within the Middle East & Africa continues to grow, its volume and total investment lags behind many other regions. The region’s spending on high-quality research and development (R&D) is limited, and local universities have few channels for collaboration with international universities or the private sector. This track looks at the challenges in the Middle East & Africa’s research environment, and also discusses:

• How have institutions asserted themselves within academic research, and how should they improve?
• How should universities in the region collaborate with innovation industries to further their research agendas?
• What are the problems institutions face when trying to retain and attract researchers within the region?

Millions of Arab and African youth were cut off from education during the pandemic as they did not have access to the internet or relevant digital devices. While innovation has become a main priority and driving agenda for many institutions, such technology should also help to develop access to education. This track looks at how institutions reach out to underrepresented communities to ensure that high quality education is still accessible. It also explores:

• How does the region balance the aim of being an innovative community while also ensuring that nobody gets left behind?
• How can partnerships be formed with the industry to expand bandwidth and network infrastructure to provide affordable options and reduce the digital gap, especially in poor, rural and remote areas?
• Despite the progress in gender equality, what are institutions doing to continuously empower women and meet their human rights obligations towards women and girls?

With the UAE hosting the upcoming COP28 international climate conference in 2023, and Egypt in 2022, all eyes are on the region to see how the countries can lead by example. The region is among the most vulnerable places in the world to climate change, with the UN already highlighting the devastating toll that climate change could have had on the region’s water supplies and food production systems.

This track will explore how institutions are collaborating with their respective governments to tackle pressing climate change issues. It also looks at:

• What is the role of universities in the region in driving the world’s progress toward achieving UNSDGs?
• How do universities balance conflicting priorities, including their strategic plans of reducing carbon footprint while also trying to double up on student count?
• How embedded is sustainability in the region’s curriculum, and how can this be improved?

Africa is one of the world’s most misunderstood regions. While the region does face its own unique
challenges, the demand for higher education in Africa is rapidly expanding and the numbers of private institutions in Africa have more than doubled in the last two decades.

This track investigates the important cultural contexts and key priorities of the region that institutions should be aware of and acknowledge when collaborating with universities in Africa, as
well as:

• How can neo-colonialist tendencies be avoided in partnerships and projects with the region?
• What are the complexities and misconceptions of the region and how can we learn and unlearn any misunderstandings?
• How do universities in Africa want to engage with partners outside the region on level terms?

QS Quacquarelli Symonds.

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