Lessons Learned from Benchmarking University Governance in MENA Prof. Hassan Dweik Al-Quds University, Palestine Presented at the Regional Workshop in Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco December 10-11, 2012 The University at a Glance: Al-Quds university (AQU) was established as an amalgamation of four colleges that were created in the late seventies in Jerusalem, these were college of Daawa and religious principles in in Beithanina in 1978, followed by college of medical professions in Al-bireh, then college of science and technology in Abu dies, later in 1979 the college of hind Husseini for women, The official amalgamation of these colleges was fully realized in 1995. The university consists now of 15 faculties and thirty centers and institute that offer diverse mixture of graduate and undergraduate academic programs totaling to 80 programs in health and medical sciences, engineering, natural sciences, law, humanities, arts and religious studies. The university had established strong relationship with the community including the private sector through its many community programs in training and community services. The university has also established an excellent infrastructure for research and give it a high priority. The total number of students is close to 13000, of which 15% are in graduate studies for the MA and MSc. Academic programs are served by 450 full time faculty members. The university has established a large academic cooperation Networks with international universities in Europe, USA, and many other countries. The primary objective of the university is to provide its students with high quality education based on international standards and create a healthy academic and professional environment within its institution. AQU shares with all its sister institutions locally and abroad the general mission of striving for excellence in learning and achievements, specifically it also seeks to fulfill the vital role of providing to the Palestinian population to develop the knowledge and skills for contributing towards a well balanced growth of the Palestinian community, AQU seeks to occupy a leadership role in cultural, intellectual, and educational life of the Arab community in Jerusalem
The university Response
Four layers of governing bodies are clearly in existence at AQU regarding the academic affairs, these are 1-department council and Head 2-faculty council and dean 3-academic council (all deans, and elected presentation from faculties) 4-and last the University council (president, vice presidents and deans, other key stakeholders are members, student affairs and public relations). The selection of the governing body (Management orientation) is such that the vice presidents are chosen by the president for a period of 3years, the present consult with his vice presidents when considering this position, as for the deans also the president consult with his vice presidents when the selection is done the board of trustees approve the nominations by the president, however for heads of departments usually it is chosen by the department council based on the older in the department comes first the appointment also must be approved by the president, the president usually is appointed by the board of trustees, there is no election process in all appointments, usually long term appointment is offered to the president. Referring to the five axes on the spider chart, in terms of the first axis management orientation, it is clear that management and decision making regarding all academic issues is being discussed at various levels, department, faculty, academic affairs and university council, this shows that a large degree of participation is involved as the second axes of the spider chart, where various academic issues are reviewed and proper recommendations then decisions are made, when it comes to autonomy as the third axis, the university has the free choice in admission of new students, create new programs and set the credit hours, develop curriculum, assessing students, hiring staff, dismissing staff, set promotion regulations, however the university need to get the approval of the ministry of higher education when developing new program of study whether for the bachelor or master degree. Looking into financial issues, salaries for example are paid according to a standard cadre set by the ministry of higher education and agreed upon by all Palestinian universities, at the same time the university considers the agreed upon salary as the minimum, and can always increase it to some faculty based on merits and active involvement at the university in research or community services. As for the accountability the fourth axis of the spider chart, and how much the university hold responsible its stake holders, where: 1-Education quality and academic integrity is monitored, An internal quality assurance team was established and a center for learning in which assessing of learning outcomes, teaching methodology is carried out each semester and students filla set questionnaire where they can freely express their opinion, this body monitors academic quality partially based on the assessment by the students, a set of indicators was developed for this purpose. Also heads of departments and deans assess a faculty performance in a special annual report that has also a set of indicators. 2-In terms of social responsibility and transparency regarding employment of new graduates, a system of recruitment for the best graduated students is implemented in the science, engineering and health sciences. 3- The budget of the university is posted on the web site of the university, with maximum transparency. 4- As for the financial integrity, external auditing is carried out by an international audit. We can say that the self-perception of AQU is very close to the results of the questionnaire ,and it looks that AQU governance elements are very close to local Palestinian universities and may also be close to neighboring countries such as Jordan.
The university and in order to improve continuously its academic performance, research capacities or student services has always set committees to discuss issues related to general improvements, all stake holders are involved in identifying the problem and looking into better solutions. Some of these issues:
1- The university is continuously looking for improvements in education, research, or community services. Through various organizational structures we discuss the quality of research and education, quality of our graduates and methods to improve it, and how graduates perform in the market in various sectors. 2- The university always enlarge the circle of debate among stakeholders to have the largest possible participation, with maximum transparency on the various issues whether academic, administrative or financial. As for self-assessment we have done an extensive surveys and regularly held workshops, to debate quality of education, standards of our graduate thesis, students services, teaching methods, faculty and staff satisfaction at work, financial issues, infrastructure needs, library resources, free expression is welcomed and encouraged by the president. 3-AQU will keep this mechanism for the future and will expand to involve use of best management practice, use of standardized procedures, protocols, guidelines in management, sharing the use of technology, programs, equipment supplies with the business community, cooperation with private sector and industry, performance review for faculty, institutional emphasis on quality of teacher education, develop an information system that can correspond to a list of indicators by all departments at the university and explore the comparability of university indicators with other local and international ones and what lessons to be learned from such comparison whenever it is relevant, possible and useful.
1- Improve the quality of the courses and quality of thesis in the graduate studies programs. committees in all faculties were set to improve curriculum and thus courses, high standards for the thesis of graduate students were also set. 2- Develop university requirements, for example a unique course in critical thinking was introduced as a required course by all students, also faculty requirements were also developed. 3- Set an improved system for students financial support, for the needy and good students. 4- Through our unique and enlarged body 160 people (the association of university councils), we opened a wide debate on developing the university strategic plan, an extensive participation, where almost all stake holders were involved, through the same body core issues were debated such as scientific research and how to promote it, the financial needs and how to improve resources, also an important topic was debated on what kind of education we want popular education or education for elites. 5- An extensive debate on student services and facilities, as a result of students complaints about poor students services. 6- A survey was also conducted to understand better why new students choose and enroll at AQU.
Lessons Learned 1- Since we are in the era of knowledge based societies we need to be more research oriented so as to be knowledge producers and not only to transfer knowledge, thus reducing the knowledge gab. 2- We need to prepare students as future leaders and engage in society this requires quality education. 3- More academic freedom and autonomy is needed because this academic freedom and autonomy will lead to innovation. then if someone is free to do then he must be accountable. 4- We need to be more market oriented in the management of universities.
Challenges to be considered 1- Financing higher education, student tuition fees can never cover the cost of higher education And the allocations set by the Palestinian authority to universities must be reevaluated. 2- A very week relationship between market needs and specialization of graduates. 3- The formulation of the council of higher education should be reexamined. 4- The formulation of the boards of trustees should be reexamined, members should be very active in policy formulations and fund raising. 5- Special attention should be given at Alumina and an efficient follow up mechanisms must be set. 6- Financing of scientific research, a special fund must be allocated if a knowledge society has to be developed in Palestine, and the council of the scientific research at the ministry of higher education must be re formulated. 7- A clear policy for PhD scholarships must be set, based on strategic plans and future needs according to development of the institution. 8- University community and university industry partnerships must be consolidated. 9- A very special attention must be given to professional and technical education. 10- what is called parallel education (Payment of double the tuition fees or so) must be ceased because it leads to an increase in income generation on the expense of quality of education. 11- Proximity of universities were some are 15-30 km from each other may require to look at the programs to avoid introducing new programs which already exist.