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The Challenge To Change: On Reforming Engineering Education In The Arab Gulf States

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Global Engineering in an Interconnected World

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1257.1 - 11.1257.15



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Paper Authors


Waddah Akili Iowa State University

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Waddah Akili has been in the academic arena for over 37 years. He has held academic positions at Drexel University, Philadelphia, Penna (66-69), at King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (69-87), and at the University of Qatar, Doha, Qatar (87-00). Professor Akili's major field is geotechnical engineering and materials. His research work & experience include: characterization of arid and semi arid soils, piled foundations, pavement design & materials, and concrete durability. His interests also include: contemporary issues of engineering education in general, and those of the Middle East and the Arab Gulf States in particular.

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

The Challenge to Change: On Reforming Engineering Education in the Arab Gulf States


Engineering education in the Arab Gulf States ((Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, The United Arab Emirates, and Oman) faces many challenges today. A major concern is that the perpetuation of the old paradigm by engineering colleges of the Region will all but assure minor roles for engineers in the future as well as difficulty in adapting to the exigencies of the fast- paced global marketplace. The transition from the present to the new paradigm, if and when it takes place, would not be easy since the decision to make the change rests mostly with those who oppose the change in the first place.

The purpose of this paper is to provide some historical perspectives while renewing the call for the need to “rethink” engineering education and to undertake constructive steps towards reforming the current systems. The paper addresses change related to programs’ development in particular and argues for the need to institutionalize the concept of continuous improvement by seeding the process within the college, and devising revitalization programs that fit the context of the institution, its student body, its faculty, and its objectives. After overcoming traditional barriers, a conceptual framework for “retooling” and/or “revitalizing” the academic programs should be outlined. What lies at the crux of the matter is: what engineering students need to learn and how can they best learn it, as well as what engineering institutions should teach and how can they best teach it?

The paper argues that various “stakeholders” in the future of engineering education (administrators, faculty, students, industry, and government leaders) as well as others - would eventually come to grip with the dilemma in which they are immersed, be stimulated to debate, and motivated to act along workable paths to implement widespread reform to insure the viability 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, 2, 3, 4) on engineering reform in the Arab Gulf Sates (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. Engineering graduates must have the abilities and the skills to cope with challenges brought about by a highly competitive and global marketplace; and also are able to develop the capacity to adapt to unforeseen changes that could take place in the future. Needless to say that we live in a complex age of rapid change where differing views and conflicting interests tend to blurry the vision and create uncertainties when important decisions have to be made.

Akili, W. (2006, June), The Challenge To Change: On Reforming Engineering Education In The Arab Gulf States Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--438

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