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On Engineering Education Reform In The Arab States: A Path Forward

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Exporting of Higher Education to Developing Countries

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Page Count


Page Numbers

15.918.1 - 15.918.13



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Paper Authors

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Waddah Akili Iowa State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

On Engineering Education Reform in the Arab States: A Path Forward

Abstract: The paper addresses reform of engineering education in the Arab Region of the Persian Gulf (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and the Sultanate of Oman) focusing on issues that have either been neglected or have not been suffiently addressed. The author argues for the need to institutionalize the concept of continuous improvement by seeding the process within the college, in order to make it possible for Region’s colleges to tap into their own resources and devise revitalization programs that fit the context of these institutions; each, in terms of: its student body, its faculty, and its objectives. Initially, efforts need to be devoted to capacity building aimed at fostering culture changes transcending the traditional norms vis-à-vis undergraduate education in general and programs’ development in particular. The paper provides some historical perspectives and examines the effectiveness and implementation of revitalization programs that are believed to meet Regions objectives and aspirations. The paper sheds light on the nature of such programs and argues for the need to carry out proper studies coupled with field data, to help guide the process of shifting from the old to the new paradigm. The stakeholders should realize the shortcomings and discrepancies of the current systems, be stimulated to debate, and eventually should arrive at scenarios that can be implemented, to ensure the vitality and currency of engineering education in the Region.


Achieving change via engineering education reform is a formidable challenge to any college of engineering, whether in North America or anywhere else in the world! This paper, is a follow up to prior papers (1-6) on engineering education reform in the Arab Region of the Persian Gulf (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and the Sultanate of Oman) focusing on vital issues that have been either neglected or have not been sufficiently addressed. The purpose here is to provide some perspectives, and at the same time, renew the call for a new and fresh outlook at engineering education for the Region, commensurate with demands for more rounded engineering graduates with the ability to function in a modern business climate.

There are concerns that continuation of the old paradigm by the engineering colleges of the Region will but assure minor roles for engineering graduates in the future. The fact that students compete to attend the Region’s engineering institutions is not indicative of the shortcomings of these colleges. Entering students have adjusted and accepted prevailing conditions as “normal”, and would not necessarily realize that they have possibly been shortchanged. The major underlying questions here include: What colleges need to teach and how best can they teach it? The “what” lies at the crux of the matter. What is taught at the undergraduate level, in most of the Region’s colleges, must be reconsidered and should include more than the technically prescribed material by standing committees and/or visiting experts. All stakeholders need to come together to understand opposing interests and endeavor to evolve the best path forward. Unfortunately, any transition from the old to the new paradigm is likely to be quite difficult since the means to undertake the change rests mostly with those with entrenched interests who tend to

Akili, W. (2010, June), On Engineering Education Reform In The Arab States: A Path Forward Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15836

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