Degrees of Dignity: Reforming Arab Higher Education for the Global Era
About the Event
Young people have been at the forefront of advocating for change in Arab societies. In academic circles and the popular media, the Arab Spring’s call for ‘bread, freedom, and dignity,’ has been characterized as a demand for economic and political justice, motivated by inequality, poverty, unemployment, repression, and corruption. These conversations rarely touch on the role of education generally, or higher education in particular, in shaping Arab young people’s future opportunities or lives, despite the critical role the university plays in Arab societies. This book talk discusses the limitations of technical and universalizing prescriptions of reform, and instead adopts a sociological and comparative approach to examine higher education reform in the Arab Middle East and North Africa. It shows how global trends in higher education, undergirded by widely circulating discourses of the knowledge economy and neoliberalism, map onto specific national contexts across the region, and how these policies filter down to affect young people’s lives in five policy domains: admissions, quality, privatization, international engagement and research productivity. Ultimately, the talk argues that higher education in the Arab world is a fundamentally socio-political institution that links the fates of students and states, and future conversations regarding educational reform in the region cannot ignore this reality.
About Dr. Elizabeth Buckner
Dr. Buckner is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University in Toronto. She studies how global trends affect higher education policies, practices, and students, including what role the university plays in creating graduates’ identities as future citizens, workers, and leaders. Her current research agenda focuses on two global trends: privatization and internationalization. Dr. Buckner also has a long-standing interest and deep commitment to education in the Arab Middle East and North Africa. She received her BA from Swarthmore College and her MA and PhD from Stanford University.